Robin Miller's Mailbag for September 3, presented by Honda Racing / HPD

Robin Miller's Mailbag for September 3, presented by Honda Racing / HPD

Insights & Analysis

Robin Miller's Mailbag for September 3, presented by Honda Racing / HPD

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 millersmailbag@racer.com 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: I am so pleased that Will finally won the championship. He deserves it! I remember when he first showed up in Champ Car in Long Beach and people were making fun of his name. I said be careful because this guy is very fast and he is going to win a lot of races as I had followed him from his Formula Renault 3.5 days and he was very quick.

F1 was stupid not to have given you a chance but know IndyCar is where you belong and thanks to Derrick Walker for taking a chance on him so long ago.
Jeff Laughlin, Eagle, Idaho

RM: After giving him a Champ Car ride, Walker’s sponsor bailed so then (as his agent) he convinced Roger Penske to hire the Aussie and I know WP appreciates all that Derrick has done for his career.  

Q: Just finished watching the race and all I can say about Will Power winning the championship is probably the same thing he and his wife are both saying, “Finally!” Also, I had no idea how insecure Power is. Tracy was saying he thinks this will be the first of many championships for Power, I’m not so sure. Your thoughts?
Pete Arnold, MD

RM: The first thing Tim Cindric said to Power after the race was, “What took you so long?” and I’ve never seen anyone as emotionally drained as the new champ. WP and PT are a lot alike in that both drove with great confidence but amazingly had their share of self-doubt. I think it could be the first of many because after you finally get that first one, the pressure is relieved.  

Q: Will Power will, pun intended, be a fine champion. I think he can relax now, and I predict he will make fewer mistakes. His grit has been certainly been proven this season, and I believe that having won a championship he may drive even better. But I don’t think the most astonishing Will Power statistic has ever been mentioned. Do you realize Will has driven in fewer IndyCar races than Marco Andretti? Think about that for a moment! A championship and three runner-up seasons in such a short period of time.

Another fantastic IndyCar season comes to a close. The racing was great, injuries were extremely infrequent, and the TV coverage was much better. I do think IndyCar missed out by not having the last race on Sunday afternoon instead of Saturday night. What else was on Sunday? No NFL or college football, no F1, no NASCAR,… nothing. A golden opportunity missed, particularly if you contemplate the numerous college football games which the race was up against late Saturday.
David Lind

RM: I think your assessment about WP’s future is spot on and winning 21 of his 92 starts with Penske is pretty damn impressive as well. I agree that a Saturday night race on the west coast to decide the title is a bad idea but so is Saturday or Sunday afternoon at Fontana when it’s 101 degrees and feels like 120. I like a Saturday in October.

Q: Why does IndyCar always shoot themselves in the foot? Great season and then the finale starting at 9 p.m. EST? Was a midnight start time not available? Horrible decision for everyone on the east coast and even central U.S.
Kevin Schmidle

RM: No argument here. The race didn’t go green until 10:20 p.m. (EST) so I can only imagine how few people watched the whole thing. The season finale needs to be in the Midwest or East Coast unless Fontana moves to October on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon.


Q: Well, Will finally did it! Better to have the last big screw-up in the penultimate race and finally close it out in the season finale. I recorded the race so I could watch it Sunday morning early and let me tell you when Will started racing the low side and went for the lead I sat bolt upright and was thinking, “No, not again.” You have to wonder what the outcome would have been if Helio had not gotten the penalty, given how bad Will’s car was at the end. I will continue to read the column during the off-season and look forward to a better and longer schedule next year. Looks like no Texas races next year so maybe Austin is in the future for IndyCar.
Tom in Waco

RM: I rather enjoyed him bolting into the lead because that’s what we expect from him and that’s what got him into title contention. I know, I know, be conservative and he was at the end but Helio’s penalty didn’t change anything, really, because he wasn’t going to win the race, and even a runner-up position would have meant Will only needed to finish in the top 14. Texas Motor Speedway is on the 2015 schedule but Austin should be – or an airport race in Houston.

Q: Congratulations to Will Power on winning the IndyCar championship. I alluded to some lack of officiating enforcement and downright pandering to the series sponsor, but when it came down to it he drove a controlled and smart race. Penske is a great team and another heartbreak for Helio, but he held his head high and seemed happy for the team and Will. Next year, I’d say it is between Pops Montoya, Josef, The Mayor of Hinchtown and RHR. Although now that Will has the monkey off his back…a repeat?
Dino, New Hanover, Pa.

RM: Power could be tough to handle but Dixon and RHR will be in the mix along with Pagenaud and Newgarden. But we have to find Hinch a ride before he can contest the championship.

Q: I just got back from Fontana for my first IndyCar oval race and it was GREAT! TK finally won a race this year like I’d hoped and Will finally got his championship, and I was ecstatic to be there for it. We watched the TV broadcast the next morning and while they did a good job showing most of the good dices it was far better in person. I do believe I will go next year if the date stays the same.

Surprisingly it wasn’t too hot, especially once the sun went down. Talked to a guy in front of us who’s been the last couple years and he said the crowd looked about the same. We figured somewhere between 20-30,000. Any word yet on the attendance numbers? However, for 2015, Fontana in July? Really? Do they want there to be zero attendance? I did Houston in June but I doubt I’d go to Fontana in July. The sun won’t go down until 8 something and it will be way too hot, and drivers won’t be able to see unless they start the race at 9. Then the East Coast really won’t watch the broadcast.
Heather Streets

RM: Glad you enjoyed the show but the crowd wasn’t close to 30,000, more like 10,000. Auto Club Speedway doesn’t want Labor Day again and who could blame them? June looks like the only alternative but October is the only month that makes any sense for promoters, fans and IndyCar.  

Q: Fontana was a fantastic finish to a fantastic season. Even though it was on Labor Day weekend the crowd looked similar to last year’s, do you have the stats on that? The championship celebration was great as well, thank you to IndyCar for allowing some of us fans to attend.

Two quick thoughts, I think it’s fine that IndyCar ends their season before the NFL starts; competing for TV coverage on Sundays with the NFL is tough but they need to capitalize on that at the start of the season.

Why not start IndyCar the weekend after the Super Bowl? There’s absolutely nothing going on and maybe they could promote it during Super Bowl week. I also like Doellinger’s idea in last week’s Mailbag on rewarding more points for qualifying. I would also include the ovals as these drivers are hanging out there more than ever on those qualifying laps than even in the race. I would definitely reward the Fast Six and probably even all 12, maybe 12 points for the pole down to one point for 12th. It might make qualifying days more exciting and reward the teams and drivers that are on the edge. Already looking forward to next season!
CAM in LA

RM: See the crowd estimate in the question above yours but IndyCar needs to understand it’s not competing with the NFL – it’s competing with NASCAR, F1 and sports cars. Oval qualifying can be edgy, especially in the middle of a scorching afternoon, but I don’t want to see a bunch of points awarded again at Indianapolis. Does it require more skill to go fast at Indy or Mid-Ohio?


Q: How is it that we all seemed to know that TK would take the checkered flag at Fontana? Nice drive and well deserved! Congrats to Will Power! He overcame many mistakes this year and still ends up as a champion and that’s impressive. I cannot wait to see what he accomplishes next year with the pressure off and continuing to apply his lessons learned. And a big thank you from the fans to you for fantastically representing this core diehard group and its newcomers. Now we want you to really impress us by working with the people that can get rid of that ugly IRL logo that is still being used.
TJ Spitzmiller, Rio Rancho, N.M.

RM: Because he dominated Iowa and Pocono? Or because he’s still as quick as anyone on an oval? Seemed like an easy call. Thanks for reading and watching RACER.com but I have no input with the current IndyCar regime about that logo.

Q: I have been an IndyCar and race fan since my first experience at a track, Fontana, in 1997. As a fan, I want as many races in a close proximity to my residence as possible. However, I do not see the benefit of IndyCar returning to Fontana next year. I believe it would only be damaging to the sport if they do return. The whole weekend was managed terribly! On Friday, there was practice; THREE HOURS LATER they have qualifying; FOUR HOURS LATER they practice for 30 minutes? Who made this schedule? Nothing was even occurring in the Fan Village to keep fans entertained during these long gaps of nothing going on on-track!

Then comes Saturday. This is your FINALE, IndyCar! Gates do not open until 4 p.m. I understand the expected lack of attendance and heat played a significant role in this decision. However, to have hardly anything going on in the Fan Village on the day of the race was pathetic. With the gates not opening until 4 p.m., it would be hardly worth it to walk all the way around the track to the garage, so we could walk back an hour later.

But now time to discuss the race. It was a 175 laps of a parade. I am not a supporter of the constant debris cautions that NASCAR throws during their race. However, the racing was terrible compared to last year’s race, and as I said earlier, this is your FINALE, Indy Car. Why would you let the fans in the stands sit there through the boredom that was your race? I am scared that Fontana has become Texas, a track that use to offer great racing and is now a 3-hour parade. The few fans who did show up started leaving the stands after 75 laps, and if I wasn’t such a hardcore race fan I would have as well.

IndyCar is so worried about having more races, but they need to begin to concern themselves with the quality of their product, because with the chance that a potential new fan did tune in this year, they probably just as quickly tuned out. Indianapolis and Iowa were exciting. Why does Indy Car choose to race at tracks that are consistently boring for the television viewer? Sonoma. Mid-Ohio. Houston. The ridiculousness that was Toronto this year. St. Petersburg (As a fan, I do not care that a lot of drivers live in Florida). They make it more difficult each year to invest the money, and more importantly the time to follow their series. I hate to say it, but I do not see a future for this series anymore. They seem lost and confused.
Derek Engelauf, Riverside, CA

RM: Last Friday and Saturday was the perfect reason to make ovals one day shows (except the Indianapolis 500). With the heat and no support races, it’s a waste of time and money and you could ramp up some energy with practice, qualifying and racing all in one day. And you can’t have 500-mile races with 21 cars. As for the tracks, I thought Mid-Ohio and even Sonoma were both pretty good this season. More entertaining than Pocono or Fontana.

Q: The only reason Mikhail Aleshin is with us today, and Dan Wheldon isn’t, is 180 degrees of rotation. Yes the cars are far safer, but it wasn’t the car that killed Dan, it was the fence pole that hit his head. I hope Aleshin realizes how truly lucky he is. And I hope one day we don’t have catch-fences and poles anymore. (I’m sure Dario could offer some thoughts on this too…).

I’ve been torn about Will Power. He always had speed, but he also had a certain je ne sais quoi. After his interview in the winner’s circle I have no more doubts. He could barely stand and yet he was, dare I say it, human. He wasn’t sure over the past two weeks, and if someone with his innate and immense talent could doubt themselves, then I guess I’m doing OK in the grand scheme of things.
David Eblovi

RM: True, Aleshin’s car impacted with the bottom of the tub but I think having the posts on the outside is a key factor as well. Mikhail is a good guy and a fast driver but he’s been heading for a big crash on a big oval and now he got it out of the way. Power lives and breathes racing so, as he said, the last couple weeks were hell until he finally clinched the title. As I wrote here and a lot of fans have said, he’s certainly a deserving champion.  

Q: After Aleshin couldn’t race at Fontana, why didn’t another driver race in his place? Why is IndyCar messing with aero body kits? With the racing being so close and producing so many different winners the last few years, why mess with a good thing?
Travis Wundrow

RM: The spare car was set up for road racing and Sam Schmidt didn’t want to throw somebody in it with no practice. A lot of the hardcore IndyCar fans want to see different cars and engines and aero kits are the first step. But you are correct, if either GM or Honda gets an advantage, it will likely separate the field – especially on the ovals.

Q: To say the least, having the season finale go off at 10:20 EST on a Saturday night isn’t going to attract much attention. Now that NASCAR brought back the Southern 500 to its traditional Labor Day spot and Sunday night, how about IndyCar runs a Sunday afternoon race and us racing enthusiasts get to have the second biggest day in motorsports? Makes more sense with NBC doing both series now. It can really be a double-header billing. Of course it would be nice if the IndyCar race didn’t end up being their season finale and they had a few more races to run past Labor Day. Still, the idea of another motorsports double-header weekend to close out summer like one that opens it seems to be a good idea. How about we take it a step further and move the IndyCar race to a track back east (Michigan?) for drivers to do the double. Imagine a driver running an IndyCar 500-miler then have to go to Darlington to run another 500.
Tony, Syracuse, NY

RM: I like your concept but getting somebody to host a race on Labor Day is the problem. The double only works because it’s the Indianapolis 500 – nobody is interested in back-to-back 500-milers anywhere else.  

Q: Congrats to Will Power. I thought it would be a boring one-horse race after Helio was penalized. Then Power’s mechanic turns the front wing adjustment the wrong way on his final stop causing him to 4-wheel drift home – classic! In 2012, RHR celebrated the championship on stage in front of the fans hoisting the Astor Cup. Then the public celebration went away. Why?

Lastly, I’m trying to plan on attending both double-headers in Detroit and Toronto. Wouldn’t it be a good idea to have all the tickets/pit passes on a rechargeable card that can also be used for discounts on merchandise and for concessions – even for future ticket purchases?
See you in six months (sigh).
Rob Peterson, Rochester, NY

RM: Not sure about why Will’s handling went to hell, but the fans were allowed to stand and celebrate with Power afterward. Maybe it was people only with pit passes; I can’t recall if they let the grandstand viewers come into the pits afterward. Right now we’re just wondering if Toronto is going to have a race in 2015 so they can’t sell tickets yet.

Q: So I tried to get a friend to watch the Fontana race with me. This is a friend who has sat with me through quite a few races this year, but Fontana turned out to he hopeless. They were willing to stay up for the late start time, but as soon as they saw that the telecast went to 2 a.m., they got pretty skeptical. Then when the race started, they were aghast at how few people were there, so they left and went to bed.

I doubt their reaction was unusual. After a full day of college football, I can’t imagine too many folks were still awake to see Willy P give one of the more “unusual” victory circle interviews I’ve ever seen. IndyCar needs to make a bigger deal out of its season finale. That means…
• Not crowning your champion at 1 a.m. in our most populous time zone.
• Doing whatever it takes to fill the stands. Cheap tickets, ticket giveaways, package deals with other races, you name it. Heck, take some hostages and force them to sit in the stands if that’s what you’ve got to do.
• Have some more pre-race pomp and pagentry. This is a 500-mile season finale – make people know that this is a big deal, not just another race.
• Did I mention not needing a TV time slot that goes to 2 a.m. Eastern time?
Max Leitschuh

RM: Well, thanks for the effort. I imagine your friend was in the majority because most people I know who like IndyCar taped it. You are 100 percent correct in that if the series doesn’t treat the finale and championship like a big deal, why would the public think it was? But I don’t blame Auto Club Speedway. They promoted the race quite well from what I saw and heard in L.A. all week.


Q: Several GREAT questions have been floating in social media that I would be very interested to hear your thoughts. Will CFH Racing switch to Chevy next year due to their team merger? What safety improvements in the chassis would you like to see in next year? (Sidepod flaps similar to NASCAR roof flaps, Higher walls at some tracks, F1 Kevlar helmet, etc.?) What “fan favorites” example Pippa Mann, Conor Daly, Zach Veach, etc.) or rookies would you see picking up a ride and would be good for the marketing the sport?
Mark Probasco, West Lafayette, IN

RM: I know Honda wants to keep Josef but hear that it’s likely going to be a GM team. Not sure about safety improvements; have to wait and see the new aero kits. Conor is talking to a couple of teams and Zach wants to move up but knows he’s got to find sponsorship. Sage Karam needs to be in an Indy car full time but may have to do some sports car racing for Ganassi unless Ryan Briscoe isn’t retained.

Q: Congrats to Will Power, Penske and Chevy for their 2014 titles. Had the pleasure of attending races here in Texas, enjoyed a different atmosphere. I was talking to someone during the support race at Houston and he was talking about starting the season in Dubai. I thought he was out of his skull but then I saw the blueprint for next season. Sad to see Houston off as it really was a great bang-for-your-buck event. But hey, we got lucky with the rain on Saturday and damned with the heat on Sunday. I understand why they got rid of it, along with how the people of Houston cared more about a pride parade than the race. But hey, Houston ain’t Long Beach and with NOLA replacing it, I now have a legitimate reason to go to the Big Easy.

TMS? That track is no place to be holding Indy cars. It just didn’t compare to the product Fontana gives year after year since 1997. Maybe the new aero kits can help there but it’s a NASCAR track, not an open-wheel track. I say have Andretti Sports Marketing do the impossible and resurrect Texas World Speedway. It would run just like Michigan.
Ruben E. Hernandez, Austin, TX

RM: If Shell wants to go to Austin or stage a road race on an airport in Houston, I’m all for going back. But no chance for TWS – one oval in Texas appears to be too many based on this year’s crowd.

Q: How much longer are the people at IndyCar going to let NASCAR, the TV people and the track owners keep messing with the racing schedule? It seems NASCAR gets the TV it wants and IndyCar gets what is left over. It also seems IndyCar doesn’t have the muscle to strike a good deal. Very sad. 

Several of the upcoming dates have proven to be very poor. The weather and late Sunday times are not good. Yet IndyCar takes the dates and wonders why the attendance is bad? The Boston Consulting Group is not working for the best interest of IndyCar. I’d bet they wouldn’t know an Indy car from a Mack truck. The PR people are very lax. The ad people it seems can’t sell ice on a hot day. It is really sad that Wilbur and old Tony are not still around and running the show. I sure miss the old days. Having a race in Houston in June is insane and a race in Fontana in August is downright stupid.
Don Betsworth, Torrance, CA 

RM: Well, it could be good for IndyCar that NASCAR is coming to NBCSN because 5-6 million stock car fans might stumble onto an IndyCar race and watch it. But of course NASCAR rules in the decision-making process and why not? It’s got millions of viewers compared with a few hundred thousand for most IndyCar races not on ABC. The Boston Group? Don’t get me started.

Q: Haven’t e-mailed in a while, but you usually give an ear whenever I have another crazy idea. This might be my greatest ever, an epiphany of sorts. I’ve been watching old races at the Burke Lakefront Airport on YouTube [ABOVE, Patrick Carpentier winning at Cleveland in 2002]. I’m convinced that the DW12 would put on a hell of a show on the WIIIIIDE fast surface. Wanna bring back Cleveland? I just thought of someone who is a tremendous figure with today’s youth, has a bagillion dollars, his own promotion company, and an undying love for the city of Cleveland; LeBron James. This is so crazy it could work. Somebody should approach him about this.
Stitch Turner, Gainesville, FL

RM: It was always a helluva show at Cleveland and Lanigan would bring it back if he could find a title sponsor like Shell. Not sure King James even knows IndyCar exists. Why don’t you try him and get 15 percent finder’s fee if he bites?

Q: My question is about the NOLA April race date. I’m happy for the good folks over there to get this date, but how was it the Houston race could never seem to get anything but a mid-summer date and NOLA could? Everyone here in Houston knows you do not schedule an outdoor sporting event between Memorial Day and Labor Day if you want big crowds. If we could have been given an April date, it would make a huge difference. Did Eddie Gossage have anything to do with this?
Brad Barber

RM: Houston can’t run in April because of the Shell Open but, trust me, promoter Mike Lanigan either wanted that month or October. I think Austin is a possibility, providing Eddie gives it his blessing. You need to wait for my next commentary on Friday.   

Q: The NOLA track layout looks eerily similar to the Circuit de Catalunya in Barcelona. You know what’s significant about the track in Barcelona? Until the addition of the DRS, there was less passing there than the street circuit in Monaco. Wait… I mean New Orleans looks great!  It’ll be an awesome addition to the schedule. I am so glad they didn’t add Road America or Circuit of The Americas.
Ryan in West Michigan
 
RM: Yeah, Elkhart Lake is just too far to drive, right? And it’s too hot in Austin, true? But remember, there was passing and good racing at Mid-Ohio and Sonoma this year and most of the street shows, so I’m sure it can happen at NOLA as well.

Q: I’m a bit surprised that there was no mention of what happened at this year’s Belgian GP. I know people have attempted to settle scores in NASCAR (a major one that comes to mind was the Bodine brothers at the Brickyard), but I really don’t recall anything similar in open-wheel. Given the speeds and the relative degree of protection, such a move could be devastating. So, the question is, do you remember any rivalries in IndyCar that boiled over to the point of wrecking folks, and if so, what were the consequences by the sanctioning body? And further, how would you like to have come along in about fourth place and have that wing section drop in your lap?
Don Hopings, Corning, NY

RM: I think there have been plenty of paybacks in Indy car racing on street circuits and slow corners throughout the years but can’t recall anybody taking somebody out intentionally on an oval. Mario got under A.J.’s and Lloyd Ruby’s skin early on with a couple collisions but that was more aggressive racing than anything personal. Obviously, the tough call in Race Control these days is whether it was malicious, intentional or avoidable rather than tight-quarters racing. So a drive-through penalty is usually the penalty. 


Q: I’m disappointed that Texas won the fight against TO for a race date. It is a lot harder to accommodate a street course event date than a permanent track facility. I’m not sure if IndyCar realizes how badly they may have shot themselves in the foot. As popular as the “Toronto Indy” has been since ’86, it, like Vancouver will have its share of yuppie detractors (recall the “Indy Go Home” banners flying from Vancouver condos adjacent to Pacific Place?). When Vancouver was shelved in preparation for the Olympics, we knew it would never be back, and the same could happen for Toronto. We are lucky it came back after ’08. I wouldn’t push that luck a second time. 

That said, as I’ve opined, the ridiculous six-month break won’t work, so let’s go ahead and keep TO and slot Mont-Tremblant or Mosport in there in September as well.
Trevor Bohay, Kamloops, BC Canada

RM: It’s hard to imagine why IndyCar would placate a track that barely draws 25,000 these days for a venue that’s been around 10 years longer and is sponsored by Honda. But there are a lot of things I don’t understand about IndyCar’s current vision.

Q: What other MAJOR racing series has a seven-month off-season? It’s makes it too easy to FORGET about IndyCar! Why end the season in August, generally the hottest month of the year, on a HOLIDAY weekend? I’m a DIEHARD fan and you couldn’t pay me to show up and watch that race, that weekend! With the long off-season, do you expect any surprises? Cars added/lost? Corporate America pulling back funding for race teams etc.? It was an excellent season. I just wish it wasn’t over already!
Keith Schmitz

RM: I haven’t talked to ONE person in the IndyCar paddock that thinks it’s a good idea to end the season on Labor Day. But, of course, I’m not counting a couple of the IndyCar brass. I guess the surprises are where does Hinch end up? Can Rahal and Herta keep going? Is Pagenaud staying with Schmidt Peterson Hamilton? How many races and where? Can Indy Lights field double digits with its new car?

Q: As a fan of both IndyCar and soccer, I couldn’t help but notice the Bowtie’s new sponsorship of Manchester United in the English Premier League this season (front & center on ManU’s jerseys). And, given that ManU is currently one of the top five most valuable sports franchises in the world, including teams from the NFL, NBA, & MLB, I’m sure that sponsorship cost Chevy/GM quite a bit o’ coin.

Chevy obviously invests money in IndyCar through engine badging, but it speaks volumes about the value proposition in IndyCar when Chevy/GM see greater value in European soccer sponsorship, which I would think generates a minimal return on their investment: how many Americans watch European soccer vs. auto racing in the U.S.? How many Europeans and more specifically UK citizens purchase Chevy vehicles because of their soccer sponsorship? I can understand Chevy/GM’s desire to have diversity in their marketing, but geez, at least prioritize marketing dollars toward motorsports in your own country instead of sports leagues in other countries whose citizens are less likely to purchase your vehicles.
David, Greensboro, N.C.

RM: I can’t speak about soccer ratings or attendance but I’m sure it’s larger than IndyCar’s (other than the Indy 500) so I imagine GM’s marketing department has a method to its madness. ESPN, FOX and NBCSN are constantly promoting soccer so there’s obviously some value.

Q: I went to the Sonoma IndyCar race for the second year in a row and again had a great time. It’s a great venue, well-staffed and organized, plus, I like the view from the main grandstand. Everyone that I encountered who works at the track has been friendly and helpful. My recommendation: if you are a fan that has thought about going to Sonoma, give it a try. Plan to arrive early, get a garage/pit pass, and do the pre-race pit and track walk.

Mark Millikan

RM: Glad to hear that, Mark but I think any of those hillside seats offer one of the best views in all of motorsports – you can see almost all the track from any of them. There weren’t a lot of people at Sonoma but the ones who attend seem to be hardcore and very knowledgeable.

Q: So with the Indy Lights championship clinched, do you think Gabby Chaves will find a seat in IndyCar next year? Also I thought the winner got a $1,000,000 dollars not $750,000? Finally, how do you think the earthquake affected the Sonoma attendance? The crowd seemed very small.
Freddie Fredrick

RM: He will if he can find a sponsor. The prize seems to fluctuate but I believe Newgarden may have received $1 million. Not sure how much the earthquake played into the attendance, but it seemed smaller than usual.

Q: I’m happy for Will Power. I think there a group of us fans that kinda cheer in our own way for the “Champ Car guy” over the “IRL guys.”

Any chance of Watkins Glen or Cleveland ever making back to the schedule?
Mark, Niagara Falls, N.Y.

RM: When you consider Helio, Dixon, Montoya, TK and RHR all started in CART, I don’t think any “IRL guys” are left except Marco.

Q: It was great to hear Sam Hornish on Sonoma’s IndyCar telecast, but by leaving IndyCar to attempt a career in NASCAR, does Sam hold the distinction as being the best driver to commit career suicide?
Mark Cardella

RM: Not at all. He’d won everything in IndyCar and when The Captain asks you to do something else, it’s usually a good idea. I thought Sam did a nice job on the NBCSN telecast working next to PT.

Q: Liked your tribute story for Sammy Swindell. I ran into him in a Holiday Inn parking lot in Torrance, Calif., years ago as he was wrenching on the sprint car. He had just finished poorly in a Laguna Seca Indy Lights race (or whatever they called those Buicks) and I asked him if he was having fun yet. “Not much” was his reply. He came across as friendly and insightful and I’m glad he is out of this game in one piece.
Erik Karlsson

RM: Sammy was all racer most the time and a helluva mechanic, so I never bothered him when he was working on his car. But he’s a lot of fun to BS with and he’s got a good sense of humor as well. Just takes a while to get to know him but he was a BADASS driver

More RACER
Home