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. Please send tech questions to PruettsTechMailbag@Racer.com.
Q: [JDX Racing founder] Jeremy Dale just knocked my socks off with his IndyCar 2018 article. It’s clear that he’s anti-oval but his view of presenting IndyCar in different mediums is absolutely brilliant. Being able to race on-line live as the 23rd car on the grid is an unbelievable concept. It’s one that would get back a lot of young fans that play Gran Turismo, iRacing, Forza and don’t really watch racing at all. He even went as far as to say those who create good online aero kits and the best online drivers should be awarded the option of attending a racing school. Again, not a completely new concept, but brilliant.
As an oval nut, I initially scoffed at the idea of IndyCar being a road/street course series with the Indy 500 as the crown jewel and lone oval event. However, when the world thinks ovals, they think NASCAR. That’s just a fact. Plus, with smaller fields, oval racing really isn’t even that good in person. I go to Iowa and Milwaukee every year. Iowa is always phenomenal and Milwaukee is always a bit bland as a spectator. Even in Iowa, the crowd has started to dwindle. And let’s be honest, Iowa is only great because of the lapped traffic and “holy crap” factor of jet planes in a cereal bowl. If we upped the horsepower like I think we need to, could they even race there? What if we only had one oval race a year in IndyCar and the rulebook opened up for it? Maybe he’s on to something.
-JD Einerson, Des Moines, Iowa
RM: Of all the 2018 offerings (and we’ve had some damn good ones), Jeremy’s generated the most positive feedback and the most volume. His 23rd car concept is exactly the kind of out-of-the-box thinking that could capture the younger generation. I’d hate to see only one oval but, the way things are headed, it’s not out of the question to think IMS could be the last soldier standing unless IndyCar becomes a co-promoter for the ovals. And, if Indy was wide open to innovation, it might be able to generate 40-45 cars again and draw the interest and momentum that Le Mans has recaptured. And I loved his line about making people “run to the fence” because it’s the wow factor that hooked so many people in the USAC and CART eras.
Q: IndyCar should hire Jeremy Dale immediately. His 2018 article was brilliant, insightful and most importantly, DO-ABLE! He is spot on with his idea of IndyCar being a road course series with the exception of the Indianapolis 500. I am surprised that Canadian Tire Motorsport Park (Mosport) wasn’t on his list of tracks. It’s a track that he is very familiar with and IndyCar would draw a huge crowd there. I have heard the stories that CTMP is too fast for IndyCar but if the TUDOR series can run there (and deal with four different classes within the same race), surely IndyCar should be able to compete at one of North America’s most iconic tracks.
I understand that an IndyCar’s lap time would be a few seconds faster than a P1 car (4-5 seconds would be my guess) but they would not have to deal with multiple classes and they would put on a hell of a show. Anyway, whether or not IndyCar ever races at CTMP, Jeremy’s ideas are by far the best that I have read. Too bad IndyCar didn’t talk to Jeremy before they blew all that money with BCG.
-Dave Nicholls, Whitby, Ontario
RM: I think he’s way too smart to take a job in that asylum, but he certainly gave IndyCar’s present and future a lot more thought and common sense than the BCG. When you look at attendance, many street and road courses dwarf the ovals except for Indy so at some point the bottom line rules. IndyCar’s heritage is ovals and the required diversity makes it the most challenging series in the world but that doesn’t do the promoters any good if nobody shows up. But everyone seems to agree that even though it’s a great track and it’s had a pretty facelift, Mosport would still need major work on runoff areas to host IndyCar.
Q: I have read every IndyCar 2018 article yet, but nothing is as inspiring as the latest by Jeremy Dale. His “Packaging” section is the most innovative, dynamic and futuristic proposal yet, to make IndyCar into a truly unique and cutting edge sport as I have ever heard. By the way, I’m 54 and not a gamer, but I can see online content eventually being more profitable than actual ticket sales. Mark Miles should hire him immediately and give him a position alongside Derrick Walker, but in charge of all online content. There would be no limits to growth with Jeremy Dale onboard!
-Mark Z, Discovery Bay, CA
RM: His ideas about embracing technology and presenting inside information to the viewing audience is spot on but getting the fan/viewer involved to the extent of being engaged and then rewarded is brilliant. Check out an iRace lineup some night and think about all those guys competing for a chance to go to driver’s school. And how many colleges might jump on the aero kit project? I sent Jeremy’s story to the IndyCar brass as a “must read” but I still haven’t received a response from any of them.
Q: I am a relative newcomer to the world of racing, OK it has been 10 years, but I grew up only really watching the Indy 500. But as the stick and ball sports have failed me on ethical grounds (steroids, domestic violence, deflating balls) and I have boycotted them, racing has become my primary interest, with IndyCar rising to the top. First it has the best racing, it is not merely glorified qualifying laps (F1) or having to crash someone all the time (NASCAR), but it has honest to goodness side-by-side racing with passing everyone in the field. Second, it has the best variation of tracks. No other series had this, this is the selling point. Third, I love racing in general because I can watch it with my 4-year old daughter and she can aspire to be a part of that world if she chooses. It is literally the most equitable sport out there.
Now to some ideas. I agree with Randy Bernard’s 2018 musings – a 24-race schedule is necessary. NASCAR is too long with all of the repeated tracks (two races in Kansas? bring on the nap!) and IndyCar has too few. I also think that instead of yearning for a heyday long since past, or trying to be NASCAR or the NFL that IndyCar needs to model the MLS. That soccer league took a look around and said to themselves we need smaller stadiums, but then we can pack those stands and make a profit. So there’s not 100,000 people at a race, what is a number that would make sense and find tracks or street circuits that it makes sense to go to? Plus, make different times for the races. Race on Friday or Thursday nights. Basically, bring back Randy Bernard to think of different things.
Now the best idea ever: I have read a lot of comments on your mailbag about innovation. I don’t really care about that aspect, but for people who do, here’s how you bring it back: some time in mid-season you have an exhibition/all-star race at Indy and call it the Innovation 250 at Indy. You set parameters (must be single seat, open-wheel and some kind of engine details) but have a larger purse and then whoever shows up, they could just do qualifying laps, or heat races or just a 250-mile race. Whatever the deal is, you keep the tradition of the points series at the Indy 500 but you put your name on something else that calls for the out-there idea once a year. Maybe tie it in to the NASCAR race there in the summer and do the innovations on Saturday.
Thank you for your support of the passionate fans of IndyCar!
-Nick, Norman, OK
RM: It’s good to know IndyCar is still capable of making some new fans (and some younger ones too) and I like the idea of smaller capacity venues but it’s too unrealistic. Places like Fontana, Michigan and Texas have removed thousands of seats during the past few years but their NASCAR crowds are still massive compared to IndyCar’s on ovals (except of course for IMS). And right now IndyCar can’t come close to filling Iowa or Milwaukee, both with 30,000-plus seats. Racing through the week always made sense from the TV perspective but not many promoters want a Wednesday night IndyCar race. And your idea about the Innovation 250 is interesting, there’s just not enough money or interest or imagination right now to even consider it. [ABOVE: Fred Agabashian in the Kurtis Cummins Diesel which took pole for the Indy 500 in 1952. IMS image].
Q: I know how we can return IndyCar to its former glory. All we have to do is take all of the ideas from the IndyCar 2018 series and send it to the powers that be at IndyCar and somehow lead them to believe that the ideas are their own (or from the Boston Consulting Group). After reading all these amazing new ideas, they will be implemented immediately and many AOW fans will be happy (one can never make everyone happy all of the time).
-Steve in St. Louis
RM: Give RACER CEO Paul Pfanner and editor David Malsher credit for initiating an idea that’s been well received, fun to read and food for thought. I know Derrick Walker and Will Phillips read the stories and I hope the rest of management at IMS and IndyCar follows suit.
Q: I am a very optimistic guy, but given the current state of IndyCar, I don’t see a lot of things to be optimistic about. My feeling is that if IndyCar doesn’t make significant changes in 2016, the fate of the series is pretty much sealed. With that said, I have two questions: 1) What would happen to the Indy 500 if this does happen? Could it be a good thing for the 500, no spec cars, bring back innovation, or God forbid, the end? 2) If the split had never happened, what do you think the state of CART would be today?
-Brad Heuer, Coeurd’alene, Idaho
RM: It wasn’t long ago that Le Mans looked like an endangered species. Participation and crowds were down and it didn’t have much buzz. But it’s come roaring back to life in the past few years and now we know (thanks Marshall) Ford is headed back to France to battle all the big manufacturers. As I’ve said, if IndyCar folded then the Indy 500 would have to become an all-skate and, depending on the rules and purse, it could re-capture some magic and have 40-45 entries instead of struggling for 33 cars every year.
The sad thing is, a lot of people don’t know any races besides Indianapolis exists (read Gordon Kimball’s 2018 commentary) so it might actually strengthen the month of May. Tough to say where CART might have gone or be today, but it was a threat to Bernie and Big Bill in 1995 so draw your own conclusions. Of course you always have to factor in the car owners don’t you?
Q: Since Mark Miles does not want to race past Labor Day weekend because of the mighty NFL, is there any chance IndyCar can replace the canceled Brazil race with another venue in late July or mid-August? I understand it is a long shot and easier said than done, but the way the schedule is now there is only one race (Mid-Ohio) between the dates of July 19 and August 22, which amounts to three open weekends. Sixteen races is a joke and I think IndyCar should try everything possible to replace the Brazil race with something.
-Steve, Winston, GA
RM: That would be the only chance to squeeze in a race and maybe Road America since IndyCar is in the Midwest during that stretch of July and early August. The weekend of Aug. 8-9 is open at Elkhart Lake [ABOVE] or the following week IndyCar might be able to run with the Porsche Club. Cut a deal with Michael Andretti and sell a Wisconsin ticket to Milwaukee (July 12) and Road America.
Q: I have to disagree with a writer last week who claimed IndyCar races were boring. The series has had some fantastic races, surprise winners and losers and a championship decided down to the wire. The last couple of years have been exciting. That said, I am looking forward to aero kits even if it creates haves and have-nots in the series. I’d love to see another tire manufacturer as well. Probably the most important factor going into 2018 has to be a strong product, leading to increased TV exposure, translating into increased sponsor revenue for teams, which will allow for fewer ride-buyers and more team stability. It is frustrating for the fan to not know that their favorite driver, maybe even a proven race winner will have a quality ride, or even a ride at all.
Here is hoping 2015 can continue to provide fantastic racing, that Race Control is never mentioned and that Conor Daly wins a race. Marco just gained some props after Daly revealed that Andretti gave him $3k for the recent test. Nice work!
-Trevor Bohay, Kamloops, BC, Canada
RM: I guess that’s the eye-of-the-beholder factor but you’d be hard pressed to find better four-wheel racing (on pavement) than IndyCar has produced the past three years. Obviously, the aero kits are the great unknown right now and they could separate the field at certain tracks. But the fates of the Justin Wilsons aren’t going to be reversed any time soon, just not enough funded car owners and I hope Daly just gets a ride. It was a very cool gesture by Marco and won him a lot of fans from what I’ve read. And, even though the test went well, it likely still comes down to money and Simona may have the inside line. But IndyCar needs both of them in the series.
Q: I have noticed that a lot of the people who have submitted essays for IndyCar 2018 complained about the short season, and how for the sake of the teams, the season has to be lengthened going forward. Does Mark Miles or anyone at Hulman Racing really hear any of this? Do they take the health of the teams into consideration when they make plans for the future? Or is everyone too busy making plans for the 100th running of the 500-mile race to care about whether there will be enough healthy owners to supply 33 cars for the event?
-Ed Joras, Deerfield, IL
RM: The reason it keeps being brought up is because a six-month (five now) season is the worst business model ever and sponsors are either balking, wanting to pay half of what they did or threatening not to return. Again (repeat after me), nobody in the IndyCar paddock thinks it’s a good idea except Miles and the Boston Consulting Group. But the outcry appears to be falling on deaf ears.
Q: What’s your read on Justin Wilson and where he will end up at this point? I have never understood why top teams haven’t given him a ride that his talent deserves. It probably has nothing to do with attitude from what I can see or desire. Must be something else – probably sponsors or money as he has everything else in spades. Surely he can do much better than Last Minute Dale, right? It’s a travesty, in my opinion, that he has never landed a top-flight drive.
-Geoff Roberts, Toronto
RM: I think it’s Andretti or nothing in IndyCar for JWil and yesterday I heard his sponsorship deal for that fourth car may have fallen through. So that would really suck. He’s had the best equipment just once in his 157-race Indy car career – the final Champ Car race at Long Beach in 2008, driving the Newman/Haas/Lanigan Panoz. He was on pole and a strong contender for victory when his gearbox broke just a dozen laps in. That about sums up Justin’s luck.
Q: After reading Derrick Walker’s convoluted answer to the question “Why did you put Brian Barnhart back in the race director role?” I came away with the following conclusions: First, Brian Barnhart’s previous decisions as race director were made based on a flawed system. Secondly, the new system, with a panel of three stewards, will allow Brian Barnhart to make better decisions as he enters his second tenure as race director. And finally, consistency of infractions will be assured because a layer of control will be overseen by, Derrick Walker, who has final authority of all judgments reached.
This is exactly the answer Indy Nation expected from the leadership of Mark Miles. It justifies Mr. Barnhart’s lack of discretion during his first tenure, it qualifies Mr. Barnhart’s second tenure and it assures IndyCar fans proper judiciary procedures of racing rules will be equally applied because, Walker, a highly respected name, will have the final decision regarding racing rules. Thereby keeping Mr. Barnhart on task and reassuring Indy racing fans that there is nothing to worry about regarding Mr. Barnhart’s second tenure as race director.
This is called spin in journalism, but more importantly, Mr. Walker’s answer shows the poor leadership that Mark Miles exhibits and how isolated he is towards the fans of Indycar racing. Mr. Miles knew that reinstating Brian Barnhart as race director would be received by the fans with contempt, for there is no one man, other than, Tony George, more loathed, by the fans, than TGBB. Yet, Mr. Miles chose to approve Mr. Walker’s decision to place Mr. Barnhart into this important position thereby degrading the integrity of Indy racing. As for the fans of IndyCar, we should not be shocked nor surprised by Mr. Miles’ action for we saw this coming ever since he replaced Randy Bernard.
In his short tenure, Mr. Miles has systematically dismantled all the positives steps Mr. Bernard accomplished, all except for the one double-header on the schedule and the aero kits, whose entry has yet to be seen, further reinforcing the lack of enthusiasm by IndyCar fans. As can be witnessed by last week’s Mailbag, the result of Mr. Miles’ poor leadership has further distanced himself from his fanbase and is placing his operation in an untenable economic situation, further the deteriorating the future of IndyCar racing.
-Daniel Bonham, Indianapolis
RM: What if it came down to something as simple as Barnhart is already on the payroll and entrenched in the culture so Miles didn’t want Walker to spend any money finding somebody better? Just a theory. But knowing the reaction of its fan base, IndyCar simply needed to keep this news in-house among the teams and not glorify it with a press release. Talk about bad P.R.
But you can’t blame Miles for the Bernard witch hunt: that was orchestrated by a couple car owners, a former IMS biggie and a longtime tread head. But I truly don’t think Miles cares about anything in IndyCar but the bottom line.
Q: I just wanted to thank IndyCar for the wonderful news that Brian Barnhart will once again be in Race Control. My family is so happy that I will now have the race season free to plan home improvement projects and be away from home on race weekends. We won’t need to worry about taking time off to attend the season ending race in Sonoma, and the extra cash I had set aside for tickets and spending money during the race can now be used for other forms of entertainment. My youngest son, Sam (named after Sam Hornish who won the Indy 500 in 2006, the year my son was born) is especially excited as he won’t have to listen to me yelling at the TV as the race is on rooting for my favorite drivers and trying to slow down those drivers that are not my favorites. Thank you for bringing peace, quiet and freedom to race weekends. I am also very excited to learn what the rest of America does on Memorial Day weekend. I understand from friends that our town holds an amazing parade and other exciting and entertaining events on Sunday. I’ve never been to any of these events due to being glued to my TV from 8 a.m. (my time, as I live in California) until mid afternoon watching THE RACE.
I also won’t have to let my employer know that I will only be in to work on Tuesday, if there isn’t rain in Indiana over the Memorial Day holiday. My life long dream has always been to attend the Indy 500, but due to scheduling and financial concerns I haven’t been able to make it yet. Now I can set a new goal. Too bad, I was really hoping to stop by the Mug N Bun! I am sure DISH TV will be excited to learn I no longer need the more expensive package just so I can watch IndyCar on TV, now I can drop down to a more reasonably priced package. I know my friends will be happy not to hear me going on and on about IndyCar racing and I certainly won’t have to explain to anyone ever again, that “NO, I don’t watch NASCAR racing, I watch IndyCar.” I will just have to be satisfied with accepting that a bunch of rednecks were able to understand basic marketing strategies better than your organization.
I have been hanging on as an IndyCar fan for much too long, so thank you once again for helping me make the decision to pursue other interests. I am sure the sponsors will also be happy to learn that while I have always been a loyal customer to those businesses that support IndyCar racing, I no longer feel the need to buy their products, shop at their stores, or use their services. As I did following the firing of Randy Barnard, I will take a day and contact the sponsors and let them know I believe they are wasting their money on a dying sport.
-Dawn Hummel, Clearlake, CA
RM: Well, at least Barnhart’s announcement made somebody happy. But, seriously, this is the type of fan IndyCar cannot afford to lose.
Q: Just wanted to chime in on the outrage over TGBB’s new appointment. While I too joined the chorus of “What the bleep?” upon reading the news, I’ve chilled out a bit since then. Maybe Marshall Pruett’s article helped, or maybe just counting to 10… thousand. I’ve been otherwise more excited for this season to start than any previous season, and I’m not going to let this get in the way. There is so much good going on in IndyCar right now (increased innovation, some great courses, awesome drivers, etc.), and I hate reading all of the “you’ve lost me as a fan, goodbye” responses. Maybe it’s my age (I’ll turn 29 before St. Petersburg), but I’ve not given up yet. The fact is Barnhart won’t have quite the same ability to impact races as he did previously, and so I’m choosing to trust Derrick Walker for the time being. I hope I’m not the only one. I also hope I’m not proven to be insane.
-Michael Thom, Fishers, IN
RM: Barnhart was part of Race Control last year and you are correct, he won’t have the unfettered power to rule like in the old IRL. I’d hate to think the Race Director would influence people to the extent they would quit watching or attending but the tone of a lot of these e-mails seems more serious than ever before so I tend to believe that IndyCar lost some diehards with this decision.
Q: I’m praying as hard as I can that the ghost of Tony Hulman comes down from heaven and smacks the faces of TGBB and Mark Miles into the Yard Of Bricks!
RM: Mr. Hulman was a very peaceful man so I think he would probably ask Clarence Cagle or Joe Cloutier to do the smacking.
Q: The opinions expressed in the February 4 Mailbag seem to indicate the final straw point is here for many loyal open-wheel fans. The current IndyCar organization is simply bankrupt [sic] and out of touch with the fan base, sponsors and the 21st Century. They can’t seem to comprehend open-wheel racing outside the grandstands of the IMS. It’s time for change and a fresh start. We need a new organization with creative leadership that values the health of our top tier open-wheel racing series in the USA and plans for the future by listening rather than clinging to the past and ignoring the realities of motor racing in the 21st century.
This would not be the first time IndyCar has re-organized. We’ve seen USAC, the IRL, CART and IndyCar all attempt to manage and grow the sport. The times they are a-changing and open-wheel racing must move forward without the tired old men at the IMS who currently manage the IndyCar series. Form an organization, put someone in charge like Randy Bernard and go for it.
-Edwin Collier, Portland, OR, 60-year Indy fan
RM: It’s long been called the “I-465” mentality, referring to the fact IndyCar’s vision doesn’t stretch beyond the interstate system that circles Indianapolis. But I can’t see the passion, knowledge or financial wherewithal to re-organize and start another series. I’ll share Dan Gurney’s White Paper one of these weeks so you can see why Indy car racing needed help in 1979 and why it still does.
Q: These management moves seem odd by IndyCar. Maybe they are looking to sell? I just can’t believe that there is no one who they could have hired other than TGBB. It’s not looking good.
RM: The only move recently was naming TGBB as race director and while it’s looked on as maddeningly ignorant by many fans, I don’t see it as anything but justifying his existence. And, at least right now, Race Control is far from IndyCar’s most pressing issue.
Q: Can you tell me if the test at Barber in March is open to the public? I’m thinking about going, especially if the paddock is open. Are you planning to attend? Need somebody to carry your equipment bag and keep your beer cold for the end of the day? I’m a native Alabamian so maybe I can help translate with the locals :)
-Rob Roten, Spring Hill, TN
RM: IndyCar says it’s open to the public, not sure about admission charge. Yes I’ll be there but Marshall Pruett does all the heavy lifting and I don’t drink. But thanks.
Q: With all the wrong revelations by IndyCar recently from the return of Barnhart to the cancellation of the Brazilian race, are we seeing another breakaway series in the future like happened 20 years ago? This time against TGBB and the Hulman-George board?
RM: When CART started in 1979, it still competed in the Indy 500 and, following The Split in 1996, CART was stout enough to exist without Indianapolis for five or six years. But, if there was some kind of new series proposed to rebel against IMS, there is no chance it could survive today without the Indy 500. Hell, IndyCar is barely surviving with it.
Q: So I see that TGBB will be back to calling ALL the “yellows.” Well, isn’t that special. I am using the Thumper rule these days. “If ya can’t say something nice, don’t say nothing at all.” I am looking forward to some good racing this year…PERIOD!
RM: He only had one noticeable problem discerning yellow and green and I believe Paul Tracy was involved.
Q: Did I read correctly that Chevrolet has contracted that teams using their engines have to use their aero kits? Because if that’s the case, what the hell is the point in opening the rulebook? IndyCar wanted to use the aero kits as a means of attracting new tech companies to the series. But if I’m looking at the series and see that the majority of the teams can’t even use my kit (including the biggest names in the series both team- and driver-wise), why would I bother?
I’m really amazed that IndyCar didn’t nix this part of the contract with the teams as it seems completely counter-productive to the idea of bringing innovation into the series. I also think it screws some of the teams from the start. If I’m Sarah Fisher and Ed Carpenter I’d want to stick with the Dallara setup because we have a ton of experience with them and know how to make our cars work with that package (plus, less expense). And, Penske did all of the development, so aren’t they going to get a bit of an advantage? I’d stake my reputation that Penske is going to keep SOME secrets to itself. If Roger could keep an entire engine program under wraps for a year, you’d have to be stupid to think he wouldn’t keep a couple of setup tips and tricks to himself as well.
Honestly, this whole aero kit thing is turning into a real fiasco. It’s been a mess to implement, the delays have been staggering and there’s a huge chance that this will upset the parity IndyCar has enjoyed for the last couple years. On top of all of that, is it really going to bring in any new interest to the series? I can’t imagine the non-Indy fan is going to say “Ooooh…body kits…I want to see that!”
RM: Yes, Honda and GM teams can only use the aero kits of their manufacturer and that makes sense. The only option would have been if Dallara or somebody else built a kit, then a team could pick and choose. Andretti, Ganassi and Penske did the majority of the testing with the understanding (and observation) that all information is shared. Could those three be a little ahead of curve? Sure but they will be anyway. Nobody knows what – if any – effect the aero kits will have on the competition or the interest level but we’ll know in a few months.
Q: Despite the continued mismanagement, I realize I suffer from battered spouse syndrome and will likely never be able to fully abandon IndyCar. For all the mis-steps and screw-ups, I still find both the series and especially the Indy 500 to be some of the best racing there is these days. Since you have endured decades of this abuse at the hands of IndyCar and not only keep coming back for more but are likely the #1 advocate for the sport, I nominate you as the leader of the IndyCar Battered Fans Society. As such, do you have any suggested coping mechanisms for us fans? I already am a heavy drinker, so I have that base covered.
-Steve J. Sollon
RM: OK Steve, try these things: go to Indy practice or qualifying equipped with headsets and a radio playing the tape of Tom Carnegie’s call of Tom Sneva’s 200mph run in 1977 and the roar of the crowd to re-capture that big event feel. On Bump Day, put on a blindfold and drive through the tunnel under Turns 1-2 so you can experience the scary rides of Rich Vogler, John Mahler, Jerry Sneva, Tom Bigelow and Eldon Rasmussen [ABOVE in ’77. IMS photo] as they white-knuckled it into the field. Drive to Elkhart Lake on the NASCAR weekend and imagine you were at a CART race in the mid-’90s. Buy a Dick Wallen video of Milwaukee from the ’60s or a Dan Boyd photo of the crowds at The Mile in the ’80s and ’90s. Buy an old Autocourse when CART had 21 races and read it during September, October and November. Take two aspirin, and call Donald Davidson in the morning.
Q: One of the most insightful comments made in this IndyCar 2018 series came from Uncle Bobby, who said, “hopefully it (IndyCar) will have 18-20 races a year but not be controlled by the Indianapolis Motor Speedway” meaning that the Hulman-George/Clabber Girl group should not run IndyCar. He makes a good point. And Norris McDonald from the Toronto Star follows up, speculating that “it appears that the end (of IndyCar) might not be that far off. The 100th year of the Indianapolis 500 will be 2016. I think it will be shortly after that when things will start to happen.”
The Hulman-George board doesn’t care about IndyCar; they care about the IMS. American open-wheel racing was put under the control of the IMS during the 2008 merger. Is there any chance that this series returns to the CART-style franchise system? I fear that after 2016, IndyCar will be a one-race series.
-Don, Chardon, Ohio
RM: Bobby’s idea is that Indianapolis runs as a separate entity with its own set of rules like the CART days and an outside party owns and operates IndyCar. The benefit of this would be to open the rulebook and encourage innovation and mass participation. It sounds feasible except why would anybody want to buy IndyCar if it didn’t include the only race anybody wants to watch or sponsor? And what value does IndyCar have by itself? I think IndyCar and IMS are joined at the hip and that’s not changing anytime soon.
Q: Please tell me you know the answer to this. I understand that IndyCar has an exclusive deal with Verizon as their official sponsor, but why in hell is the IndyCar app only available to Verizon customers? This is absolutely ridiculous! They need fans, fans use phones and most of America can’t download the app, most of America can’t find the races on TV, and thus IndyCar is not growing!
First, you are cutting out a huge section of your fan base. Second, you are missing out on making EASY money, as someone like myself who has a competitors phone service would pay (thus IndyCar and Verizon could share he profits) for this app. No, instead they don’t want our money they just don’t want to let you have it? I realize, the obvious answer is, just switch carriers, well I cannot as I work for a competitor and do not pay for service, thus that is not feasible. Please tell me how this makes sense for IndyCar or Verizon for that matter?
RM: This is from CJ O’Donnell, chief marketing officer of IndyCar and IMS:
“NBC’s and ESPN’s apps are available on SmartTVs and allow for streaming of the events. To view the programming, fans will still be required to verify his or her ownership of a cable package in order to stream our NBCSN or ABC/ESPN broadcasts. In addition, we are planning for our practice sessions to be streamed via IndyCar.com, Verizon INDYCAR App and on SmartTVs. This will only occur if a practice session is not aired on NBCSN or ABC/ESPN. I hope this helps.”
Q: I enjoyed Marshall Pruett’s silly season update. Why is Andretti waiting on a car if Wilson is signed? Will Veach run a fifth car part-time? I am glad that Carlin did well at the Indy Lights test and I hope to see Max Chilton in Indy Car in 2017 and hope to see Carlin in Indy. What is the latest on Ryan Phinny? Is KV or SPM going to a 3rd car?
RM: See Marshall’s latest silly season story but the bottom line is that Andretti is waiting on money for a fourth car for Wilson. Now I’m hearing Veach may have funding for a full season so he may be in that picture. Carlin voiced its intention to go IndyCar racing while Phinny is negotiating with KVSH for Indy.
Q: As an IndyCar fan, my second favorite day of the IndyCar year is Community Day at IMS. It’s a great day to enjoy the track and the sport with family in a laid-back setting. For the past few years my children (now 8 and 6) have been able to walk through the garages with wide-eyed excitement, get up close to the teams, and cars, and sights, and sounds, and smells. And they love watching for their favorite drivers to happen by with hopes of stealing a quick moment for pictures and autographs. My son is a fully engaged and well informed IndyCar fan; and my daughter is coming along mostly due to her brother’s enthusiasm and his insistence of replaying past races over and over on the DVR.
I have always been very thankful for how gracious and giving the drivers are to the kids, but never surprised. This has proven to be a kind and patient group of people. In fact, my own fandom has increased due to my children’s enthusiasm for the sport and their enthusiasm has been significantly fueled by their wonderful experiences during Community Day. My eight-year-old son’s signature-covered checkered flag is hung proudly above his bed. All of these were collected patiently and organically by simply being there as a hopeful fan – not by standing in line or by paying for a planned autograph session – rather by true fan interaction with his IndyCar heroes.
The drivers will stop, smile, kneel down, converse, and offer to take a picture. My six-year-old daughter continues to hold hope for Simona De Silvestro’s return to IndyCar because, as a four-year-old, she had an amazing one-on-one encounter with the lovely Simona outside of her garage. And my daughter still proudly tells the story of picking Helio Castroneves out of a crowd after my son had already passed by unaware. These types of interactions are numerous and are all wonderful memories as a father. I thankfully acknowledge that this is unprecedented access to participants of any sport.
I also acknowledge that I have recognized reduced Community Day attendance over the past few years. Go on and shake it up then, I suppose. I simply request that, whatever changes are made to the schedule, that we still have the opportunity to walk the garages with our families during a peaceful time when the drivers and teams are known to be present and not overwhelmed with outside responsibilities.
RM: Thanks for the good news about young IndyCar fans and the behavior of the series’ stars. I would think the ability to get close and personal with the drivers will always continue at Community Day.
Q: I am an IndyCar/CART fan for almost 16 years and now it’s time for me to learn some things. First off, what happened with all the major Mexican presence in the series? Races, drivers, sponsors and teams suddenly disappeared. I’ve watched the 2015 Force India F1 launch, saw these little TelMex logos on its car’s rearview mirrors and something tells me that Carlos Slim could have a winning IndyCar operation for the same money he pays to Vijay Mallya in F1. Don’t tell me that an eighth-place finish at Monaco gives more dividends than a Long Beach win. So what’s the deal?
The 2015 IndyCar season will be a second year for me without a team to worry about. Yes, I’m talking about Panther Racing. They were my favorite from the IRL side. Officially, the team folded because of the loss of a title sponsor and lack of funds. I think that’s not the whole truth. At the time, there were a lot of pay drivers to form some budget, or they could run the Indy 500 only, but they didn’t. The loss of a big sponsor is nothing new for John Barnes, but, seemingly, there wasn’t any attempt to somehow continue the operation. So here is my question: could it be possible, that IndyCar just quietly parked Panther Racing as a punishment for that strange lawsuit against the series?
In closing, I would like to say a few words to all the IndyCar fans. The “Damn, they’re not doing things as I want it to be done, so I’ll stop consuming their product” philosophy isn’t right or a good thing at all. I’m not excusing Mark Miles and his actions, but the renegade fans are bringing a lot more harm to the series than even some of those in the consulting offices.
RM: Indy car racing lost Adrian Fernandez [ABOVE], Michael Jourdain and Mario Dominguez in one fell swoop and nobody else has filled that Mexican void. Carlos Slim helped Chip Ganassi in sports cars so I’d imagine if he wanted to get into IndyCar it would be with Ganassi. But with Tavo Hellmund bringing Formula 1 back to Mexico City, I’m sure Carlos wants a presence.
You may be the only person on this continent that misses John Barnes and, no, he wasn’t parked by IndyCar.
To your final point, fans like to bitch and, unfortunately, IndyCar gives them lots of reasons.
Q: After reading the last dozen or so IndyCar 2018 articles, the Boston Consulting Group should be embarrassed – and so should the folks that bought it. I want my money back!
-Steve, Indy since 1953
RM: I’m sure they would be if they knew RACER.com existed. Naw, they wouldn’t because they don’t care and never did. They fleeced IndyCar and moved on.
Q: What did you think of the total beat-down in TV viewership that the Chili Bowl midget race (on MAVTV) put on the Rolex 24 sports car race (on FOX and FOX Sports 1)? Doesn’t that say a whole lot for the potential audience that the IndyCar Series is ignoring (and vice versa) and how completely out-of-whack the current mindset of Indy Car is (and we don’t even have to get in to the Chili Bowl vs IndyCar viewership comparison).
Randy Bernard figured it out and saw that potential audience as one that SHOULD be IndyCar’s target group. AOW racing has been, is and always will be about oval racing. The fact that the current incarnation of IndyCar racing has very little interest in oval racing or anyone associated with oval racing is beyond ignorant and shows how short-sighted and stupid they really are. But by all means, continue on the current path. Don’t have a presence at all in Tulsa in January. Act like AOW oval racing isn’t important or vital to your sport. Keep thumbing your pretentious nose at AOW oval folks. Don’t dare make a run at landing Rico Abreu or Chris Bell or Kevin Swindell and their thousands of loyal fans. I am sure our sport and product will catch fire soon.
-Drew, Gale IN
RM: It was an impressive rating, especially considering MAVTV’s limited number of households, but it was Saturday night compared to a 24-hour race so not exactly an equal comparison. Besides, the sports cars kicked ass on FOX with a tape delay during NFL season so I think they’re pleased. As for the Chili Bowl, of course IndyCar needs a presence in Tulsa every year but I doubt management agrees. Indy 500 winner Ryan Hunter-Reay was offered a ride but not allowed to run and that would have been such good PR. Roger Penske witnessed the enthusiasm and the crowd so he knows.
Q: Just finished reading VUKOVICH. Great book on three generations of racers. Fantastic photos of postwar Indy track, when the local midget guys were huge heroes and came to Indy for the big prize money (Hint to the present day powers that be.) Forgot how dominant Bill Sr. was in his brief time at Indy. Showed some signs of greatness in his 1951 rookie year. He easily could have been the first four-time winner, all in consecutive years, from 1952 to 1955. He had lapped the entire field in ’52, ’53, and ’54, with mechanical problems putting him out eight laps from the finish in ‘52, and winning in ‘53 and ‘54. And in 1955, he was leading and had lapped all but six cars in the first 50-plus laps of the race, before his tragic accident [ABOVE, Vuky on the inside of Jack McGrath in ’55. IMS photo].
Was astonished to read that 17 of the 33 drivers in the 1955 starting grid were all killed while racing, including four of the first six starters in the field. Always cheered for Billy Jr. and was sad when his son, the third generation Vukovich, was tragically killed while sprint racing. I know it devastated him. Where is Billy Jr. now, and do you know what he is up to? Does he ever get back to Indy?
RM: Bob Gates did a superlative job on VUKOVICH, just like he did with his books on Jim Hurtubise and Troy Ruttman. Vuky lived in Indy for about six years (2007-’13) before moving back to Fresno and he came back for the race last May. I call him once a month from our team lunches and I know he misses all his pals – especially Gary B.
Q: IndyCar seems to attract cancelled races like a magnet. Would this happen if IndyCar was financially healthier? Am I wrong to think this would never happen to NASCAR? Wouldn’t it be refreshing if it did?
-Tim Davis, Detroit, MI
RM: No, I think it’s the same thing that’s been prevalent for as long as IndyCar/Champ Car/CART/USAC has been going outside North America. You are always at the mercy of government politics or shaky promoters so it’s hardly a surprise when a race gets cancelled or a sanctioning body gets stiffed. It would never happen in NASCAR because, if they did venture outside the USA, I’m sure they’d get all their money up front before a wheel ever turned.
Q: I really enjoyed your video on Mike Mosley. He was a major talent and left us much too soon. I got to meet and work with him briefly at the Speedway in 1976 during my first and only stint as a crew chief. We had rebuilt a wrecked Eagle for Joe Hunt over the winter and Rick Muther agreed to try and qualify it at the 500. Mose and Mark Stainbrook were friends of Rick’s and generously gave their time to help us shake the car down and establish the baseline setup. With their help, we were close to qualifying speed a few days before the second weekend but gremlins with our turbo Offy kept us from making the race. I became a big Mosley fan after that and cheered when he dominated at Milwaukee and Trenton against the larger teams. In those days, it was a lot tougher for the small teams to compete for wins.
By the way, not sure if your “tough guy” series is still in progress but I nominate Mel Kenyon for that group. His comeback after suffering serious injuries at Langhorne is the stuff of legends.
Bruce Selby, Magnolia, TX
RM: Thanks Bruce, Mose was quite a story and a helluva guy. He had some terrible luck but I never heard him complain and when the shield went down, he was a BADASS. Miraculous Mel is definitely on the list: collecting some photos now.