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: Thanks for the great article on Dario! The man was and is a class act; next year will suck without him in an IndyCar. I guess I won’t miss him beating up Will Power now and then, but I sure did like that rivalry, who will replace it??
RM: I think Power and Dixon can pick up where Dario left off and I imagine Montoya will make some rivals or enemies. Keep hoping the second chapter of Andretti-Rahal heats up and Pagenaud needs a rival. As for Franchitti, I’ll always be impressed with his street prowess, how he adapted to ovals and how he maintained that fire to keep pushing.
Q: I want the apron back for the Indy 500. And when might the IndyCar Series return to Portland International Raceway? Unlike in the heydays of CART, there is now a repaved track with a tighter turn before the back straight and an expensive taxpayer light rail right by the track for those who want it. The Pacific Northwest still likes cars a lot, as can be seen by the new Oregon Raceway Park just about 130 miles to the east of Portland. Car dealers have revitalized dealerships near southwest Portland and Teslas are sold at a big mall.
When might Ford team with Cosworth again for IndyCar? They struggle against Chevy in NAPCAR and they have a good niche going with the Mustang in both drag racing and road racing. And the Focus and Fiesta are better-equipped than ever for both road and rally racing.
Rick, fan of Portland International Raceway
RM: You won’t get the apron at IMS until 2015, if then, because it won’t be started until after Indy next May, but it needs to be utilized. That’s good news about Portland, I’ll tell Derrick Walker. As for Ford, we all figured they might follow GM back into IndyCar but evidently no interest.
Q: What is Justin Wilson doing next year? Haven’t heard any rumors at all. I am surprised that RP wouldn’t consider running a fourth car for Justin. What a lineup he would have! Also, IndyCar needs a race at Mosport. The place would be absolutely jammed with spectators. I have read that some think Mosport is too fast for IndyCar. Fast it is (fastest road course in North America) but if ALMS cars can run there so can IndyCars.
Dave Nicholls, Whitby, Ontario
RM: In a perfect world Justin will be Graham Rahal’s teammate. Let me re-phrase that. If Justin can get out of his contract with Dale Coyne, and Bob Rahal pulls things together, that would be the best scenario for the under-valued veteran. Penske doesn’t seem to be a fan of JWil.
I’d love to see Indy cars back at Mosport but the constant concern is speed even with all the great improvements to the track. But your logic seems to make sense to me.
Q: TK in the No. 10 car was an easy wish for Santa to grant? Hmm, if there is one thing I have learned about this series is that nothing is a done deal (no matter how logical the choice or how deserving a driver is) until it is announced. And even that can change. I still would have loved to see Simona or Justin in the #8 car, but we both knew either was a long shot for Ganassi. I do hope that both of them will be back next year.
I can’t wait to watch the Chili Bowl next month with Dave Despain at the helm of the broadcast. And it will be LIVE! Wow, another Christmas wish delivered. (See Santa is not dead yet). You suggested to a Mailbag reader that he could buy a paddock pass without an admission ticket. Is that really possible?
Deborah, Los Angeles
RM: As we all said, putting Kanaan in Dario’s car was a slam-dunk if all the sponsors could be appeased. I think Justin will be in IndyCar but starting to wonder about Simona. Unless it’s Panther where else would she go? But I think Marshall Pruett has an idea he’ll share soon. As for MAVTV hiring Despain to do the Chili Bowl live is a great Christmas present. And, yes, you can buy a pit pass without a seat and watch the big screen from the paddock.Q: What is the relationship between the Chip Ganassi Racing entries (Target, NTT Data, and Novo Nordisk)? Do they share technical data, strategy, engineering resources? Does Chip get tired of everyone calling the NTT Data and Novo Nordisk entries the B Team?
Adam, Minneapolis, Minn.
RM: It’s a relationship that seemed to get friendlier last season after Charlie stepped up his game and, yes, they share information and it’s one pretty happy family under two different roofs.
Q: If IMS had the apron for the 2012 race, do you think Takuma Sato’s name would be on the Borg-Warner trophy??
Harry from Toronto
RM: Either that or Scott Dixon would have pulled into Victory Lane. But that extra room certainly would have given Taku a better angle.
Q: After seeing that Andersen Promotions has taken over running the Indy Lights series (and now runs each series in the ladder system), I started wondering: What does this mean for the future of the Road to Indy? I know that a new car and spec engine are planned for Indy Lights in 2015 but, in your opinion, is this step in the right direction? And can Andersen turn around the recent fortunes of the series?
RM: Based on his history with USF2000 and Mazda, hell yes. Matter of fact, if Dan hadn’t stepped up, I wonder if there would even be a Lights series going forward.
Q: You think Anthony Foyt IV would unretire to run with Arie Luyendyk Jr.?
RM: No, I think he’s quite happy playing golf, working for the Colts and making babies with Kasey Irsay. And Arie Jr should have parlayed that The Bachelor role into the movies it’s too late for a comeback. ?
Q: When did racing become entertainment and not about racing? I go to 25-30 USAC races a year. Some make the hair stand up on your arms and others make you wonder, “Why did I bother?” When promoters try to make every race an exciting show, they turn it into WWE. I want real racing, not a staged show. Sometimes you get a great race and sometimes you do not. I would rather see a bad race than a made for entertainment race. Red flags, yellow flags, stop halfway through the race and let people work on their cars (Silver Crown). What has happened to real racing?
RM: You mean like Turkey Night? When there was an hour between races and guys were being allowed to change tires with just a few laps to go under another drawn-out yellow flag? USAC shows do have real racing and great racing but it’s the laborious delays and jacking around that makes you and I crazy. People don’t have six hours to spend at a race and Supercross and the World of Outlaws figured out that having spectators out the door at 10 p.m. is actually acceptable and popular. USAC officials go to the Chili Bowl every year and see how a program is supposed to be run but it never seems to register.Q: Grew up in Indy, lifelong fan and attended all but a couple of Indy 500s since 1972. I was watching the last IndyCar race at Fontana this year (always try to watch every race when I can figure out what channel it’s on) and think NBC Sports Network is a step in the right direction. I was watching you run up and down the starting grid at Fontana, microphone in hand, trying to interview drivers who all seemed to be in the bathroom right before engine start! Occurred to me that NASCAR drivers will talk to anyone who puts a microphone in their face before, during and after a race which is at least one reason they are so much better known. IndyCar needs to make interviews compulsory at all times to get faces and names out there. There are so many interesting and great IndyCar young guns like Charlie Kimball and Josef Newgarden. Even Marco is coming around as he matures and is a good interview now. NASCAR racing is boring to the point it seems scripted but the marketing is so vastly superior. IndyCar and the drivers need to find any opportunity to be seen and heard. Maybe next time, try setting up in the bathroom if that’s where they choose to be. At least you were making an effort.
Speaking of which, I love your spots with JMV on 1070. That should be a weekly or daily part of the show. Not to mention you could without a doubt have your own show in a place like Indianapolis that is starved of information about racing that was made famous in our own town. Thanks for your always entertaining insights.
Thomas Pea, Indianapolis
RM: I guess part of the fun of the Grid Run is having no script and no idea who I might get to interview, but the real problem is that many times the drivers aren’t back from their pace car lap when I go on. It’s nobody’s fault and it’s tough for our producer to squeeze everything in but when we get five minutes and the timing is right, the drivers are usually quite receptive at being ambushed. You are correct, there is plenty of personality in the IndyCar paddock and it comes out, so maybe I’ll stake out the restrooms in 2014.
I had a nightly radio show on WIBC before I started railing on Tony George for screwing up the Indy 500 in 1996 and then I was fired. But Kevin Lee and Curt Cavin have a weekly show on Tuesday nights all year on 1070 The Fan and it’s mostly about IndyCar racing with plenty of drivers as guests. Thanks for watching and listening and reading.
Q: Do you listen to XM radio? You and Dave Despain need an all-racing show on one of the XM sports channels. I am left few options to get my motorsports fix when I drive for work and land on NASCAR radio but would love to have the old WindTunnel gang on for at least a few hours per week covering ALL racing programing. Maybe RACER radio? Malsher, you reading this?
RM: I do listen to the Sixties station on XM and there was actually an IndyCar channel at one time but it didn’t have any personality or plan, I’m told. Despain is working for MAVTV and will be doing a series of interview shows, in addition to live races like the Chili Bowl, so I doubt if he’s real gung-ho on radio but it would be fun because Davey and I love to argue.
David Malsher: Yes Travis, I’m reading this! We have big plans in the works, which heavily involve Robin but don’t encompass radioyet. Given that most of us writers have great faces for radio, though, your idea has extra merit.Q: I have been watching all forms of racing for 25 years (I am 39) from NASCAR, IndyCar, SCCA, Modified, Late Model etc. and I’m also a regular online SIM racer. I read the Mailbag every week and feverishly wait for it to be posted on the website on Wednesday mornings. For the life of me, I can’t understand why no one, especially you, will not talk about the real problem facing IndyCar the perceived CULTURE.
Let me explain from an East Coast perspective. First, the ’80s and ’90s had some great names, great cars and passionate fans. The problem is, during this time the drivers never seemed to be real people. They appeared above the common folk, rich and without equal. Television only contributed to this in my opinion. They made such a big deal of who had money and who came from this family and what not, all the while addings things like “Here is so-and-so driving his used somesuch with sponsorship from Big Tim’s Towing in Duluth, so it’s highly unlikely he makes it, and if he does, he won’t be a factor.” Later on it became “Oh, he’s from Europe or Brazil or wherever so hell he’s got to be good.”
Now this is were it gets really interesting. If you were a NASCAR fan you were viewed as scum, poor ol’ redneck or just plain stupid. Oh and if you didn’t race an Indy car you were not a real racer according to many of these folks. Really? Second, 2000-2011. A complete self-destruction in any and all ways. Rich brats fighting among themselves is what signifies this time period to me. This guy wanted his way and these people did not. Oh wait you won’t let us race there. Oh wait we are better and technically more advanced blah, blah, blah. Both products stunk! There was no consistency they raced here one year, then there the next year then back to the first place and so on.
Third, sorry but Indiana is not the center of the universe. It is impossible to pay for a whole series on race and television revenue from THAT race only. Hate to tell you longtime fans but we live in a very compressed society so the WHOLE month being one huge event is not coming back anytime soon. The only reason it still exists is that it helps keep the family and the local economy afloat. It’s too damn expensive for teams and fans to be there for a whole month and only have one race. Wow, no wonder they added a second.
Fourth: 2012-present. Please don’t plead poverty. This goes for the owners, the drivers and Indy itself. It’s disgusting and no one really cares because they are struggling to pay for the tickets they put on their credit card for your events, so when millionaires and billionaires do thism it’s pathetic. If you really don’t have the money, do what the rest of us do, OK? IndyCar racing today is the best it has been and better than any series on the planet in my opinion. They need more races, not fewer. They need more ovals and fewer street courses. Street courses are a pain in the ass for TV and fans in general. They are great in theory but outside of a few, they just don’t work.
Finally, the elephant in the room. It seems to this uneducated follower that IndyCar, the powers that be (at one time or another) and family have seriously pissed off the people who they now need. The fans, the networks, the sponsors and the media. Maybe it’s time for the old guard to completely remove themselves and let someone else do it. If I am completely off base please tell me but I would love to hear your opinion.
David Hinshaw, Asheboro, NC
RM: OK, let me catch my breath because you covered 30 years and a lot of territory. I think there was a perception that CART played to the wine and cheese crowd because of street and road races but Milwaukee, Phoenix and Michigan were still packed in the 1990s. And the drivers were always pretty approachable, be it Emmo or even Ol’ Nige for a couple of years. Of course the disconnect with the fans, sponsors and media came in 1996 when The Split fractured open-wheel racing and it’s never recovered. Nor will it. Blame? TGeorge and CART team owners.
A road race at IMS is laughable but I understand trying something different because nobody shows up anymore until race weekend. The best thing about this May is that ABC is covering all three weekends, so there’s a chance to breathe a little life into the month.
Ending the season on Labor Day is a mistake but adding more ovals isn’t likely since no promoter wants to take the risk. Bottom line? Buy some Dick Wallen videos of the 1960s and 1970s to relive the glory days or grin and bear it today with good racing that nobody seems to care about.