Welcome to the Robin Miller Mailbag as presented by Honda Racing / HPD. You can follow the Santa Clarita, Calif.-based company at http://hpd.honda.com/ and on social media at @HondaRacing_HPD and https://www.facebook.com/HondaRacingHPD . Your questions for Robin should continue to be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org We cannot guarantee we’ll publish all your questions and answers, but Robin will reply to you.
And if you have a question about the technology side of racing, remember that Marshall Pruett tackles them in his Tech Mailbags each week. Please send tech questions to PruettsTechMailbag@Racer.com.
Q: Agree with your assessment of Will Power’s move at Pocono on Sunday. I have followed his career for a while and have always admired his driving and his way with the fans, but he’s about to throw away yet another championship. That move was an act of poor judgment and his explanation of it was poor as well. Cindric’s advice was sound, think he’ll heed it?
Pete, Arnold, MD
RM: His explanation was even worse than the block itself, but the sad thing is that Will has become a good oval-track racer and he didn’t need to do what he did because he was going to run no worse than third. He’d be wise to heed Cindric’s and The Captain’s advice.
Q: It was so nice to see the return of Will the Whiner at Pocono this week; I’ve missed him for the majority of this season! Yes Will, it was, in fact, Paul Tracy and Townsend Bell who personally told Beaux Barfield and team to issue you a penalty for clearly blocking another car. Kudos to NBCSN for coming back from break with that great graphic showing all Will’s penalties this year. Bigger kudos to Paul Tracy for the quote of the year: “You wanted me to call it like I see it, Willy P, that’s what I’m doing.”
Does Will have the mental toughness to be a series champion? He seems to go in cycles: when he is winning, everything is great, but when things go bad, he goes into Eeyore-mode (as you once described him) and just loses focus. (And for the record, I am not a Power fan).
Does Team Penske have a teammate problem and what does Roger do to solve it? It is no great secret that Juan, Will and Helio aren’t exactly buddies; their body language and chosen words clearly show that. Penske always seemed to have drivers in the past who were part of The Team, but these three only seem to care about themselves at any expense.
Chris, Oak Forest, IL
RM: Tracy had been full of praise for Power’s turnaround on ovals but he was 100 percent in the right (as was Townsend Bell) about the block and penalty. Will came off as whining and everybody is jumping on him. I think he used to be fragile but appears to have matured in that department; I guess we’ll see over the next eight weeks. Don’t think the chemistry at Team Penske is an issue and I like the fact they race each hard and The Captain lets them.
Q: The most cowardly move I’ve ever seen on a racetrack was Alain Prost intentionally locking wheels with Ayrton Senna at Suzuka in 1989 – and then successfully blaming him for the crash. The most reckless move I’ve ever seen was the following year when Senna speared Prost at the same track. The most dangerous move I’ve ever seen is one people don’t think of a lot – Emmo moving on Al Jr. at Indy in 1989. Will Power’s moves on Helio and, to a lesser extent, on Montoya at Pocono this weekend were cowardly, reckless AND dangerous. What do we make of the Aussie repeatedly offending his fellow competitors, now within Team Penske, no less!
I’m sure Montoya was forgiving because the missing endplate, for whatever reason, didn’t end up hurting him. But I’d have loved to be a fly on the wall with The Captain, Tim Cindric, Will and Helio afterward. Will’s moves (multiple) on Helio were incredibly dangerous, let alone with a teammate – and that’s acknowledging that Helio has been guilty of “Brazilian blocking” in the past. An airborne car at Pocono on the front straight can only go one of two places – the catch fence in front of the crowd or pit lane. Yikes.
Larry Parker, Miami
RM: Well, I don’t classify Emmo’s move with those others (I think he simply pushed up into Al but wasn’t trying to take him out, because he damn near wrecked himself) but, unfortunately, blocking became part of IndyCar’s vernacular and I always say it came from the Brazilians in the ’80s. Penske has no tolerance for taking out teammates so that didn’t sit well with him and I think Helio got a little pep talk about his post-game comments from Cindric. Montoya lost his endplate on his own, not because of a move Power made.
Q: OK, it was a dangerous, dirty move – on his teammate – in front of the world – dumb! I love Will Power – he’s the Ayrton Senna of the series. I root for him because he just wants to win so bad. He just had a case of “red mist” and will learn from it. This is the big leagues – no whining; no hand-wringing.
Kudos to you, Marshall, David, Paul and everyone at RACER. I subscribe to the magazine, but mainly to support the website and the great IndyCar coverage you guys put out. Thanks. And congrats on taking $1,000 off Dario.
Lee Robie, Cincinnati, OH
RM: Yes it was and, thankfully, nobody ran over a wheel and got launched. Will is a talented driver and a good guy who lives to race and is worth the price of admission every time out. Everyone is entitled to a mistake or two but he’s tempting fate with all his miscues and it’s cost him a point lead and maybe a title.
Q: Is Will Power losing it? Does he not see what is obvious in the TV replays? Blaming Townsend Bell for pointing it out defies known logic. I haven’t heard such whining since Michael A. was driving. What say you?
David, Waxhaw NC
RM: I say Race Control and the NBCSN analysts made the right call and I think Will knows it as well. At least he should.
Q: I could complain about double points, but Power deserves the double penalty he got in the point standings. At what point does IndyCar issue an added penalty to Power for repeat violations? I’m a Power fan and maybe even a Power apologist, but that makes five or six black flags this year. At some point a grid penalty in a following race is appropriate. It’s a shame though, because now Power is fast on ovals. Looks like the only person capable of preventing Will Power from winning the title this year is Will Power.
I’d also love to hear Power’s take on the move he got a penalty for after he has had a chance to step back from the race and flush the adrenaline out of his system. He didn’t seem to think it was a penalty on Sunday, but Cindric seemed to think it was from what I could tell and that says a lot.
Ryan in West Michigan
RM: I think if you take somebody out with a dangerous move on an oval it should be more than a drive-throgh but Power’s penance is the point lead that’s evaporated with his penalties. I think Will knows he screwed up and I’m damn sure he heard about it from RP and TC.
Q: I don’t suppose I am the first to wonder about Will Power and Roger Penske – if WP misses the championship again this year, is it time for him to be replaced? Will has made a ton of mental errors again this year and I can’t imagine RP is very pleased. Where is the breaking point?
RM: Remember this: Tom Sneva got fired by RP after WINNING back-to-back USAC national championships in 1977 and ’78, so anything is possible. But I think as long as Will keeps winning races for Verizon he’s safe. Of course I told Paul Tracy the same thing in 1997. You get so many chances with RP but don’t push your luck.
Q: Having been a race fan since the mid-’70s, I’ve had the privilege of seeing guys like Mario, A.J., and the Unsers win at nearly every discipline of motorsport. Seeing what Montoya has done, especially after a 14-year absence and at this time in our sport, I have to rank him as one of the all-time greats! Just curious what you think?
Brad Heuer, Idaho
RM: Parnelli, Dan Gurney, A.J. and Mario were the most versatile of my lifetime but JPM has managed to win in Indy cars, Formula 1, sports cars and NASCAR in the past 15 years and that’s damn impressive. He’s one of the best in the past 25 years, no question.
Q: Interesting race at the end, JPM sure does seem like he is back, when he gets his “lacking a little bit” settled he will be a terror. I have always been a Penske guy and a fan of Will Power but he had better get his head out of his backside and stop making mistakes. I remember all those years ago when Paul Tracy was let go because he made so many unforced errors; The Captain will only put up with so much. Has Will been taking “not my fault” lessons from the Andrettis? His comment about blocking was laughable!
Can’t the powers that be come up with a schedule that will keep fans watching and keep the mechanics from dying from a lack of rest? Really sad to hear about the low turnout (Pocono) at such a great race track. Hope they can come back for the last year of the contract.
Tom in Waco
RM: Montoya’s attitude is reflected in his performance: he’s been happily making steady progress and he’s better on ovals but getting closer on street circuits and road courses. P.T. won three races in a row in 1997 and still got the ax while Al Unser Jr. went winless. The schedule-makers need an understanding of what they’re doing to the mechanics and it sucks because they’ll be worked like dogs and then laid off.
Q: Pocono was a snooze-feast. This is not going to bring the masses back to IndyCar racing. Evidenced by the empty seats at the track on a long 4th of July weekend. So what were the TV numbers up against a rain-delayed Daytona? It almost was like a white flag waving when they welcomed the fans who were now turning the dial from Daytona. Good thing the Pocono race wasn’t up against the hotdog-eating contest.
Seriously, the race was only watchable if recorded on your DVR so you could fast forward through the roundy-rounds. Did enjoy the announcing team and once again PT shines with telling it like it is. Kind of amazing how well Montoya has got back in the saddle, at least he made it fun toward the end. Hey, he even survived racing wheel to wheel with Power. There should be extra points awarded for that.
Did enjoy watching the predictable Power pull one blunder week after week on his way to once again blow his charge to a championship. It’s become so blatant that even with Penske Rule in play, Race Control can’t look the other way. He WAS blocking, end of discussion. As a race fan, I think we have had enough of the phenom from down under.
RM: Oh I’ve seen a lot worse oval races than last Sunday (the 1991 and 1992 Michigan 500s come to mind) but, compared to Indy, it wasn’t nearly as exciting. Mainly because there was only one restart. Montoya is impressive, just like P.T. in the NBCSN booth. But don’t write off Power because of a few miscues or one bad block or a little whining. He’s a helluva racer.
Q: Attended Pocono for the second year in a row and really had a great time watching the race. It had its share of strategy, on-track action, attrition and a pretty popular winner. I think on television there were people watching who probably thought some of the race was a little dull, but in person that’s just not the case. These cars are going so damn fast. When someone pops out to try a move, it really makes you sit up and take notice. That restart late in the race was bonkers with four-wide in the back of the field… in IndyCars!
Yeah, we need more cars. Yeah, the crowd was probably about the same as last year. Yeah, there are periods of time when they’re just running around ticking off laps. The thing is, when you’re there in the seats, just seeing the cars running that quickly and even doing pit stops in eight seconds, while being able to see the entire 2.5 miles from the grandstand and pit work, is a treat. It’s worth every penny to get out on a beautiful day and take in a great event. I really hope it sticks around.
IndyCar needs to BUILD events like this one, not give up after a year or two. I still maintain that New Hampshire would’ve grown given time, too. I think the walk-up crowd was significant this year (and given you know there will be seats, why would you buy ahead of time… especially if the weather stinks?) and again, you’ve gotta find a way to build events. Please tell me Pocono is coming back in 2015. We need races like that one on the schedule.
RM: Glad you enjoyed it Dave, the walk-up saved the day but it didn’t look nearly as good as 2013 and I’d say it’s 50-50 to continue. My take is that the only reason to have the Triple Crown and 500-milers is to make it a financial boon and make it worthwhile to run extra cars but it takes 33, not 21, to hold your interest for three hours.
Q: What a shame for such a poor crowd. If they return to Pocono, how about a fall date combined with a 3-hour TUDOR Championship race? I hope TK’s race strategist is job hunting tonight! What a stupid call! The caution for Rahal was a godsend and they gave it away!
RM: They need to have something else to watch on race day but not sure a sports car double-header would be the choice. Kanaan was furious afterward, as well he should have been since he had one of the fastest cars all afternoon. Obviously, his team was counting on one more yellow flag.
Q: How did the folks at the race enjoy it? On TV it was a bit like some of the World Cup Soccer matches – a lil boring until the end when all of a sudden it was on the line. I live in Boston and thought about driving out but that’s a long haul for a holiday weekend. If it’s back next year and if they run on a Saturday night instead of a Sunday afternoon and if Rhode Island race (dead quiet about that one, huh?) doesn’t happen, I’m in. Lotta ifs for sure but I have that in common with IndyCar, eh?
RM: I watched the people in the grandstand across from the pits and they cheered when Kanaan took the lead and again when Montoya passed Power and they stood up for 10 laps after the restart. There weren’t a lot of people there but it looked like they enjoyed it. Restarts are always the keys to excitement on ovals and to only have one in three hours makes it tough.
Q: It was no Indy (nothing is, really) but I thought Pocono was good race. Some great passes, differing strategies and lots of green flag time. The 500-milers are truly a different (and fast) flavor of racing and would be a shame to lose them from the schedule. I find the double points a bit gimmicky but like that the Triple Crown adds another competitive element within the season.
The NBCSN crew did a great job again (great to have Varsha back for a race); however I could see low car counts being an issue for those at the track. What could realistically be done to increase car count, at least for the 500 milers, to keep them viable?
Kevin (somewhere between Road Atlanta and Barber)
RM: The best way to get the car count up for 500-milers is to make the purse 10 times better for them and give people incentive to field cars. But you can’t have 500-milers with 21 cars and expect non-stop action like 33 at Indianapolis.
Q: Been an Indy racing as long as I can remember(when it was on radio and tape-delayed on TV) and I did attend the first Indy Car race at Pocono and many others there just living within 10 miles of the track. With the news from track CEO and President Brandon Igdalsky that he may cancel next year’s race, I have several thoughts on it.
The 4th of July weekend in the Poconos is a time when many families get together with all the activities that are in the area and they have that tradition going on for years. The heat in July, coming between two NASCAR races is mind-boggling and my main thought is the HATE of NASCAR for any track to host Indy cars. For years now there has been talk of Pocono losing a NASCAR race. Did that play into it? Yes Pocono Raceway is in it for the money and should be but after just one year, I would think each party should sit down and try to work it out.
JFS, Pocono area
RM: Heard a lot of talk about moving off July 4th weekend (although it didn’t hurt in 1971) and last year it was a better crowd at the same time. Being sandwiched between NASCAR probably isn’t great but not much else can be done, schedule-wise, unless it would be the fall. But I don’t know that NASCAR races had any bearing on the attendance.
Q: Amazing that an oval race with one caution could be so competitive throughout. I know a lot of people spit out the words “spec series” like a curse but I’ll take it over a big team dominating, four-cars-on-the-lead-lap series anytime. Any idea why Kanaan’s team decided to go with a risky alternate fuel strategy with a car that had a chance to win? I was totally surprised when he pulled in with 40 to go.
RM: I worked on Lloyd Ruby’s team for two years and I remember four cars finishing Trenton one year and six at Michigan in a 500-miler and only two cars on the lead lap one year at Ontario. To think they ran 158 laps with no cautions and still had more than half the field on the lead lap is impressive. TK’s team tried a strategy to make him the rabbit, pit early and hope for a caution. Obviously, it didn’t work.
Q: A few thoughts on Pocono and IndyCar in general. First: I hope this race continues but it has to be moved to a different date if it’s going to succeed. People from the area avoid the Poconos on holiday weekends because of normal holiday traffic problems. Move the race, more will come, especially campers in the infield of which there were almost none. Also, there needs to be more support races. The eight-car Indy Lights race and vintage cars are not enough.
Now, IndyCar: they have to promote their series better. This is the most exciting and competitive series in racing and nobody knows or cares except for the Indy 500. They need to have commercials on prime time network TV promoting their series and drivers like NASCAR does.
Finally, I was listening to the TV broadcast at the race and I agree with you 100 percent: pit speed limits need to be higher or done away with and IndyCar needs to be at Watkins Glen.
Brett, Bangor, PA
RM: I totally agree about more support races. Watching the 2-seater for three hours before the Pocono 500 begins is not entertainment. Verizon is doing some national driver commercials and they’re good. Pit speed penalty is almost as repulsive as saving fuel. IndyCar needs to be with TUDOR sports cars at the Glen and Road America next year.
Q: I watched the Pocono 500 yesterday and the crowd was hard to judge on TV. But, by looking at the infield parking, and the lack of motorhomes, maybe 20k people. The track owner seemed like his mind was made up beforehand that he was going to opt out of year 3. That’s another oval down the drain. IndyCar is starting to mirror Champ Car/CART – only two or three ovals and the balance road/street courses. Everyone bitches about the lack of ovals and American drivers but the pipeline to Indy from sprint cars has been dead since the 1980s and early ’90s. Why was Sage Karam (pictured, ABOVE) not there? That’s 100% BS and that kid will end up driving taxi cabs, another good prospect gone.
RM: I’d say 15,000 and that’s being very optimistic, and the reason the ovals are vanishing is because nobody shows up and nobody wants to promote them. Fans are always bitching about the lack of ovals and yet the lack of support is staggering. Karam not being in the race was a travesty and IndyCar needed to help make it happen, as well as Ganassi.
Q: Last week Pocono CEO and President Brandon Igdalsky took a shot at IndyCar fans for the low ticket sales leading up to the race. I don’t disagree with him totally because I’m just about tired of hearing IndyCar fans beg for more ovals then not buy tickets or even tune in for the races. He just needs to understand that attending a 4th of July weekend in the Poconos is not great planning on their part and the lack of promotions outside of the immediate Pocono mountains was pathetic. He needs to be a real businessman and shoulder some of the blame.
The July 4th holiday is already the most successful and crowded weekend in the Poconos without any car races going on. Traffic coming in before the weekend and leaving on Sunday night was already horrible. After the race it took me three hours just to reach the Jersey border (25 miles away), which normally takes me at the most 35 minutes. Decent hotels in the area are already booked up at a premium due to the holiday. Whatever is left is taken by all of the teams and support personnel.
I live in Jersey, but in the Philly market. It’s very common for me to see NASCAR Pocono commercials when I’m watching racing on TV or hearing spots on the radio. I did not hear or see any commercials in regards to the IndyCar race in the Philly market and I wouldn’t doubt if the same was true for the N.Y. market to. The best solution I can think of for fans would be to move the race to the next weekend after the 4th. Take a few dollars from the NASCAR millions you’ve already pocketed and make a decent attempt to promote this race showing you want it to exist.
IndyCar should be working harder with Pocono, too, as an East Coast race is much needed. Pocono needs this race. The NASCAR races there are a snooze fest and it wouldn’t surprise me that they lose one of the dates in the near future. This is not a jab at NASCAR as I attend both Dover races each year. It’s just a fact.
Lastly, start thinking of us fans as business partners and not just customers. Listening to and working with us will greatly improve your attendance. Just remember, there was another individual who inherited a racetrack and assumed it qualified him to be a successful businessman and look at how that turned out!
Jerry, Williamstown, NJ
RM: I like the Igdalsky brothers and their ticket prices and packages are some of the best in the country for the Pocono 500. I think Brandon spoke out of frustration because he said people keep begging him to bring Indy cars back and then nobody bought any tickets. I heard some Philly residents say it wasn’t promoted but I know longtime motorsports writer Bill Fleismann wrote several stories in the Philly paper. Never considered the motel situation.
Q: I hated the pack racing of the IRL era, but after the snoozers at Texas and Pocono I find myself longing for some of that type of action. We go 370+ miles without contact or on-track failure during the first two 500-milers. I’m not a crash guy at all. But I wonder if the package they’ve put together for these cars on ovals isn’t lacking. I know it’s not easy (get well soon, Union Jack) but it didn’t seem like there was as much passing as you’d like. Maybe that’s due in part to something uncontrollable like car count, but I don’t really know. Maybe we’re just Indy-spoiled now. But the cars held the track perfectly and, outside of the restarts, there just wasn’t much passing for the lead, which, when you’re running ovals, is an important element in making a good show.
Many are pointing to next year with the new eyeballs on NBCSN due to NASCAR moving to that network, hoping that will bring another uptick in TV ratings. If you want to keep other racing fans’ attention while showing the one thing that separates IndyCar from all other types of racing, pure speed, you’re going to have to do better than that wherever you run ovals. Because after Brandon Igdalsky’s comments and that brutal turnout, we know it won’t be Pocono.
Most commentators and drivers speak to how talented and deep the grid is on any given weekend. If that’s the case, do we give this field a bit more of a challenge underneath them? Can homologation fix that? What about the aero kits? Or do we need to resign ourselves to the idea that, outside of Memorial Day, there really isn’t going to be a lot of great oval racing action on the schedule?
RM: First off, it takes 33 cars to make a 500-miler entertaining from start-to-finish and, even then, I’ve seen past races where two cars finished on the lead lap. Texas was good a couple years ago but not so hot the past two and a red flag helped save Fontana in 2012. The natural deduction after all those green laps is that the cars are too easy to drive and need to be “beasts” like Townsend Bell is always preaching. He should know, he still drives them (and pretty damn good at Indy). Aero kits are coming next year but I don’t know what effect they will have (just hope it doesn’t separate the competition too much). I could see IndyCar with only Indy, Iowa and Milwaukee some day.
Q: What a race. I like these 500-milers with few cautions. I am really starting to think that maybe IndyCar should only race on the big ovals and short tracks. The 1.5-mile ovals just don’t seem to put on quality shows like the others do. Then again if they were flat 1.5-mile ovals maybe it would be different. From the broadcast it appears Pocono has an infield road course. Any chance of a Saturday (road course) Sunday (oval) double?
CJ Shoemaker, West Michigan
RM: Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and some people were bored last Sunday and some enjoyed the fast pace and strategy. No chance of a double-header like that at Pocono or any other oval I can think of but it might have been cool to try at Cleveland.
Q: I like oval racing but it’s time for it to go. Keep Indy, and make the rest of the season road and street courses. The crowd at Pocono looked weak as it does for most oval races, even though the racing was great in my opinion.
If it were a road/street course series I think a few things would happen: 1) IndyCar would attract the best road racers outside of F1; this may lead to more sponsors, engine manufacturers, etc. Right now, I believe ovals scare the hell out of most drivers and keep them from considering the series at all. 2) The cars could be developed better, more horsepower, and hopefully the rear wheel guards can make their way to the trash can. 3) The series could make itself as different from NASCAR as possible. Promote the series as a road racing series, promote the lightweight, high-horsepower cars, promote the drivers from all over the world, and never mention NASCAR in the broadcast unless you’re making fun of how lame it is.
As far as Indy goes, allow a substitute driver to race for those who don’t want to drive ovals, and let the primary driver still receive those championship points. If I haven’t ranted enough yet… Keep PT on the broadcast team, more races in Canada, couple races in Mexico probably isn’t a bad idea, and for God’s sake get rid of the wife/girlfriend cam for good!
Jordan, Duluth, MN
RM: Well, sadly, it could end up that way by process of elimination. I don’t think drivers are scared of ovals and IndyCar’s mantra is that it’s the most diverse series in the world.
Q: I enjoyed the race on Sunday as I did last week at Houston. However, the idea that IndyCar is somehow on the verge of a major renaissance is wishful thinking. I wish I had the answers but I don’t. I fear the people in charge of IndyCar from the management to the teams also don’t get it. Seeing stories like this make me wonder why any permanent track, whether oval or natural road course, would want to bring IndyCar to their track as the odds of staging a successful short- or long-term event is slim. Even for all the talk about the month of May, the ratings for a very exciting “500” were among the worst ever.
Yes, the racing and TV coverage is good but there is no evidence of IndyCar gaining any level of fans. The man in charge at Pocono asks out loud “where are the IndyCar fans?” Do the people who need to get it? Does the series need to take a long look at what is possible in the next few years and accept being a niche sport with a passionate fan base?
Chad Holmes, Wausau, WI
RM: I know what you’re saying because I always hear people saying IndyCar is gaining momentum, threatening NASCAR, etc. Bottom line is that attendance sucks at the ovals (except Indy and Iowa) and not many people watch on ABC or NBCSN. It’s a niche sport, all right, I just hope it survives.
Q: Apparently two of the six ovals have the worse dates on the schedule, July 4th and Labor Day. If I recall, Bruton Smith moving Kentucky to Labor Day, then October, was the death of what was a successful event. Hopefully Fontana won’t have the same fate. Perhaps IndyCar could get smart and move Pocono to Houston’s former date the week before July 4th. Then you could have New Orleans, Houston, and Fontana in the weeks following. And I know I’m dreaming to have Michigan (Toronto week, 3rd week of July) and Kentucky (Aug. 10, or second week in August) back in their most popular date spots, but a guy can dream.
Matt Converset, Decatur, IN
RM: It’s possible that’s the case but Ontario opened to a packed house on Labor Day weekend in 1970 and Pocono played to 75,000 in its July 4th weekend debut in 1971. It’s crazy hot in Southern California in the last week of August and ticket sales for that event are way down, I’m told. MIS and Kentucky? Only if you hit the lottery and promote them.
Q: I have to say your NBCSN segment allowing the drivers to rate themselves was one of the best, up-close stories about the drivers. It’s nice to see them out of their driving suits and having fun with each other. I guess as fans we forget that in any series the drivers and part of an exclusive club that need to deal with each other week after week. I’d love to see more of that, like maybe a racers’ round table after each race.
Very nice drive by Montoya and he seems so mellow and methodical in his approach. What was your take on the Will Power penalty? He eventually let Helio by so why a drive-through? He should have been warned and that’s it. I’m surprised the team didn’t do more on their own.
Regarding the attendance at Pocono, I went last year but did not go this year. It’s very hot sitting on the main straight and there was a traffic nightmare last year that turned a two-hour trip into four. It will be unfortunate if they can’t get the attendance up to a decent level but it may have more to do with making it easier to get to and from the track.
RM: Thanks to my NBCSN bosses, Rich O’Connor and Terry Lingner – they turned me loose with a microphone for 20 minutes and the drivers responded with some refreshing honesty and comedy. That’s what fans seem to like, getting to see those guys out of the car and interacting.
Turning left into someone at 220mph should be a bigger penalty in my mind and it was the right call. Traffic was much better this year at Pocono but, of course, the crowd was much smaller.
Q: I was watching the Pocono 500 and I heard your response on the question of, “What would you do if you were Commissioner?” I was hoping one of the commentators would mention a return to Road America in Elkhart Lake, and YOU did! My father, uncles, aunts, cousins, etc., and I have attended such events as the Indy cars, ALMS, Can-Am, the historic races, and the old IMSA GTP series all at Road America. In fact, a handful of us are headed back to that beautiful track next week for the Historics. The venue is part of my family’s history. It is not only one of the best tracks in the U.S. but in all the world. It is ridiculous IndyCar does not go there! I once sat in a three-hour traffic jam to get into Road America for a CART race back in the ’90s. The people would go! I have to imagine the drivers would love it! What driver wouldn’t want to drive that track?
Jonathan Hunt Sell
RM: The drivers clamor for it each year, just like the fans, and a double-header with United SportsCar would be perfect. IndyCar either needs to drop its sanction fee for a couple years to let George Bruggenthies get the event re-established or become co-promoters with IMSA. But to think NASCAR runs Elkhart Lake and IndyCar doesn’t is sacrilegious.
Q: A buddy and I are planning a trip to the Milwaukee race in August. I am thinking the best seats for the race would be near the start/finish line and high in the grandstands so we can see the whole track. Do you agree, or do you know a better place to sit?
Geoff, Houston, TX
RM: All of those main grandstand seats up high are excellent but I think I’d prefer the turns because you can really see who is working and who is struggling. And the overtaking.
Q: I’m really loving the IndyCar Series this season. I’ve introduced my girlfriend and she is hooked. We went to the Indy 500 for the first time. It was amazing. I could go on and on, but unlike some, I will try to keep it short. What is your take on the Helio and Bourdais incident at Houston? I thought it was Helio’s fault and at the very least a racing incident. Seeing his comments afterward has confirmed what my girlfriend has been saying for a while: he is an arrogant blank and nothing is ever his fault.
Secondly, why is it that when Will Power or somebody makes an aggressive move and successful pass they get praised, but when Marco does that same thing, he gets criticized for being overly aggressive?
Finally, and I know he is your buddy, but I am I the only one not impressed with PT in the booth? He is not as bad as Cheever, but he needs to improve.
Seth in Arizona
RM: Thanks for making a new fan. In the driver’s meeting last week when we did the midseason report card, it sounded like his rivals thought it was Helio’s mistake. And I agree. Will gets penalized as much as he gets praised. I don’t know that Marco gets criticized much – by whom? I love P.T. in the booth, his observations and honesty, and most everyone I talk to enjoys his commentary.
Q: Just a few more comments about the Houston double-header – I thought Race 1 had a few too many wrecks, but given the track and weather conditions, it was to be expected. I understand A.J.’s frustration with Marco’s tactics and I have to say I agree. IndyCar made the right call post-race, but they should have done more while the infraction was going on, and on. Race 2 was quite fun to watch with great driving all around. I’ve not been much of an IndyCar fan over the years, but I’m starting to become convinced. I hope they keep it up.
One final note: I was never a Paul Tracy fan back in the day, but I have to say he is doing a good job in the booth. Low key (imagine that!), but interesting and honest. Good job, P.T.
Jon Jones, Oologah, OK
RM: IndyCar waited until Marco’s pace slowed and Hinch started catching Sato to display the blue flag and get on the radio. I don’t think they waited too long because Andretti was running just as quick if not quicker than Sato for a few laps. The drivers are very divided about what happened – many feel Marco was simply driving hard to stay on the lead lap and should have been allowed to stay there. Others think he deserved to get black flagged. P.T. is refreshingly honest – just like T. Bell.
Q: What a great two days of racing at Houston! As an ex-oval, track dirt racer I tend to prefer ovals but anyone that didn’t enjoy the races at Houston either doesn’t know what they are looking at or plain don’t like racing! It had a bit of everything and at times reminded me of a good old short-track race, JPM was putting on a show. The road and street course racing is fantastic and I really enjoy the road courses in a way not since CART’s glory days – it’s just plain good racing and fans need to realize it’s OK to like oval AND road racing.
As with all the NBC Sports broadcasts the coverage and commentary was as good as it gets. The only thing the series needs to do is beat Sprint Cup to the punch with two or three dirt races in the old USAC champ cars! The cost would be very minimal as there are so many of those cars out there that small teams could lease one from teams that have them sitting around, It would pack Knoxville and or Eldora or a mile track and would get a lot of media coverage. Teams whose drivers don’t want to try dirt would have no problem getting top dirt racers to sit in – it would be epic and also return Indy car racing to its roots while adding a couple more much-needed races to the schedule. It would sell big time and could even be a mid-week event.
Tony, Victorville CA
RM: Love to see IndyCar drivers on the dirt for an exhibition race but you’ll have a much easier time getting them to sign off on it than the owners. Ain’t gonna happen but I like the thought.
Q: What’s your opinion on Formula E? And do you think that it will be a farm system for F1 and IndyCar? When should the 2015 Verizon IndyCar Series schedule be released or at least a good portion of it to the public?
Aaron From Southport IN
RM: I don’t think we need another series and I don’t see how battery-powered cars are going to thrill anybody, let alone teach you how to race at a higher level. I think the schedule will be out by Fontana finale.
Q: Which was the bigger black eye for CART – the Hawaiian Super Prix or Texas? One race was canceled because of poor organization and lack of funds (and even if it had gone off, the black cloud after Greg Moore’s death would’ve been hanging over everything); and the other was canceled because the cars were going so fast, the drivers’ heads were literally spinning.
Michael Hackney, Nashville, TN
RM: Hawaii, for sure, because CART actually got applauded in the national media for protecting its drivers and refusing to run Texas.
Q: I am a 24-year-old auto racing fan and giant stick and ball sports sports fan. I honestly like all racing with wheels – NASCAR, IndyCar, F1, sports cars, WRC, NHRA, Moto GP, USAC, WoO, local short-track racing at my home track of Toledo Speedway. I love reading your Mailbag every week at work (shhhh!). My dad has even met you at a race at Mid-Ohio a while back. I am gonna shy away from the same question I always see, how to fix….blah blah. And just ask what’s the nearest USAC or Silver Crown track my dad and I can see closest to Toledo. You always mention USAC dirt cars are the best racing around and I want to witness one in person!
RM: Just make sure you’re at Rossburg, Ohio for the annual USAC 4 Crown Nationals on Sept. 20 and you’ll see midgets, sprints and Silver Crown at Eldora Speedway. It’s a helluva show. And if you’re game, take in Indiana Sprint Week (it starts this Friday and is at Lawrenceburg on Sunday night.
Q: My topic is fixing the Brickyard 400. Not a huge NASCAR fan but do enjoy watching them on the road courses. These races are short tracks with right-hand turns. The cars and drivers skills are so much better than five years ago.
With the changes to the Indy road course (layout/width/curbing/etc.) is this not the perfect setup for these cars? It would a great show, something new to provide interest, and may get a new fan to come to the now “boring” race. Or the mind-blowing idea that will never happen is: fix the pit lane at Indianapolis Raceway Park and let’s put on great show like the Trucks and Nationwide cars have done in the past under the lights for so many years.
James A. DaPuzzo III
RM: I was told there were discussions at IMS/NASCAR about changing to the road course but never got it confirmed. The apron would help the Brickyard 400 but taking Nationwide away from IRP was a travesty.
Q: We’re the kids you met at Pocono after the race while we were hanging out by the garages. We read your Mailbag every week and love watching you on race broadcasts (and we loved watching you on Wind Tunnel). We often see in your Mailbag that people say kids are not interested in IndyCar anymore. We wanted to let you know that we are very interested, and we’re trying to spread the word about what a great series it is, how neat and friendly the drivers and teams are, and how much fun it is at the races.
We are the 3-2-1 Indycar Kids that Brandon introduced and had on stage during the Indy Lights driver intros on Saturday (he’s been really great to us). We are Jarod (12), Makenna (12), and Alexandra (7), and we have a blog called 3-2-1 IndyCar that we started as a home school project in April, 2013. We write about all things IndyCar (and a lot of Josef Newgarden) and make funny videos (we love when drivers do videos) and share some photos of old memorabilia from our grandparents and mom.
Our question for the Mailbag is… does Josef Newgarden have any prospects for 2015 since his contract with SFHR ends this year? We’re really concerned because his season has been very unlucky and our little sister’s interest in IndyCar is very dependent on Josef racing. She likes Hinch and Kimball too, but usually if Josef drops out of a race she’s not too interested in the end.
And thanks for taking the time to take a photo with us!
Jarod, Makenna and Alexandra
RM: I would think Ganassi and Penske have approached Josef about the future but not sure any other teams are looking at him (which is insane) right now about next year. Ideally, Sarah Fisher and Wink Hartman could find a big-time sponsor and get him a veteran teammate, because he’s fast and he’s going to win races given the proper opportunity. Thanks for being fans.