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, Robin will pass these on to Marshall Pruett and he will also answer here.
Q: IndyCar rarely seems to give to the customers what they paid for. For example. They really don’t race in the rain, regardless of what they tell you. When it rains, the race is delayed. Or it’s started under yellow and green, so the fans get a show parade for their money. Or they red flag the running. Saturday was the topper. It was going to rain quite hard. They cannot have that. Cars may be damaged. So they make excuses. “We are calling the race on account of lightning.” OK, I can understand that. But if the threat of lightning was so great, why were there three groups of Indy car people on pit lane(s) standing under metal umbrellas. They were out there when the TV people said the race was called. Sorry, I don’t buy the lightning excuse. They wouldn’t be out there if it were true. They just found an excuse not to run in the hard rain like they do every time it rains hard.
Chuck, Portage, IN
RM: I was one of those people standing in the pits Saturday with Juan Montoya and we didn’t see any lightning. He wanted to race like most of the drivers. It’s insulting to the paying customers when the race starts under the caution or single file or is called on a questionable decision. Like one driver said: “Either we race in the rain or we don’t.”
Q: Despite the nearly endless parade of yellows and restarts, Sunday’s Belle Isle barnburner was one of the most memorable road races in recent history. This race had it all, from dumb rookie mistakes, comebacks (Honda taking 8 of the top 10 positions), tire strategy, team errors (Dixon), team members taking out each other, but especially all of the hell-bent-for-leather driving and passing on that bumpy, greasy track. And how about that cliffhanger for the last 10 laps, as we all wondered if Montoya and Bourdais had enough fuel to make it to the end? Prior to the race, JPM was quoted as saying that Sebastien was one of the best drivers in the field. How’s that for prophetic? Vive Le Seabass!
Doug Caldwell, Ocean Park, Washington
RM: No argument here. When it was green, it was entertaining as hell with all kinds of action (some good, some dumb) and dramatic to the end. Bourdais can still peddle as well as anyone on a road or street course.
Q: After attending the Indy 500 and now watching the Dud in Detroit, is it aggressive racing or just very poor driving. Drivers taking out teammates, green flag/accident, yellow, green, accident, yellow and so on. The only good driving is being done by the pace car driver. If as we are told that these are some of the best drivers in the world, I would have to question that. I’m currently thinking we are seeing very poor driving. What do you think?
RM: I think it’s a lot tougher to drive a 230 mph car around a wet, concrete jungle than people realize because television doesn’t do it justice. Going from the rain tires to slicks when the track was still pretty wet brought out some good driving and some accidents – just like when it was dry. Sure, there were 17 laps under caution in Race #2 but the green-flag action was damn good. If IndyCar had the sophisticated range of rain tires that F1 does I think it would be even better and I understand Firestone has a new, improved model coming for Toronto.
Why does IndyCar have timed races and why only on road/street courses? I thought it was because ABC required it in their contract to get IndyCar off the air in time for its other programming. However, NBCSN’s broadcast of NOLA was a timed race. Does it have to do with the timing of the news cycle? I always feel cheated when the races are timed – especially when there are only two laps remaining to the scheduled distance (i.e. Detroit)! Two hours is not enough, at least make it two and a half hours. Thank you.
Travis W., Sussex, WI
RM: The decision to have a timed race is usually determined before a race and almost always involves weather. And, naturally, television programming can be a factor. If a race is delayed from starting or stopped and is going to end up being farmed out to ESPN News (with limited households) you are better served ending on network. But the final decision lies with the series.
Q: Which was the better race, Saturday or Sunday? I wouldn’t know because, instead of the race, the Chicago ABC affiliate was showing the Cubs’ game on Sunday. Don’t give me the old “don’t worry, NBCSN is coming to the rescue.” These idiots missed another chance to have an audience in the third largest TV market. It’s all doomed to fail.
DA in Chicago
RM: Unfortunately, IndyCar has no jurisdiction about which ABC affiliates opt for its race or go with a telethon or a baseball game. I remember our local CBS station in Indy not showing Indy car races many years ago – opting for an old movie classic.
Q: Sage is insanely fast when he keeps his nose clean. After reading the youth is served for now article I had a couple of questions. What in the world is Karam doing sometimes? Maybe the series can make a rule that the ABC Supply Cars have to leave a 5-car length space around him. Indy was probably more to blame on Sato but the two incidents in Detroit were all on Karam. Anyway, who has been your favorite rookie in the field this year? Also, can you just schedule rain for the rest of the season’s road and street courses so Honda has a chance?
RM: I’m baffled by people’s criticism of Karam. He’s 20 years old and he’s aggressive and prone to make mistakes, just like Mario and J.R. were in their youth. Watching him set quick time in the downpour Sunday morning was truly impressive. It took Rutherford a decade to make a breakthrough and Uncle Bobby a good five years, so give Sage a little time. That’s the problem nowadays; nobody is given much of a chance to develop but I think Ganassi will stick with this kid because he knows the upside could be big. Honda wouldn’t mind that forecast.
Q: Who makes the calls in Race Control and what are their agendas? Obviously creating happy fans is not on the list. The fans on Saturday got 47 of a planned 70 laps due to weather and that is what it is, but on Sunday, with only six laps to go they decide to make it a timed race, thus eliminating the drama of the fuel strategies throughout the field. I would understand if there were 20 or so laps to go but in this case give the fans, especially the brave souls in attendance, and the dwindling viewership on TV the full race distance. I just don’t get it. Please Rick Mears, help save the series and become race director… you’re our only hope!
Bill, West Palm Beach, Fl.
RM: It’s a committee with one person who actually drove a racecar competitively and they have a voting process on penalties. But the decision to call the race after 47 laps? Derrick Walker? Brian Barnhart? Joe Heitzler? As for Sunday, it was announced before the race it would either be 70 laps or two hours, whichever came first. Then it was red-flagged but the clock stopped so I’m confused enough I’m going to call an old USAC official. As for Mr. Mears, he’s way too smart to take that job.
Q: Race 1 at Detroit was great until the lightning came. I loved how the rain mixed up the strategies, it really kept things interesting. My concern is with Honda. Every time I saw a shot with a Honda with the modified wing, I wondered how long will they stay with the series. Being down on power, the Indy debacle and now being forced to change the front wing and losing downforce, when will they say enough is enough and leave? As stated before in previous Mailbags, Chevy does not want to be a sole supplier. What is IndyCar’s contingency plan if Honda does decide to bolt?
John, Muskego, Wisconsin
RM: Well, actually Honda had their best weekend of the season with a 1-2 finish Saturday and 2-through-9 on Sunday. Obviously, the rain factor was a major contributor but Honda seemed to be making better mileage in the conditions. I don’t believe there’s a contingency plan other than begging Honda to stay after 2016.
Q: I have been an IndyCar/CART fan my whole life, but I’m on the verge of giving up. Canceling Detroit Race 2 qualifying was another horrible example unfair Penske favoritism. So what if Session #2 times would have been slower than Session #1? They were competing primarily within their own group (as designed) against each other with the rows gridded side-by-side or staggered inline. This would have been reasonable and given the fans a show. Instead some BS about needing the two groups to have exactly the same weather conditions caused the cancellation; conveniently moving Penske’s championship leader Montoya from 9th or 10th up to the pole! There would have been a second group driver on every row of the grid! Big deal that they would have been even numbers rather than odd. We cancelled because of a potential one spot disadvantage? What about all the fans that flew to Detroit, bought hotel rooms, drove to Belle Isle and paid good money to watch qualifying? And those fans who were eagerly awaiting the show on IndyCar? And Sage Karam who was dropped from Row 1 toward the back of the field? How is any of that fair? Seriously, I’m about done with IndyCar. I certainly won’t pay to see another race as long as they are making decisions to support Penske and not the fans.
RM: Between the qualifying fiasco at Indianapolis and last Sunday’s very questionable decision to scrap the second session, IndyCar Race Control is making drivers, teams, owners, manufacturers and fans question its motives and judgment. Throw in the inconsistency of penalties and punishments and it appears to be a zoo with no keeper.
Q: I’m writing solely for the purpose of venting. I’ve had it up to *HERE* with the inconsistency from Race Control. First, I should note that I’m a huge Rahal fan. But the call for his blocking was just another prime example of Race Control making stuff up as they go – how was it fair to Sage? He got a drive through the previous day for the same move in the same place on track. Graham got incredibly lucky, but it certainly takes some of the satisfaction out of his finish. And what’s going on with the “green-white checkered?” I know it wasn’t literally a GWC, but in essence, it’s what they did. I just find it slightly suspect the only time I’ve seen IndyCar do this in recent history is when two of three Penske cars stand to run out of fuel and wreak havoc on their points lead. Sad. It’s just sad.
RM: One block receives a drive-through, another just trades positions and the competitors are scratching their heads just as much as you fans. A couple Honda teams thought it benefited Chevy not to go 70 laps but it was deemed a timed race before the red flag. It might have saved Bourdais (who ran out of fuel on his cool-off lap) more than anyone, although he ran those last three laps like he had plenty of fuel.
Q: Belle Isle #2 was a great race. Good for Bourdais. Too bad he stalled on the doughnut. Rahal ran the last three laps without push to pass and was all Sato could handle. Karma struck Power for jumping the start. Too bad JPM ran out of fuel. Race 1 was okay even with the rain. Good for Carlos, Marco and Andretti Autosport. I guess I like tire strategy more than fuel-save racing. How soon before the race was the Honda camp informed of the aero change? Do the teams think the reduced weight in front is helping with the pitch balance? The cars look a lot better without the big cheese slicer on the end of the wing. Honda might not be pleased with being behind but they should be pleased with the results. I am tired of hearing everyone complain about the series and yet still watch. I love IndyCar. I don’t like ABC’s coverage, eckspecially the color commentary.
Dino from New Hanover, Pa.
RM: Honda was told to remove the end plates from their front wings after GP of Indianapolis. None of the drivers I talked to seem to think the changes made much difference but Honda left Detroit feeling better than it has all year. I’m ECKspecially happy the rest of the season is on NBCSN.
Q: Have you seen this? “IndyCar on notice to improve its race at Texas Motor Speedway” .That title looks like a threat to me. In all fairness to Eddie Gossage, he didn’t write the headline. I also doubt this is title on the originating article which was publish by the Fort Worth Star Telegram. It appears the story was picked up by a paper in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin and the title embellished to juice it up a bit. See what happens when you air your dirty laundry in public? It makes your grievances fodder for a little Cloak & Dagger Action. In some ways Eddie and his big mouth deserve this type of treatment.
Bob, Fremont, CA
RM: Eddie is all about making headlines but he’s right, the last two races have been pretty ho-hum, and IndyCar is well aware of it so it’s trying to tweak the cars to make things better for Saturday night.
Q: Great article on the young guns at Detroit. Good to see Carlos Munoz break through and get his first win, but Dr. Dario needs to settle “Carom” Karam down before Chip runs out of equipment. I don’t think you can overstate how good Conor Daly was over the three days. He didn’t know the track and hadn’t driven an IndyCar in the rain. He was smooth, fast, aggressive, and lucky (could you believe how he threaded the needle on Sunday?). He passed Hunter-Reay on a restart, and pulled away in the lead! There were so many ways he could have blown it, but he didn’t. I was disappointed to read that he won’t be in the car at Texas, but you’re right: SPM needs to keep him in there. I hope someone steps up and signs him now for 2016 so he stays in IndyCar, but I wonder if Gene Haas was watching? Did Stefano Coletti get a penalty for taking out TK and Graham in Race 1? I thought at least a drive-thru was warranted for ruining their races.
Really enjoyed your article on Mario and Newman/Haas Racing in the magazine. They always seemed like the “Un-Penske” and it’s easy to forget how successful they were.
RM: With a little luck, Conor could have had at least one, and maybe two, podium finishes but I think his training in Europe and pedigree is shining through. It started at Long Beach and continued in Detroit. The kid is a good racer and you’d hope Sam signs him up. Not sure if Gene Haas knows who Daly is. Thanks for reading RACER, that was a fun story to write.
Q: What the heck was that in Detroit? I get the first race with the strategy and the rain. As you know I am an RHR fan and was glad to see the whole Andretti team do better. Ryan was running better until that restart with the contact. The TV didn’t show it well but it almost looked as though Conor Daly moved over at the same time as Ryan but like I said it was hard to see. Who the hell runs these races? The second race was almost like NOLA. They ran very nice in the wet but as soon as it started to dry. Get out of the way and Katie bar the door. What a crash fest. And to make it worse they threw the red flag for the clean-up and when they re-started it was a timed race?! And they stopped only two laps or so shorter then the full 70 laps?!. Who thought that up? When they threw the red flag I thought to myself, ‘Just don’t do a red-white-checkered!’ And that’s pretty much what happened. What the heck is up with the #28 DHL team? The other two cars are getting a bunch faster but Ryan is still a bunch slower. And who is calling the strategy now? They put on the regular black tires in the second race when everybody else is putting on reds. That cost Ryan about three places I’m guessing.
RM: It appeared the boys raced cleaner in the wet than the dry but it was pretty much a typical street fight in Motown. I thought Sunday was entertaining in between cautions. RHR and Conor got caught by the start/stop in front of them and Ryan admitted in the story I wrote on RACER.com that his team is struggling right now everywhere. Ray Gosselin is RHR’s race strategist and engineer.
Q: What to do to stand out on the busiest mailbag of the year? How about ask you the question that’s on my mind. Is it a good thing or a bad thing for IndyCar that someone who didn’t shine in NASCAR is now a favorite to win the championship and won the 500 after being in NASCAR for so many years?
P.S. I want to see Daly in the SPM seat until Hinch recovers. I may be a horrible person for seeing this as a chance for Daly, but isn’t that how we got Will Power? Finally, maybe Daly can replace Karam. Sorry I know how much you like Karam and I know how talented he is, but holy crap. Also gutted for Daly. All those yellows ruined a legitimate chance at victory.
Ryan in West Michigan
RM: The fact Montoya wasn’t a star in NASCAR doesn’t diminish the fact he’s been a major talent in open wheel for almost two decades – CART, F1 and now IndyCar. And I think he had more success in stock cars than any NASCAR driver would have in IndyCar. Daly did a great job over the weekend but Chip is very happy with Karam, whose race would have been a whole lot different if he’d started up front.
Q: Graham Rahal has turned his career around, do you think he will stay on his dad’s team or look elsewhere in the coming years? I thought the last laps of Indy 500 were entertaining, but I wonder if the drivers would have benefited from having an oval prior to Indy, your thoughts? Do you think that IndyCar will consider doing twin oval races, or at least a sprint version?
RM: I imagine it depends on Graham’s options. But he’s driving like he did a few years ago so it’s not a surprise. I think Eddie Jones has been good for Graham along with Martin Pare. Not sure it can get any better than those last 30 miles at Indy regardless of any ovals beforehand. With only 22-23 cars, twin 125s would be much better than 500-milers at Fontana and Pocono and I have no idea what IndyCar thinks when it comes to the schedule.
Q: What is the deal with Sato? First, let’s go back a week to the 500. First lap, first turn, he makes a completely bone-headed move trying to go three wide, and wrecks some good cars, ending their races but continuing on. And yet no mention of a penalty was ever made. Why wasn’t he penalized? Last Saturday he caused two separate wrecks, damaging his car and piling up more bills for Foyt and took out yet more drivers. Yet again, he was not penalized. However, in the same race Karam was given a penalty for blocking Sato. Then on Sunday, Rahal was forced to give up his spot to Sato for “blocking” in a move I’ve seen made multiple times by the top teams without penalty. Why in the world of IndyCar is blocking considered worse than wrecking cars, and therefore causing cautions and ruining people’s days? Lastly, by the understanding I have of the rules from what IndyCar has said, Sato jumped the restart when he passed Montoya before the line. Now, its arguable whether he passed him before or after the green came out, but he clearly hung back to get a run, which is the very thing Montoya got a warning for last week at Indy. By that alone he jumped the start and should have been required to give the spot back, just like Rahal was forced to do with him. Now, I am writing this on Sunday just after the race, so maybe in all of IndyCar’s infinite stupidity, I mean wisdom, some action will be taken on Wednesday. So, concluding this longer than I thought letter, why is Sato allowed to drive like an idiot week in and week out, while others are forced to give ground to him for the slightest move?
Andy, Ontario, OH
RM: You are asking me to explain why one blocking call is a drive-thru penalty, another is moving to the rear of the field and yet another is to simply change positions with the guy you blocked. You are asking me to explain the whims of Race Control, which contains TGBB, a former owner, a lawyer, a former team manager and one guy who drove racecars. You are asking the impossible.
Q: There is often discussion about increasing the personal profile of the drivers. I’ve often felt that the drivers should lose the sunglasses when being interviewed on television. I’m sure that they are paid to wear them, I get it. Face time is important to people trying to raise their profile. Helio: wearing the damned headphones out of Gasoline Alley. I guess his wife and daughter didn’t have anything to say to him. Need I even mention the GoPros on the baseball caps? Really? Your coverage of the sport is invaluable. Thanks
Brian Bristo, London Ontario
RM: You are spot on. It’s hard enough to recognize an Indy driver WITHOUT the sunglasses and it’s half-assed offensive as well. My only explanation for headphones is that these guys watch too much pre-game NBA basketball.
Q: Another wild weekend in Detroit. Quick question, does ABC not have a clue about push to pass on road and street courses? After watching all of the road and street courses that have been aired this year on ABC (St. Pete, GP of Indy, Dual in Detroit) push to pass was never mentioned once. Thank goodness the remainder of the races are on NBCSN. We can go back to receiving pertinent information as well as telemetry during the telecasts.
John Baadilla, Norwalk, CA
RM: It would appear they have no clue because at one time Sato had six left to Seabass’ two but it was never reported or discussed in the booth. By the way, Saturday night’s race is back on NBCSN, not MSNBC as originally scheduled due to hockey playoffs.
Q: Do you have any suggestions as to how ABC (or whoever) can capture the energy, emotion, passion, and power of the Indy 500 pre-race ceremonies? Like most fans living in central Indiana, I attend the race and watch the replay. Nothing translates through the TV. ABC (B standing for Butchered, Botched, Bewildering and Blown) BAD is too kind. If we can get the emotion to come through and translate to TV, we may be able to attract more fans to IMS. I had to drag my wife one year, now she is hooked. She loves the whole event, the spectacle, the feeling of being there. If we can only get that vibe to translate through the coverage.
RM: I didn’t see the pre-race show but usually that’s the BEST part of ABC’s coverage. I did hear nothing was done with the Holmatro Safety Team and their heroic rescue effort of James Hinchcliffe, which seems like a no-brainer in terms of raw emotion.
Q: I just got done watching the Detroit Double on my Tivo. I have to congratulate both Carlos Munoz and Sebastian Bourdais. That said I’ll stop from piling on what others are saying about the races. What I’m really writing about is Always Bad Coverage. For all of the ABC covered events, I usually just put my Tivo one click forward and watch the race in a slow fast forward. It means I don’t have to listen to the Three Stooges (if only they were that good). I do miss the sound of the engines, but it’s much less painful. That said, I came across an idea today. My cable provider also broadcasts a Spanish version of ABC. For the next race, I’m going to record it there. I may only know how to order a beer and ask where the bathroom is in Spanish, but it can’t possibly be more content free than the English broadcast. And at least I’ll be able to hear the engines. I’ll let you know how the experiment goes. Can’t wait until the races are back on NBCSN.
Ryan Ware, Beaverton, OR
RM: Fear not Ryan, the rest of the season is on NBCSN but I like your idea. Maybe we can get Oriol Servia to call the races in both languages.
Q: Some interesting racing in Belle Isle. Marco showed some good savvy and race craft with respect to tire choice in Race #1. Nice to see him take charge and be confident. All Rogers’ Sportsnet owes IndyCar a refund because Race 2 was cut in at Lap 7. Not for hockey, not for curling, not for the famed chicken chariot races from Wynyard Saskatchewan, but for men’s volleyball, Canada vs. Bulgaria… not women’s beach volleyball, but men’s. I guarantee that telecast had an audience of 30 which would account for the parents of the players. Now that I have that off my chest, congratulations to Seabass on a smart call. Damn right you stay out. Good job stewards for the right call on Rahal and Sato. Good call red-flagging the race. The fans deserved an exciting finish. It was also nice to see Conor Daly drive a strong race.
Trevor Bohay, Kamloops, BC Canada
RM: Sorry about your TV woes but at least it was a lot better than the fan in Chicago who got shut out by Cubs’ baseball.
Q: James Hinchcliffe’s recent accident at Indianapolis is bad timing when it comes to the Honda Indy Toronto. Of course his health and wellbeing is by far paramount. That said, there is no question that his participation in the Honda Indy Toronto race since 2011 drew people in and affects the turnout. The diehard fans will definitely show up at the racetrack knowing it’s always a great show. However, those who mainly wanted to see Hinch now may reconsider. Hinchcliffe was the only Canadian in the field and is from Oakville near to Toronto. I’m wondering if you have heard if that situation will change with another Canadian such as Tagliani entered?
I do encourage people to go to the event which is now in its 29th year. Fan Friday is June 12th 2015 at Honda Indy Toronto and it only requires a small donation at the front gate to Make-A-Wish-Canada.
Geoff Roberts, Unionville, Canada
RM: There had been speculation that SPM might put Alex Tagliani in Hinch’s car but that’s not happening (it will be Conor Daly who certainly earned the right with his Detroit weekend). But it might behoove IndyCar to help Bryan Herta run a second car for Tag because Canadian race fans are some of the best and they support their drivers like nobody else and there could be a big void without a Canadian in the field.
Q: Justin Wilson’s Rolling Stones Car at Indy looked badass. But how did TK manage to get stuck with that Taylor Swift livery on his car in Detroit? Hands down, it’s the lamest livery ever in the history of motorsport. When Kurt Busch used the Ricky Bobby livery from Talladega Nights it was funny and bit ironic. But this just reeks of desperation by a team for sponsorship. On second thought no – it just reeks.
Rob Peterson, Rochester, NY
RM: I’d say if Big Machine Records wants to continue to sponsor Chip Ganassi, Tony Kanaan and Sage Karam, anything but a black cocktail dress and high heels is acceptable.
Q: Regarding the oval package; why does it create such good racing at Indy but the show on the other high-speed ovals does not compare? It just does not make sense to me. I fully expect Texas to be a spread out race with lots of tire management. We know how fast California can be considering Gil de Ferran’s 2000 pole. I think you’re right in forecasting an attendance drop off following the 100th Indy 500 especially if admission stays on the upward trend. I really wish the series would step up with the schedule and make it big – no less than 20 events run worldwide. The series should pair up with TUDOR Championship as frequently as possible, they should start at Surfers Paradise in February, make stops in Brazil, Japan, and China, race at Nashville in April, spend the bulk of September in Europe, and wrap things up in October with Watkins Glen and California. I know the ovals are an endangered species with the series but I think there is a lot that can be done with attendance. Incentives are one way; just imagine a free race ticket, a free pit pass, free hospitality, free VIP all access pass, or free food. Or just replicate the scene that Indy is everywhere they go. I feel like the experience, the party, and the scene are what draw the non-diehard fans.
CJ Shoemaker, Kalamazoo, MI
RM: Well, we’re not yet sure what the new oval package will be like at other ovals but we’ll find out Saturday night. It’s a no-brainer to run Tudor and IndyCar together at all road and street courses because it helps attendance and that’s good for the promoters. I think those doubleheaders could bring back crowds at Road America and Watkins Glen instantly. And let them trade off who runs Saturday or Sunday.
Q: The 500 was an exciting race, and the ratings were up over last year, which is great news. The rating will certainly dwarf any other race held this season, rightfully or not. In regards to the general public, does this show that IndyCar racing is more of an event sport, like horse racing with the Triple Crown? Or, boxing, when there’s a huge prize fight (i.e. Mayweather/Pacqiuao)? Do you think IndyCar can make the rest of its season matter to the casual fan? Positive note: Last week, on a major Central PA interstate, I saw an electronic billboard advertising the IndyCar race at Pocono. I had to look twice to make sure I wasn’t seeing things.
Jesse Murphy, Hummelstown, PA
RM: Oh yeah, without a doubt the Indy 500 is one of those social events like the Derby and the late, great Dave Cassidy (Tony Hulman’s right-hand man) used to say that there were 50,000 diehard Indy fans at the race and Indy was the only race the rest of the 200,000 people ever watched. A good example: after last year’s race Charlie Kimball was asked what he was doing after Indy and he replied, ‘Going to Detroit, Texas, Toronto.’ His friend supposedly said he didn’t realize there were other races besides Indianapolis. And that was Dan Gurney’s big concern back in the late ’70s when he penned The White Paper. It was Indy and a bunch of races nobody cared about. We’re almost back to that scenario today, save a couple exceptions.
Q: I assume the drivers have some sort of health and/or disability insurance that covers their medical costs due to racing accidents (i.e. James Hinchcliffe). How does it work in IndyCar? Who pays for it (the driver, the team, the track, IndyCar, or the Indycar drivers’ association?) and what does it cost? Why doesn’t IndyCar have onboard cameras (mandated?) in the roll hoops on every car and forget worrying about adding a weight on cars that don’t have a camera? I assume ABC/NBCSN pays for the cameras and, therefore, only wants to spend the money on the popular cars/drivers. However, the cameras can’t be that expensive in this day and age and I would think it would be useful for IndyCar when evaluating crashes and other incidents. It is also consistent with the thought that IndyCar is a technologically advanced form of racing.
Travis W., Sussex, WI
RM: IndyCar and IMS have insurance, as does each driver, so Hinch should be fine. Sponsors pay for in-car cameras but I don’t know why they’re not mandatory for everyone. I would imagine cost.
Q: IndyCar seems to be getting gradually healthier by the year. I love that we are seeing some visual differences in the cars via the aero kits. I have two questions. First, is there any chance that we will see a third (or even fourth!) manufacturer join the fray? Maybe I’m wrong, but I think increased badging competition could help the growth momentum. Second, is there any chance that IndyCar will relent and allow a second chassis builder to enter the series? I love competition. Ok, I lied – I have a third question. Am I buying fool’s gold here? Is the series really starting to stabilize as much as I think (HOPE) it is? What a great 500.
RM: I would say bless your optimistic heart but no would be my answer. It’s more smoke and mirrors than anyone cares to admit (except the ones in the trenches) as Honda teams try to keep their sponsors happy, oval promoters try to hang on and teams try to figure out how to keep/find sponsors and employees with six months between seasons. There are no chassis builders or engine manufacturers interested in joining IndyCar to my knowledge and the main concern is Honda’s continued involvement after 2016. But Indy was great.
Q: I have a story to tell. Three weeks ago I told a college buddy of mine that I was going to attend the Indy GP and the 500. He’s a big NASCAR fan and we usually chat up NASCAR once a week, but when I told him about my Indy plans, he replied “I’ve never much liked IndyCar.” Well then a funny thing happened. He decided to watch the 500 because he knew I’d be there. He also watched the Coke 600 and the Monaco GP. “I have to admit, Indy was by far the best race of the day,” was his comment later. He lives and works in Detroit and had already decided to go Saturday’s Detroit races. He originally went to watch the sports car classes, but after the 500…he was rooting for the open wheelers (particularly Will Power because he “has the greatest name in racing”). And then on Sunday he told me “I’m going to watch the Indy race today and flip back to Dover.” IndyCar just won themselves a fan in a matter of a week. Despite the crappy weather in Detroit, he had an awesome time and will be following the series much more closely from now on. IndyCar, please, please, PLEASE promote yourselves better! Us fans already know how awesome the series is (even when they screw things up, we still can’t turn away because we KNOW that when IndyCar gets it right, nothing else comes close), so please stop pandering so hard to us. Pick up the NASCAR dropouts and the people sick of the Mercedes cakewalk that is F1. Now go a step further. Pick up the fans who are sick of hearing the BS coming out of the NFL. Snap up those who don’t like steroids in baseball. Lure the soccer fans who are disgusted by FIFA. With all of the major scandals coming out of other pro sports today, IndyCar is perfectly poised to retake its throne. But if nobody knows what’s going on, then Indy can never reclaim its mantle. Grow some balls and take on the sports powerhouses instead of shying away from them. You’ll be surprised what the weight of “Indy” can still mean to the people.
David Zipf, Lexington, KY
RM: Good job on converting a tin topper but, honestly, how could anyone that fancies himself/herself a racing fan watch Indy and then even stay awake during the NASCAR show? There is a window of opportunity for IndyCar but it’s closing rapidly.
Q: I’m not saying Helio didn’t deserve a penalty for causing the GP of Indy’s Turn 1 catastrophe on lap one, but I don’t recall anyone else losing points over it. Generally it is a drive-through penalty. Why did he lose eight points?
John Sinclair, Palm Bay, FL
RM: The better question is why did it take four days to call an obvious penalty? As for subtracting eight points, I guess they figured that’s about the total he’d have earned had he served a drive through under green.
Q: So Bryan Clauson has another chance at Indy next year, and Ed Carpenter will continue running all the oval races until he retires. After that, will any USAC/sprint car grads be in an IndyCar? How does Ed feel about that? Is he grooming anyone like Christopher Bell for a future in IndyCar? What about Jarett Andretti? These guys seem to be going the way of the front-engined roadsters; once they’re gone, I don’t think we’ll see them again. Is there any serious plan to return to individual race purses, and ditch the welfare program–I mean–TEAM payout? A few years ago, one of autoracing1.com’s columnists discovered that if, say, Sebastien Bourdais won every race, his winnings would be less than the money James Jakes was bringing through Acorn Stairlifts UK. No wonder Dale Coyne gave Francesco Dracone another chance; if you get $1.3 million (more than that now?) from IndyCar no matter who’s in the car, why not line your own pockets? That’s one thing NASCAR continues to get right, even if a guy who starts-and-parks every week gets over $3,000,000.
*Gurney-Miller in 2016*
IndySteve in Eugene, Oregon
RM: Toyota and Kyle Busch snapped up Chris Bell last year so he’s NASCAR bound and I fear that could have been Clauson’s last Indy 500. As for Carpenter, he and Sarah Fisher and Wink Hartman know ovals are dying off so they need a road racer in the #20 car. IndyCar’s purses are pathetic and the mechanics and drivers get screwed because the percentages they use to get are gone. I love Gurney for President and thanks for the vote of confidence but Rufus or Uncle Bobby should be his running mate.
Q: In my opinion Indy couldn’t have been much better. Great weather, good crowd and a great race. It looked packed to me but I keep hearing about empty seats. If , what’s it gonna take to sell it out again? Also what era IndyCar is your favorite? Mine would have to be the ‘92 to ‘95 Lolas and Reynards. Thanks for your always entertaining columns.
RM: The only way to gauge a crowd is from an aerial view because that’s when you see all the empty seats and there were still a bunch on Race Day. If next year doesn’t sell out, it will never happen. Best years were the 1960s, hands down. Great thinkers, risk takers and creators. Thanks for reading RACER.com.
(ABOVE: Pitlane action from the ’66 Indy 500, and, in the same race, LEFT: Jerry Grant’s Eagle-Ford leads Roger McCluskey’s similar car. They’d be classified 10th and 13th, respectively).
Q: Just got home from my 34th Indy 500, 31 in row now. Another fantastic race. there is nothing like Indy. My complaint: the group performing this year’s singing of: “Back Home Again In Indiana” was pathetic, sad, embarrassing, and a joke. I’m sure the group is fine in some other venue, but after Jim Nabors’ rendition over the years, they just didn’t cut it. Why not a montage video of Jim’s singing over the years?
Mike Oates, Los Angeles
RM: Your suggestion has been echoed by tons of people and it makes perfect sense so, therefore, it has no chance. I’m hearing Caitlyn Jenner may sing next May.
Q: Topic: Diversity. NASCAR has talked it up; did they deliver? I see diversity in IndyCar (look behind you in the recent Will Power Detroit pole interview), yet the “fans” complain about foreign drivers. Was there an uproar about Jules Goux winning in 1913, drinking champagne at pit stops? Question: Does IndyCar have a diversity program? Fans love Castroneves and hate Montoya.
RM: There was always a rumor that NASCAR helped pay Montoya’s salary so I suppose that would qualify as the diversity program, but unless NASCAR is funding Bubba Wallace, it’s more talk than anything else. IndyCar is a diversity program. I love Montoya because he never changes.
Q: My name is Ignacio Aguirre, I’m from Argentina, and a fan of IndyCar let’s say since 1993, although I missed some seasons during the so-called “split.” I just wanted to make a silly comment on the updated Honda front wing. Is it only me, or is it really ugly? I’ve seen some odd designs over the years, but I think this one is particularly strange. I know there’s a sort of tradition, like Yunick’s assymetrical car. What do you think of “ugliness” and car aesthetics and its importance in racing?
Ignacio Agustín Aguirre
RM: I will defer to four-time Indy 500 winner A.J. Foyt. He called the cars/kits “butt ugly.” I think different designs and cool cars were part of what made Indianapolis so popular and intriguing around the world.
Q: I wasn’t impressed with the aero kits and to be honest I’ve grown tired of traditional motorsports. Maybe it’s the fact that IndyCar, NASCAR, F1, sports cars lost the spectacle. Which is the sound, pushing the limit and overall looks. And other big factor is time. Not everyone has the time or want to stay inside to watch a two-three hour event and I think IndyCar needs to move forward and rethink everything. Starting off with Indy 500. If you want it to return to its former glory then return to its original purpose. Seeing cars being built to go faster and longer. How we do this? Use the same/similar rules from Pikes Peak unlimited class. Those cars look good and are fast and sound like a racecar should. Not to mention so many types of teams enter. From privateers that build it their own home garage to factory teams run by manufacturers. We could have oval version of Pikes Peak time trial. And rest of the IndyCar series should be run by the teams and make it top tier road racing series that is sprint format range from either 50mins to 60mins, no pitting and no refueling. Which eliminate the need for drivers to slow down and conserve fuel. Instead we can have more powerful cars and have intense and exciting races. Which will dramatically improve the show. That’s my two cents to make IndyCar relevant and bring back some life. I can’t see any traditional motorsports surviving without adapting to ever-changing market. It’s why Formula Drift, Redline Time Attack, Global Rallycross are gaining traction. Even old-school hill climbs and rally racing are still surviving because the format is still true to their respected style of racing, which is incredible machines racing to beat the clock at all cost.
Kevin from NJ
RM: You make some very salient points but nothing like that is going to happen with this regime. IndyCar does need a total facelift in how it’s structured, marketed and presented to attract new teams. But right now Le Mans is the big dog because it meets a lot of the criteria you talked about.
Q: There was an attempt to wrestle away the ownership and control of the then acting Indy car organization from IMS control. The IRL then was part of IMS holdings and still is I think as IndyCar. I believe the proposed bid was made to IMS with veiled intentions the real agenda. I cannot recall the details or when this happened. My memory is foggy in recalling the important details. There were a few team owners, Kevin Kalkhoven and I think Jonathan Byrd (but I am not sure about Byrd who died in 2004), Tony George (the ring leader), and I think there were 6-8 members in the group. I recall one team owner besides George was a pain is the ass at all owner IMS meetings, very critical about everything. It was an attempt to gain control over where the races would be held and who could race in the events. Clearly the old CART members were to be left out. The question I am asking is there a written archived report available on the Internet that covered the event? I think this attempt was what evicted Tony George off the board of directors at IMS Holdings. As I recall your story was in two or three parts and the exposure quashed the take over. Who was involved and what was the actual story behind the event?
RM: I’m not exactly sure what you are referring to. There was a rumor in the early 1990s that CART was going to boycott the Indy 500 (complete BS) but Tony George supposedly started the IRL to restore oval racing, give American drivers an opportunity and get away from engine leases, street races and rising costs. After Roger Penske left CART for the IRL in 2002, the series he helped start went into bankruptcy and was claimed by Gerald Forsythe and Kalkhoven. It became Champ Car and ran until 2008 when Tony unified both series. George was ousted from control of the checkbook by his sisters in 2009 but that’s the only hostile takeover I know about.
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