If you have a question about open-wheel racing, send it to MillersMailbag@Racer.com. We can’t guarantee your letter will be published, but Robin will always reply.
Q: Glad to see Ed Carpenter both take one for the team and vastly improve it at the same time. He has been my favorite for quite awhile, mostly because he’s been very approachable to me and my two boys. I’m sure he would never remember the times we’ve met, but my boys always bring it up when they see Ed in a race or even when they see Fuzzy’s in the market. I’m hoping that Mike Conway can pass on some of his twisty prowess on to Ed and he becomes the total package.
DJ, Anderson, IN
RM: Of all the off-season moves, this is the best one and Jeff Olson did a good story on RACER.com about how potent this team could be in 2014. Ed has improved leaps and bounds on road courses during the past couple seasons but that last one second is the toughest so Conway gives the Fuzzy’s team an immediate shot at winning in both disciplines.
Q: Briscoe filling the Ganassi opening is the definition of an uninspiring choice. People keep justifying it by saying he’s the best driver available, but based on what? OK, he’s got a few wins but he’s also had six years in Penske/Ganassi cars, so it’s not really a valid statistical comparison to the other free agents, is it? Try this: if you look at the numbers in 2013, he was the poorest performing driver of the three who drove for Panther. And his points per start were also well below Simona’s, who was on a similarly-funded team. So people consider him the “best” choice based on the fact that he’s had the opportunity to drive for top level teams in the past? Must be nice to be in “The Club”, the owners will be sure to keep the riffraff out and just go with retread hires.
This choice also illustrates the total lack of big-picture vision in IndyCar. If Bernie ran IndyCar you can be sure he would’ve been quietly bending Chip’s ear behind the scenes and suggesting that he put Simona in the No. 8 car. In one of Chip’s cars, she’d be in the mix near the front on a regular basis, which would in fact make a splash and draw desperately needed attention to the series from the outside. But if the rumors are true now, she could end up driving in Bernie’s series in a couple years, which would mean huge news (and more attention) worldwide given the lack of female drivers in F1. But hey, IndyCar will have a compressed schedule and aero kits instead to draw in legions of new fans! Stuff like this is what sets Bernie and other effective leaders apart from IndyCar’s they see the big picture. The IndyCar powerbrokers are all too caught up in little details to see the light on the big things that have the potential to make a real difference. But if Chip doesn’t care or couldn’t stomach a female in one of his cars at least he could’ve given Conor Daly a chance on the junior team, maybe he could’ve created some excitement. But instead we get the Briscoe movie all over again, and we’ve seen this show before. It’s a snoozer.
RM: While Briscoe isn’t a household name, he was a botched pit stop from being a champion and he’s a winner, plus the sponsor loves him so it made sense. But I do understand that Simona or even young Daly would have been a better choice in terms of newsworthiness. And Conor could be a long-term investment as well. If Bernie was running IndyCar, he would have likely spent money to make sure Simona has a top-shelf ride. But as far as her going to F1? Derrick Walker told Bernie about her two years ago and it’s getting late.
Q: Hey Miller, you correctly made Kanaan and Briscoe the odds-on favorites to go in the 10 and 8 for Ganassi a few weeks ago on RACER.com so why didn’t you break the story?
Steve G., Anaheim, Calif.
RM: I wasn’t sure TK would be able to drive No. 10 because of his Brazilian sponsor commitments. Even after Marshall Pruett broke the story about Briscoe becoming a free agent, we still wondered if he might be destined for the No. 10. It was an obvious choice but a well-kept secret nonetheless.
Q: With Briscoe announced in No. 8 and Kanaan moved to No. 10 at Ganassi, will Paul Di Resta look at another IndyCar ride elsewhere like KV Racing Technology? Also, there are vacancies at Dale Coyne and Rahal/Letterman/Lanigan too. Do you think he has the chance to take one of these rides next year?? Also, do you think that Dario Franchitti would work in ABC next year as well as Alex Tagliani joining him at ABC? I’ve seen the NBC Sports line up for IndyCar and their chemistry was amazing, so why don’t ABC do the same with Vince Welch/Franchitti/Tagliani in the ABC booth???
RM: After talking to Dario, I’d say it doesn’t sound like Di Resta is going to be racing over here. I think we’d all love to see Franchitti in the ABC booth. Tag isn’t done racing yet. Not sure Vince Welch has got the nod but he’d be good.
Q: I’ve been constructing a scenario by following the tweets of Simona De Silvestro for some time now and I’ve come to a conclusion. First, after the season was over she came down to Austin and tweeted about both hosting the F1 in Schools gathering and about giving people rides in the F1 three-seater. I looked it up and there are a bunch of pictures with Simona hanging out with both Nico Hulkenburg and Monisha Kaltenborn of Sauber at COTA. All the while her people are SILENT about her future. Next, she goes to Switzerland to stay at her parent’s house for the holidays. While she’s there the word comes out that Sauber driver Nico Hulkenburg is out. Next, Simona tweets this: “Off to Zurich then Italy ! Busy week ahead but exciting stuff !!!” All the while her people are STILL SILENT about her future. OK, now I’m thinking “Hulkenberg, Kaltenborn, Sauber…Zurich, the headquarters of Sauber…. Hmmm, but why Italy?” Next, she tweets a picture of herself in Milan at the Galleria Mall there. Now I remember what else is near Milan Monza! OK, racing is banned in Switzerland. So, there are no race tracks in Switzerland. If Sauber wanted to TEST a driver they would have to go to a nearby race track, say Monza, only 50 kilometers from the Swiss border. Then I remember that Bernie Ecclestone once asked Derrick Walker what woman could race in F1 and Derrick said “only Simona de Silvestro.” Are we IndyCar folk about to lose our great girl?
Mark, Austin, Texas
RM: I think if Bernie was serious he’d have stepped up a couple years ago when Derrick was promoting Simona. She’d be perfect for Sauber but she needs a testing program ASAP and a commitment.
Q: Why does everyone keep insisting that Chip Ganassi is so opposed to American drivers? Eddie Cheever, Bryan Herta, Jimmy Vasser, Robby Gordon, Graham Rahal, Charlie Kimball, Jeff Ward and Michael Andretti have all raced for him in IndyCar. He signed Tony Renna and he supposedly reached out to see if Hornish was interested. He’s also had a few drivers do one-offs or injury replacements for him (e.g. Tony Stewart, Jacques Lazier). I’ve always kind of thought he, like Penske, looked past nationality for what he considered the best fit for his team. He wants to win. I’m guessing if Michael Andretti or Al Unser Jr. were in their prime right now, one of them would have a bulls-eye on their back next year. This silly season, there aren’t any American drivers who are both proven and available (except for a few that have been out of IndyCar for a number of years), but I think if Conor Daly was further along in his career, or Josef Newgarden had some more consistency, or RHR was available, Mr. Ganassi would take a serious look at them.
RM: He did hire several American drivers in those early years but has weaned himself off Yanks the past decade. Rahal and Kimball only got rides because they brought sponsors to the B team so the last full-timer he hired would have been Renna. I suggested Buddy Rice after he won the Atlantic title and Chip responded: “Who is Buddy Rice?”
Q: Good for Tony Kanaan, but as a fan of the sport it would have been nice to see someone new get a shot in a ride that can contend for the title. I’m probably not the only one who would have loved to see Di Resta, Sam Bird, Simona, or basically anyone else get a shot at driving for Ganassi. The move makes some sense, but I have to call it boring.
Ryan in West Michigan
RM: Well, when you consider TK is probably the most popular driver on the circuit and the defending Indy 500 winner, it’s a pretty easy call for Target and Ganassi. I’d have liked to see Simona or Daly get a shot in the No. 8 car but, again, Briscoe makes sense too because he’s a winner and a favorite of the sponsor.Q: I read that IMS is going to add the aprons in all four turns but for NASCAR only. What’s that all about? How are you gonna keep Indy cars off the apron? With a yellow line and penalties? Makes no sense
Bill Phypers, Brewster, NY
RM: The apron won’t be built until after next year’s Indy 500 and let’s hope IndyCar is smart enough to use it in 2015.
Q: I just read the good news that IMS decides to bring back the apron. Then I continue to read to find out that the apron will only be used for the Brickyard 400. Why did they decide to not use the apron for the 500? I understand the concern that having an extra lane could cause “pack racing” and I definitely don’t want to see the Indy 500 turn into a pack race. But isn’t IndyCar looking to increase the speeds at Indy over the next couple of years which would eliminate the threat of pack racing? Also with the SAFER barriers, they don’t have to worry about the angle of impact with the wall. The apron always produced great racing and created some great battles such as Mears and Michael in ’91. I don’t understand why they wouldn’t bring it back for the “500.”
John Baadilla, Norwalk, Calif.
RM: There’s never been pack racing at Indy like there was at Texas or Chicago because IMS is flat and narrow and you can’t pack race like those mile-and-a-half tracks. But restarts at IMS are plenty entertaining enough and an apron could only enhance the action.
Q: I don’t think people realize that the apron will improve safety. If there had been an apron in 2011, Charlie Kimball would have been on while running out of gas and JR Hildebrand would have been in Victory Lane instead of the wall.
It might also have helped with the Mike Conway wreck when RHR ran out of fuel.
Matt Converset, Decatur, IN
RM: Good points Matt and it will improve the racing for IndyCar and NASCAR. But widening a 100-year-old track built for cars going 100mph would seem to be a no-brainer.
Q: Any chance of Tony adopting Dario’s long locks since he’s taking over the Target 10? As I recall, Dario used to go in for the high and tight look before growing that luxurious mane he’s now known for. Maybe you can talk TK into donning a wig, sort of like Hinch did at St. Pete for his first race as the GoDaddy driver.
Steve C., Ithaca, NY
RM: After looking at TK’s rookie photos back in CART, he’s much more handsome WITHOUT hair. But I like the wig suggestion for the opener.Q: Maybe we should launch a Kickstarter campaign to get Bryan Clauson funding for a full-time IndyCar ride. I don’t care if he hasn’t done road racing: if he’s as talented as he looks, then he will figure it out. If the word gets out to the AOW scene it just might work… has anyone tried crowd-sourcing their funding yet?
John, Dayton OH
RM: If I win tonight’s Mega Millions I’ll start a team with Clauson, Chris Bell and Kyle Larson with a fourth car for Dave Darland at Indianapolis. But fans have tried to buy rides for drivers in the 1970s (Ralph Ligouri and Spike Gehlhausen come to mind) but it’s way too expensive these days. I’d just like to see Clauson back at Indianapolis.
Q: I just finished reading your December 11 Mailbag and I was a little surprised that there was no mention of the Iowa track changing ownership. Do you think this change will have any impact on the track’s open wheel schedule?
Paul in AZ
RM: There were letters about it in the previous couple Mailbags. I’m told by intrepid reporter and Iowa fanatic Linda Willareth that there’s no plan to get rid of IndyCar at Iowa so that’s good news since it’s a great venue with passionate fans.
Q: Why did IndyCar move the date for Milwaukee? I do think the weather will be great, but I think changing the date will confuse people. Also does the August date in Milwaukee hurt the potential for Road America in 2015?
Jeff Loveland, Chilton, Wis.
RM: The condensed schedule needed some changes and Milwaukee cooperated but I don’t think it will confuse anybody. Too early to think about 2015 and Elkhart Lake but I’m sure Michael Andretti will do the right thing if asked.
Q: Was curious to know if IndyCar saw a noticeable drop in ratings when Danica left for NASCAR? Is there anyone in line or coming up the road that may be able to take her place from a marketing perspective that you see? Was never a big fan of hers but can’t argue that she did draw a lot of attention.
2) For someone who’s never been to the Chili Bowl but would love to go in one of the coming years, can you suggest how to get tickets, how long to go for, where to stay, what to do, etc? How far ahead to I need to plan to get tickets, etc.?
3) Is there any chance that you and ol’ windbag Despain will ever be together again on a Wind Tunnel-like TV show? Wind Tunnel was the best all around racing show on TV and there’s nothing remotely close to it now. So could you guys please get back to it, please? Many thanks for continuing to fight the good fight for dirt and open wheel racing.
RM: No, as a matter of fact other than 2005 and 2006, the ratings pretty much flat-lined from 2008 and didn’t show any fluctuation after DP left. But the media coverage certainly dropped. Chili Bowl is sold out every year so buying a paddock pass is about the only option. But you could go to its website after this year’s race and see if you can get lucky. I wish I could tell you that WindTunnel will be reincarnated but nothing on the horizon. Dave is going to work for MAVTV and have his own interview show so that will be cool and he’s also calling the Chili Bowl live next month on MAVTV.
Q: I hope that I’m incorrect, but I see the interest in Formula E as being toxic to traditional racing. While I’m all for technological innovation, reality tells me that the last thing U.S. racing needs is yet another formula to further divide up a limited and ever-shrinking amount of sponsorship dollars. Face it: when a man as talented, accomplished, and admired as Tony Kanaan can only earn $900,000 per year, and when a team as successful as GAINSCO Racing can’t even find the money to run a full sports car season, do we really need Formula E diverting money away from “real” racing? Furthermore, with Michael Andretti’s newly announced involvement, isn’t he essentially competing with himself for those dollars that are available? I hope I’m wrong about this. What do you think?
David Lind, Alexandria, La.
RM: I think you sound like I did when I heard about Formula E: yeah that’s just what we need ANOTHER series. But my skepticism has subsided since I’ve heard about all the big companies and names that may be involved. This electric idea may create a new wave of money and it sounds like Michael and Jay Penske can get a sponsor easier for that than for IndyCar. Not sure hardcore race fans will embrace Formula E but I guess we’ll find out soon enough. Q: Everybody seems to have different opinions about the schedule next year. And generally there’s something they complain about: two races at Indy in May, it’s too short, too many street courses, not enough ovals, etc. I am only 20 and have been an IndyCar fan for five or six years, so I thought I’d ask the expert. My question for you is this: in a perfect world what would be your ideal IndyCar schedule? Length, number of races and tracks included in it (and the tracks can be ones which no longer can be used or have been torn down like Nazareth or Vancouver). Looking forward to your response and another exciting IndyCar season next year!??
Ben from Toronto??
RM: I always liked CART’s old schedule of 21 (7 ovals, 7 streets, 7 road courses) and mine would include: Indy, Phoenix, Milwaukee, Michigan, Iowa, Fontana, Richmond, Pocono, Elkhart Lake, Mid-Ohio, Laguna Seca, Watkins Glen, Sonoma, Mosport, Mexico City, Montreal, Long Beach, Toronto, Cleveland, Surfer’s Paradise, Brazil, Houston, Vancouver and Miami.
Q: So it sounds like Jacques Villeneuve is part of a group that is planning to build a new track in southern B.C. near Oliver. Apparently the track will have Level 2 status from the FIA, meaning the only racing it can’t host is Formula 1. My hometown being Kelowna, only a couple hours north of the proposed site, and JV being one of my racing heroes growing up, this naturally has me excited as I still visit the area frequently. The track probably won’t be ready until at least 2015, but my question is, with there no longer being a race in Vancouver, or anywhere in the northwest, what are the odds of IndyCar trying to host a race there in three to five years???
Nathan, Saskatoon, Canada??
RM: I would hope the odds are good because Vancouver and Edmonton both had great fans and IndyCar needs a Northwest destination.
Q: With the recent trend for F1 to seemingly head toward gimmick racing (double points on final race, DRS, KERS, ugly cars, a downgrade in engines etc), do you think IndyCar could capitalize on this to provide hardcore motorsport fans with a product that is racy, competitive and interesting? I understand that IndyCar as a product suffers from a lack of public awareness, so this could take time but do you think they could actually do it? I say this as a British fan of IndyCar, of which there are a few of us, as it’s currently shown on BT Sport/ESPN. In an ideal world I’d love the BBC to show at least the Indy 500 but I think this is a lot to ask seeing as I spent two weeks in NYC in April this year and couldn’t get anyone to recommend me a place to watch the Long Beach GP!
Stu, United Kingdom
RM: Gosh, I think the past two seasons have provided some of the best, most competitive and dramatic racing of the past 20 years. The product is three times more watchable than an F1 parade but the problem is getting people to watch it in North America. IndyCar needs to market the drivers and that means spending money, which isn’t likely these days. But I appreciate your passion.
Q: Does the name Willard Coil ring a bell? I had the pleasure of meeting him today, by chance, through business. I had never heard of him before, but once he opened up and confessed about what he did, my jaw dropped. He chatted to me for an hour and a half after I disclosed my unhealthy obsession with IndyCar. Boy, that man has lived a life! And what a nice guy! He offered up to me some of his homemade peanut brittle and showed me every picture on his phone. Then he said to me, “I actually just got off the phone with Johnny Rutherford a few minutes ago, I can call him back if you’d like to say hello.” As he was pulling out his phone I said, “Just don’t, I have no idea what I would say.” Got any memories or stories of Willard? I am 29 and grew up with CART so I’m not as well versed in the USAC days.
Q: I hate to disagree with you but I fear I must. You repeatedly state that for the last two years OWR in both IndyCar and F1 has been great. Well, there has been little if no racing going on whatsoever! Oh sure, the cars are trading places on the track, but it’s like shuffling a deck of cards, they are in a different order but not really racing. Let me explain. Robin, you and I are the same age, and have the same amount of experience. If we were given equal cars, Red Bull’s/Andretti’s/Ganassi’s/Penske’s, it doesn’t matter, we would never ever be racing one another. One would be on hard tires the other on soft, NOT really racing! Even if the tires are the same, one set would be new, the other 20 laps old, NOT racing! One would have push to pass, the other not, NOT really racing!
One has KERS, the other not, NOT really racing! As for that DRS, it doesn’t result in a pass, it’s a blow-by! The car in front might as well be a Formula Ford! NOT really racing! One of us would be ordered to save fuel, the other not, NOT really racing! All this inequality results in NO real racing, just a shuffling of the Deck! If an old guy like me recognizes, this, how confused will the newcomer be?
Tires being the biggest problem right now, what do we need? One tire and one tire only. It must be consistent for its entire life. From the time it’s a striker tire until just before the cords show through it must remain consistent, NO degradation. No incentive to dive into the pits with 20 laps to go because the new ones have no advantage. The tires must also be long lasting. For a 500-mile race you need 2 sets; all other races, one set will do. This will equalize the field, save $$$, and reduce or eliminate marbles. It will also slow the cars down in the corners which is the other thing we need.
Right now the cars look like slot cars. If you don’t have to slow down for the corners, that’s NOT racing. If the car is capable of driving across the ceiling, it has too much downforce! The other area I have to disagree with is the need for more power in Indy Car! If you take away most of the down force (we don’t want lift), and give them harder tires, 650hp will be more than enough to let them rocket out of the corners that they had to slow down for and make them look fast! Then the cream will rise to the top, when the drivers really have to RACE.
Randy Shanklin, London, Ontario Canada
RM: First off, I’ve NEVER said that F1 has been great (since the 1980s anyway) and never mentioned them in the same sentence with IndyCar, except to say there’s no comparison. As I said to the British fan in the letter above yours, the racing and competition and depth has never been better for Indy cars. I’ll grant you that I got hooked on the Novi, Lotus, Turbine, Eagle, McLaren and new track records and Herk, Parnelli, A.J., Dan and Mario but those were also the days when three cars finished on the lead lap because of all the DNFs. No doubt that optional tires, push-to-pass and spec cars are gimmicks but it’s helped make the racing entertaining to most of us. The bottom line for me is that I never knew who was going to win any race this season because it was wide open. You sure couldn’t say that about F1. Q: I’ve been an Indy car fan since hearing the 1962 Indy 500 on the radio at age six. I remember when practice speeds on every day in May were worthy of page 1 in sports. And I think that IndyCar can once again rise to that level of importance if was treated with the legitimacy that it deserves by the print and electronic sports media.
One tiny little thing would start that process that would cost nothing. All it would take would be convincing the right decision maker to list IndyCar race and qualifying results on ESPN’s crawl lines on the bottom of the screen. I’ve seen cricket results scroll past! You can’t tell me that more people are looking for that news than follow America’s form of racing with the longest tradition. ESPN and ABC share ownership, and ABC will make May Indy Month. So why can’t IndyCar be a regular feature on the crawl?
When the IndyCar title was won in Fontana, there was nothing. I was at Fontana last year when Hunter-Reay took the championship. As I left the parking lot I scanned for local sports on the radio to hear what they’d say about it. Nothing. I watched the sports segments of local news broadcasts. Nothing. When ESPN does manage to report on IndyCar it almost always involves a crash. Announcers mispronounce names which shows that they never watch racing themselves. How can we bring IndyCar up to the level it rightly deserves when those that disseminate the news are generally not familiar with it? They have no breadth of knowledge to draw from to deliver credible insight or analysis.
I’m part of the motorsports media in the Bay Area, and I’ve met many of the writers that come from the stick and ball ranks that treat racing like a necessary evil. They’d feel more comfortable covering the LPGA. Sonoma/Infineon/Sears Point tries hard to engage local writers, but most aren’t more than two steps into knowing racing inside and out. Maybe IndyCar needs to focus more on these guys. Send them racing primers on DVD. Build a three-seater IndyCar with a wide-eyed writer on either side of the driver, and let Mario give them a real dose of lateral g’s and threshold braking. So who do we have to buy off or plead to, in order to get IndyCar on the crawl?
Todd Telford, Cotati, Calif.
RM: It’s insulting that ESPN is a partner of IndyCar and can’t even get the race results on the crawl but I have no idea how to rectify the situation. But IndyCar and IMS need major help in public relations and a new plan to spread the word about IndyCar. ABC televising all of May is a great start to trying to change the culture but it takes cooperation in Bristol and some enthusiasm and ideas from West 16th Street. The lack of recognition and interest from the American media can be fixed but it’s going to take some hard work and passionate people like Steve Shunck (who IndyCar fired because he was Randy Bernard’s hire). IndyCar has to pursue the national media but they’re not equipped to at the moment.
Q: I started going to what is now the Honda Indy Toronto in 1998. Been through the “glory” years, all the way to the 17-car fields in Champ Car, and always supported this event. My fianc and I enjoyed our best weekend last year hands down. Between tickets, food, getting our favorite drivers’ apparel, we spend probably close to $700 each Indy. This year I get a renewal notice for my tickets on pit lane, however my seats no longer exist due to development at Exhibition Place. My seats I’ve had for years are gone, I’m informed when I contact them my options are that the promoters are saying either I can accept sitting elsewhere other than pit lane, or move to a pit lane suite to get a similar view/atmosphere we’ve always enjoyedbut those carry an additional $1,000 each. That’s not in our budget and it baffles me that this is even an option.
The last option is to wait until after the renewal period in early January, when myself and hundreds of others have to hope others didn’t renew in the pit lane section that was left. My section H, is where Hinch’s family/fan club recently have sat, so chances of this option are very unlikely when such a large group is also displaced on pit lane. For the past 16 summers, nothing for me beats a July weekend in Toronto. Even though it was a street race, I enjoyed supporting IndyCar! We’ve tried all the other seats on the “free” Fridays and nothing beats what we had.
It’s extremely disappointing after supporting this event for 16 years that the event isn’t there to support the fans who have stuck with it through the ups and downs. I’m sure I’m not the only one disappointed how this is being handled by the promoters and I hope others will speak up. I realize it’s not the promoter’s fault for a hotel being built, but after seeing the event grow again, and it being a big part of our summer, this doesn’t sit well with this long time fan.
Paul, Ontario, Canada
RM: I don’t know what to say other than every time there’s expansion at Exhibition Place, the track and more importantly, the fans have suffered. If I were the promoters I would try and appease all of my loyal ticket holders before I did anything else. So keep me posted.
Q: I was just sitting here in front of the monitor reading your most recent Mailbag, and for some reason (beats me, I don’t know why) Stan Fox popped into my head. Two of my all time favorites come “Speedway time” were Stan Fox and Rich Vogler. I always liked seeing those sprint car guys from Saturday Night Thunder coming in and showing the world the talent they were missing every night from the local bull rings … those guys were simply magic in motion wherever they went! Anyways back to my question … back when you were still writing at The Indianapolis Star, I remember reading an article about Stan after he had so unfortunately left us, and that some guy (can’t remember the name now) was in the process of writing a book about Stanley. Was wondering if that ever came to fruition, or if not, is it still (hopefully) in the works? I’m here in central New York where Mother Nature has moved the “book by the fireplace” season into full swing, and just finished reading Bones Bourcier’s book Wicked Fast about the ageless Bentley Warren (it’s a GREAT read, if ya get the time). I could use a new read.
Mick Fesko, Marietta, New York
RM: Foxy was one of the best midget shoes for 20 years and Mad Dog was one of USAC’s best all-around racers ever but haven’t heard of any book plans for either’s career. Go to Coastal 181 and buy Bones’ book on Parnelli Jones, it’s excellent. Or Bob Gates’ books on Vuky or Troy Ruttman. And there’s a new one at Racemaker.com on Lloyd Ruby.
Q: I have been a diehard Indy car fan since the mid-’60s and have followed the sport with a passion ever since. I grew up in California and my dad took me to several Indy races in the west through the ’60s and ’70s. I have attended many races from many series over the years. How I long for the days of innovation, diversity, cars with big horsepower and little downforce, and drivers that actually had to use the brakes when entering corners on ovals.
The greatest Indy car race I ever saw (best race of any series for that matter) was the 1968 Hanford 250. This race had every variation of the Offy and the DOHC, plus a couple of turbines. Chassis and frame/suspension combinations that took more than two hands to count. This race featured a long battle among Foyt, B. Unser, and Andretti that took up nearly the whole second half of the race. They were never apart by much distance and each of them enjoyed the lead at some point. A.J. won the race, which made my day complete.
I understand the technology and economics that have driven us to spec car racing. I see the advantages of having engines that don’t blow on a frequent basis (even if it does take a certain element out of the race). I know there is a need to find drivers who can bring sponsorship versus drivers who just have motivation and courage to offer an owner. Clearly, the issue of driver and fan safety is paramount and can never be ignored. But, I truly miss the excitement of brute cars that were overpowered and required a special skill set to handle effectively. I can’t picture over half of today’s drivers even coming close to handling an Indy car of the mid-’70s. Where is Mike Mosley when you need him?
I would give anything to see a field made up of different chassis and engines. I would love to see the variety of drivers return to Indy that we used to see. A few F1 pilots, a couple of NASCAR drivers, a number of drivers from the USAC ranks, and that small cadre of Indy specialists. People loved the Mel Kenyons, the George Sniders, and many other unsung heroes of the Indy field. I loved the drama of the qualifying system that worked for decades. Two weekends, three attempts, and that’s it. It created great drama for the pole and for cars to just make the race. It opened the field for drivers from other series and it gave teams the chance to enter an extra car or two. You know, somebody had the right idea once.
I have a solution. If every race fan in America (let’s make it the world, while we’re at it) would dig deep and send me $1,000 dollars, I could then buy the Speedway and set things right. Maybe we could talk Borg-Warner and a few companies to chip in sizable amounts of cash to further my shot at making Indy the Greatest Spectacle in Racing once again. I could make the cars the true beasts they once were, encourage innovation that will bring in a variety of engine and chassis types, restore qualifying to its pure format, and set the date to allow more drivers to participate. Well, that’s my dream. Have a Merry Christmas.
Michael Franovich, Prescott, Ariz.
RM: Sorry Mike, Santa Claus is dead but there is a road race at IMS in May.