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: I see the IRL race at Milwaukee will start at 4:35 P.M. CST. It looks like someone is sabotaging any hope of Milwaukee continuing this race going forward and for the oldest oval in the world that’s shameful. Since 1966 I’ve missed two races only due to our kids high school graduation and that included the former Tony Bettenhausen 200 that ended the Wisconsin State Fair on the last Sunday of said fair. For the IRL to survive long term I believe they must:
A- get a major network to telecast live all IRL races
B- Like NASCAR they must get their feeder league the Indy Lights also telecast live on hopefully a major network
C- We’re an oval country not city/road course country and only five races on ovals this year is terrible
D- We need many more American drivers so fans can more easily identify with them.
It goes without saying, going way back to the Rex Mays race as this used to be called, that the race was always the following Sunday after the Indy 500 and the racing fever was still fresh in everyone’s mind and the phrase see the Indy cars and stars at the world famed Milwaukee Mile. At that time it was nothing to see over 20 of the starting Indy 33 at Milwaukee. This race needs to be re-slotted to Milwaukee but I doubt Roger Penske would let that happen and that’s shameful. Anyway the word on the street is that if and or when the Milwaukee Mile loses this race that Elkhart Lake might come back into the picture? That would be profoundly sad.
Walter G. Hanke
RM: I think I’ve said for years that races need to start at 1 or 2 p.m. to give fans a chance to get back home at a reasonable hour and I know a lot of Indianapolis people who usually go to Milwaukee that are giving this year a pass because of that ridiculously late start. And it should be the week after Indy to try and capitalize on the 500’s momentum but you are right, R.P. ain’t giving up Detroit’s date. Gaining Road America will be great but losing Milwaukee would be another chunk of history kicked to the curb.
Q: Just a last minute plea for Midwest IndyCar fans to get off the couch and go support LIVE racing at the Milwaukee Mile this weekend. This will be our first visit to this historic oval. Understanding it starts later in the day, we opted to stay over Sunday night. This still makes it a three-day weekend (Monday instead of Friday) like we’ll have when we go to Mid-Ohio in a few weeks, but hey, butts in the seats.
RM: The good thing is that Sunday will be packed with practice, qualifying and the race and the flip side is that it doesn’t start until almost 5 o’clock. But constantly changing dates is the bigger problem and, unless there are a lot of folks like you Ralph and a nice walk-up crowd, this could be The Mile’s swansong, although IndyCar is talking like it’s still got a chance even if Michael Andretti is no longer the promoter.
Q: It is even more disturbing that Mr. Miles’ skirt got ruffled and he lashed out at the most brave competitors in worldwide sports today. He obviously is a total clueless, selfish individual. He shouldn’t be allowed near a bumper car ride at the Indiana Fair let alone in control of what was and still can be a tremendous entity. I surely hope that Mr. Penske and a knowledgeable group of investors can save IndyCar. Also, please send Derrick Walker and his crew of “Race Out of Control” clowns back to Australia. The decisions offered in “the penalties” were embarrassing. The “Non Actions” have tainted a tremendous race and will be devastating. I do agree that Power needed to be fined heavily due to his actions concerning the shove but didn’t something like that help NASCAR back in the day? If the owners have any self-respect. Take control or start an outlaw series because this situation is only deteriorating to the point of No Return.
Skip Ranfone, Summerfield, FL
RM: It’s the driver’s right to speak their mind, just like it’s Miles’ prerogative to disagree with them for speaking against what many perceived as one of the more exciting races in recent history. We’ve already got way too many fines in IndyCar but Race Control should probably be fined for the non-Rahal call when it happened (although I hear the vote was 3-1 in favor of calling it then). Of course controversy is always good when drivers shove each other but we don’t need another open-wheel series – just a savvy leader.
By the way, Walker is Scottish.
Q: Sometimes you just want to grab somebody by the throat and kick some common sense in to them. So Mark Miles says it’s not IndyCar’s job to sell tickets on a local basis at these oval tracks, that it is a stretch for them. You would think after the fiasco (fan attendance) at Fontana, this guy would finally get a clue and change that idiotic way of thinking. I blame Miles more for that embarrassment than then I do the folks in California. Clearly the arrogant Miles wants to push all the blame on the track owners.
First and foremost, if they want these track owners to host IndyCar, they (Miles & Co.) better start with building a working model for success and transfer that to each venue. The certainly have enough “laboratories” (tracks) to test and get it right. Even if that includes cross- and co-promoting (aren’t you confident enough in your product Miles?) if necessary which Miles already ridiculously dismissed. Clearly, this man is way out of his element here. Showing a negligible one-year profit is by no means is any indication of long term success for IndyCar. In this case, it just means Miles & Co. were able to gouge their current fan base and their dwindling track owners out of some bucks to show a little short term black on the balance sheet.
If they were going all the way to Massachusetts for advice, instead of the Boston Consulting Group, they should have gone to the Harvard Business School, famous for incorporating case studies in their world famous curriculum of organizations that are inept and have been poorly run for years, and then devising long term strategies for getting them back on track, literally. IndyCar would be a great case study because they are the epitome of one of those totally inept organizations who is their own worst enemy. They would definitely have saved some money, and no doubt had gotten better advice. This ain’t brain surgery! I still believe the “pieces” are there to be hugely successful, just the obviously wrong people calling the shots. After nearly three decades and running a great series into the ground, will they ever get it right?
RM: Good call on the Harvard Business School but Miles’ comment about selling tickets reminds me of USAC. It always insisted it was a sanctioning body and promoting, marketing and selling its races wasn’t on the menu. And that’s why USAC lost almost everything and is the disaster it is today because it NEVER understood that selling the sport was part and parcel of its success. IndyCar doesn’t need to physically sell tickets but it damn sure better give its dwindling list of promoters some help with a realistic schedule and chance to try and survive.
Q: So, the new IndyCar vision for the future is no back talk and a four-month season ending on July 4th? Are you sure people won’t help kidnap and water board Miles? This guy is killing the sport.
JJ, Studio City, CA
RM: Miles is killing the mechanics and promoters with this schedule, and alienating sponsors but claims it will be at least seven months in 2016. Water boarding might be a little too severe, how about making him ride shotgun from New York to L.A. with Uncle Bobby?
Q: As far as the 2016 schedule and racing past Labor Day, I think Miles is starting to feel the pressure. Hopefully? ICR could easily have at least three races past Labor Day. As you have suggested. Have twin 150s at Michigan (I know that is not going to happen), then go to Road America at least two weeks later and end the season with Fontana. All could be on Saturday and the Fontana race under the lights. Keep the pressure on Miles, Robin! One think I just don’t understand is that all the owners can see that this not working so why can’t they for once for the love and their true passion for Indy car racing come together and get Miles out? Is the rumor true that the sisters want to sell the Speedway after 2016? Never thought I’d say this but I agree with you: Tony George would be better than Miles except we would still have TGBB. I ordered 26 tickets again with a request for six more. How soon should I start asking for credentials again?
Terry Gobble, Urbana, IL
RM: Miles claims he’s been saying all along he never wanted a five-month season and the plan has always been for seven months by starting earlier but that seemed predicated on international events. The last two times Fontana ran in the fall it drew 30,000 so even a day race in October would be fine. Sounds like Road America is going to be in late June and I don’t see MIS coming back. Some of the owners had a hand in running off Randy Bernard but Miles won’t be nearly as easy because he’s in charge of Hulman & Company and the board likes his bottom line. Plus they’re his pals. Have no idea if IMS will ever be sold but I’ll keep trying to get you permission to buy a couple of garage passes for Carb Day. I mean you’re only buying 32 tickets, it’s not like you’re a loyal fan.
Q: Thank you for your frank comments about the state of Indy car and Mark Miles and the Boston Consulting Group. His response to criticism was pitiful, like a spoiled brat and someone with a big ego who thinks he knows it all. Why are these guys so hung up on a short schedule and so afraid of going past Labor Day? NASCAR makes it work. For the viewer at home, it’s called the jump or last button on the remote. So don’t be stupid enough to pick a venue that is in an area where there is a football game being played that weekend. If you are a dedicated race fan, football season isn’t going to suddenly stop you from watching or going to see a race.
The Fontana race was incredible to watch. I can understand different drivers having different feelings about that type of racing. Ed Carpenter’s comments said in all though in my opinion. How is that Fontana can only get a few thousand people and Sonoma can get a 100,000 the same weekend to watch a bunch of tin tops trying to drive a road course with half the group not knowing how to heel and toe? Miles is thinking about going back to Road America next year – well, duh. One of the most awesome tracks in the US and they have the second tier series of NASCAR running there and not IndyCar, but they go to NOLA (ABOVE)? Does Miles and his group ever get out their bubble to see these places?
What about Watkins Glen? They have made substantial upgrades to the facility and are repaving the track starting later this summer. What a perfect time to start going back next year. How can a track like that, given its history with Indy car and Formula 1 not be on the schedule? The sports car racing side of things has gotten its act together after a couple of tough years and it putting on awesome shows at tracks all over the country. What is wrong with IndyCar? I know, it is a rhetorical question. My opinion, start the season in beginning of March and run through the end of September or even mid October. It will give the sport more continuity, is better for the drivers and certainly helps the teams from an employment standpoint. What can we do as fans to get through to these guys? Can we inundate them with emails and letters as to what we as enthusiasts and fans are looking for? Petition them?
David Trostle, Maryland
RM: Miles proudly pointed to better TV numbers last year because of the shortened season but when you look at the poor 2013 ratings and see the net result of 2014, we’re not talking about a large number of people. And this year we’ve already seen one good race at Toronto draw one of the lowest ratings ever so the NFL argument is weak in my mind. It’s a helluva lot more important to please and keep sponsors, promoters and good mechanics than kid yourself into thinking Labor Day is some kind of magic line of demarcation. As far as emails and petitions, I wouldn’t waste your time.
Q: What are we to do with Mr. Miles? It’s clear that he doesn’t listen to the drivers, teams, sponsors, tracks, or fans but only to the BCG. Now he is making veiled threats about speaking out about the dysfunction going on throughout the series. Is his only function for Hulman and Co. to make at least one dollar of profit? If it is, he sure seems to be doing everything possible to piss off the “stakeholders” while keeping the board “happy.” Also, for the schedule next year I’m excited that we may still be able to end it before Labor Day. Mr. Miles deserves credit here because I’ll never have to worry about missing a second of IndyCar action while I’m watching F1, PWC, TUSC, NHRA, celebrating my son’s first birthday during the second weekend in September, or attending any Octoberfest parties.
Bill M. (ex-Hoosier now in Homer Glen, IL!)
RM: I was going suggest putting him in Race Control since he never raced either but I don’t think there’s any more room. I do think his message last week was aimed at the drivers that spoke out about pack racing but I never got a copy of the script. If Mark’s job is to improve the Hulman & Company bottom line and he does it with concerts, special events, etc. that’s fine. Just bring in somebody else to run the racing side of the business.
Q: Why does IndyCar operate in a constant state of denial? Why does IndyCar continue to ignore the past where it has had success yet try to celebrate and leverage traditions it doesn’t seem to have any understanding of? Why are the fans, team owners and long standing members of the IndyCar press not intelligent enough or experienced enough to be listened to? Where are you trying to go IndyCar? Why did Randy Bernard get the boot? You’ve got one foot in the ground and you’re still trying to throw your weight around? How can the team owners whose teams depended on the health of this sport not understand that their competitive natures are misplaced when aimed at the operation of the sport itself (Bernard)?
Why can’t anyone either fielding a car or running IndyCar understand that they need to agree on something? When is the “on to the next” mentality going to stop? You’re using up every track, sponsor, fan, supplier resource you can and the well is drying up! I am a fan that stayed through thick and thin. PPG IndyCar world series, CART, IRL, Champ Car, IndyCar, FedEx, Northern Lights, IZOD, Verizon……..Wake up IndyCar! New leadership and a new mentality is in order! A bleeding heart IndyCar loyalist on the fence.
Chris, Los Angeles
RM: I realize there is an inherent danger in listening to owners about certain subjects since they all have agendas but when they all agree your schedule is killing them, then you better listen. I can’t answer most of your questions but the revolving door of lame leaders will eventually be the death knell of IndyCar.
Q: I want to give you a huge thumbs up on what you have said and how you voiced your opinion about the Fontana race. Personally, I’m not a Will Power fan, but I know he’s one hell of a racecar driver, and has more talent in his left pinky then I will ever have. With that being cleared up and stated, I think what IndyCar did was total *******! I get that he doesn’t have to race a car, and that drivers don’t have to strap into the car; however when a union and group of drivers voice an opinion, notice should be taken.
IndyCar is in a total tailspin, and I don’t think you can even find any more dyed-in-the-wool fans anymore. I get that we can’t get back to the CART glory days, which were a magical time. But Mark Miles is playing with fire and running around it with a fuel can. I hope the teams band together, commit, and pull out; that will be the only way the higher ups get the message and take a true look at how they are promoting races, setting the schedule, and running races. IndyCar would also benefit from people running the series that are actually racers or have been, and not just looking at the bottom line and numbers. If the product quality of IndyCar goes up, then attendance, and viewership should follow.
RM: The cooler, overcast weather played into Fontana’s extra close quarters racing and nobody saw that coming. But it wasn’t like all the drivers were concerned – before or after the race – about pack racing. IndyCar polled the ranks and it wasn’t even a majority so I don’t see why or how the officials would have changed anything. And, yes, IndyCar is definitely on the ropes in many ways as you stated, but the MAVTV 500 was a roaring success in terms of cable TV ratings and national exposure. Sure, it was a scary, exciting product that day but they also showcased their bravado and reflexes with 135 consecutive laps of green flag racing. The real problem was the time and date of the race and the resulting abysmal turnout.
Q: “But I’m not sure how much steam the owners could have because I’m not sure it’s possible to get them all to agree on anything.” – Quoting you from the last mailbag. Do they (owners) have any choice but to rise up (once again) as a group and steer their own ship? Won’t they (and their sponsors) be forced into making a change in leadership? Surely they can agree on one thing, that the way it is presently being run is not working, and continuing as it is could very well be the death knell of this series. One of the most crucial parts of leadership has been lost – trust. You don’t easily regain that component. As a long-time fan, I’m not feeling too confident right now about IndyCar surviving this horrendous storm.
Michael Baley, Mount Joy, PA
RM: You would think that it only takes The Big 3 to sit down with Miles and threaten to pull 11 or 12 cars if certain schedule demands aren’t meant. I know Chip and Michael aren’t happy but I never hear anything from The Captain. And it doesn’t have to be a mutiny; just the universal unhappiness and concern from sponsors and tracks should be more than enough to convince Miles his plan is the wrong direction.
Q: As an IndyCar Nation Champion member and someone who invests in race tickets and champion membership, I want to do my part to keep the series sustainable. We should create our own ICONIC committee, with representatives ranging from former racers, Champion fan club members, non-affiliated series advocates and marketing gurus (and you, of course). Maybe those of us who care the most about the series can bring forward an idea or two that might be affordable and, who knows, effective. Like Gene Simmons’ effort… but the exact opposite.
Alison, Los Angeles
RM: I think IndyCar would be well served to listen to its fans about dates, tracks and times but when leadership doesn’t even listen to its teams, not sure there’s much chance of a committee.
Q: I have written to you on several occasions regarding several different topics, and after watching the GREAT RACE that went on at Auto Club Speedway (in person because I was one of the few that was in attendance), I see that there are issues that are not often discussed. It seems everybody has the issue with the schedule ending before the football season, but I truly do not think that is a problem. The issues with the schedule are as follows: 1) The schedule has not began in several years before the last weekend in March, which means NASCAR is in full throttle already, and Formula 1 has started up. IndyCar needs to begin their season the week after the Super Bowl with a commercial during the Super Bowl that shows clips from this weekend’s Fontana race.
I know Super Bowl ads are extremely expensive but it might be worth it in the long run. 2.) Choose quality over quantity. If the duration of the season is only going to be six months, IndyCar cannot afford to have boring races. St. Petersburg is a boring race every year. New Orleans was a fiasco in its first and only year on the schedule so far. Sonoma is a boring race every year and it is the finale? Mid Ohio is not usually an entertaining race. Pocono has not really had that great of racing. Milwaukee is usually a 250-lap parade and Texas has become my official naptime. So my point with quality over quantity is it will be better for IndyCar to have 10 entertaining races a year rather than 16-20 races a year in which half of them are boring parades? 3) Maybe Ed Carpenter should take over for Mark Miles? Carpenter put it perfectly. If the racing is too scary then find a different career. I already see the writing on the wall. It will not be the fact that IndyCar ends their season before football season that kills the series. It will be all of the whining “racers” that complain that kills the series.
RM: There’s a happy medium in your suggestion. Yes, quality should be paramount but in terms of the venue and the racing, that can be very tricky. St. Pete doesn’t have a lot of seats but it’s usually close to being full and looks good on TV, even though the races aren’t always riveting. Iowa use to be packed but it looks about half full lately (it always rains on race day) despite great racing. Sonoma draws a fraction of what NASCAR does there yet it’s the finale because IndyCar wanted to have the victory banquet in San Francisco. The truth is other than Long Beach, Barber, Mid-Ohio, St. Pete and the Indy 500, the rest of the races either lack fans, a big-time atmosphere or good racing (or all three). The USAC Championship Trail only had 10 races in 1972 (at seven tracks) but sponsors weren’t as important back then and today they seem to favor 16-20 races spread out over at least eight months. Not that IndyCar cares, mind you.
Q: “I don’t think Miles would ask to have me fired (maybe next year) but there’s nothing I can do about it if he does.”
Having lived in Indy for 30+ years, you ticking off IMS and getting fired is almost a tradition. Sorta like fireworks on the 4th of July.
Kurt, Carmel, IN
RM: What’s the expression, Kurt? I was looking for a job when I got this one? I lost my radio, television and newspaper gigs back in the late ’90s for speaking out against Tony George but I’ve been fortunate since. ESPN gave me a TV and writing job from 2001-2003 before RPM 2Night shut down so I left and went to SPEED for 11 years. After FOX closed down WIND TUNNEL and Speed Report, RACER was kind enough to give me a home and a free speech forum. NBCSN felt sorry for the elderly and gave me work in 2011. Whatever happens, no complaints, I’ve had the best jobs you can ask for as a college dropout and half-assed midget racer.
Q: Today is Sunday (7-5-15) and I just finished reading a full-page article in the Cleveland Plain Dealer (first section, not sports) about the Cleveland Indy car race (ABOVE, Bourdais in 2003’s evening race) possibly coming back (you were quoted). Yes, a full page! (NASCAR doesn’t even get that.) It said not 2016, better chance 2017 because of the Republican National Convention. IndyCar needs this kind of publicity and this race, while Cleveland needs this race. It says they need to find the funding after the RNC. God, I hope this happens!
Lenny M. Fairview Pk.,OH
RM: I know, my pal Elton Alexander wrote it and I read it online. Let’s put it this way, I’m not going to write everything I know about Cleveland just yet, but it had a real chance to come back in 2016 before it got torpedoed. I think it’s 50-50 at best to ever return and it’s all contingent on a big title sponsor.
Q: I just read the article about Mr. Miles discussing the current and upcoming racing seasons. Once again PIR (Phoenix) was brought up and once again I have gotten my hopes up. As a resident out here I would buy my tickets in a heartbeat if the series was returning to the Valley of the Sun. Before I lived in AZ I used to travel here from the East Coast to attend the open wheel race in the early spring. I really don’t think there is a conflict with the NASCAR race because I do believe there is a different fan base between these two forms of racing. There currently are two Cup races here and they both seem to be well attended, especially the fall race which is usually a sellout. While I do not attend either of those events because they do not interest me I would be on hand for an IndyCar race if the series should decide to return here. Maybe my views are in the minority but I would hope there are enough open wheel fans that would support a race out here if it got back on the schedule. What do you think Robin?
Paul in AZ
RM: I think PIR was a bastion of Indy car racing for almost 40 years but got waylaid by The Split and then NASCAR’s popularity (which of course go hand-in-hand). It went from 64,000 in 1995 to 6,400 in 1998 and I just don’t see it ever returning to an open wheel cornerstone. Could it draw 25,000 with the right promotion and a title sponsor? Possibly. But ISC has two winners with its Cup dates so not sure PIR has much interest.
Q: In recent days the subject of a return of IndyCar to Phoenix has been raised yet again. I personally don’t see where ISC is that willing to take a flyer on this, but think it should be tried at least once. How would the cars race there and would anyone show up to watch are two questions that need to be answered. The scheduling of the race is always going to be the issue and it would likely have to be the season opener. In 2016, the Super Bowl (and presumably the Phoenix Open) is Feb 7. Based on 2015, the NASCAR race in Phoenix is probably going to be March 13, plus or minus a week. These are two weekends to be avoided. So, to give PIR reasonable separation from the NASCAR date, Feb. 14 is probably the latest the race could happen prior. To schedule after, you are looking at mid-to-late April. This can work, but it can also be warm by then.
If IndyCar returns to Phoenix, the conditions (weather) need to be as ideal as possible. To go way out on the edge, why not start the season on the Sunday before the Super Bowl, Jan. 31? Thinking needs to be outside the box to make this happen and I believe it needs to be tried at least once to put the issue to rest. Promote it as a return to a historically racy track by the cars that will run in the 100th Indy 500. I don’t have high hopes that it will happen, but I can dream and I would be there.
Rick Navratil, Phoenix, AZ
RM: Phoenix and Fontana share the same problem regarding IndyCar. They both have successful Cup races in the spring and that’s where they spend their energy and advertising budget. They don’t want or need any other events to conflict. The only prayer for IndyCar at PIR might be mid-to-late January to open the season but not sure about the weather then. April is already booked.
Q: I was one of the 3,000-5,000 people in the grandstand at Auto Club Speedway this past weekend and I must complain that I didn’t get much use out of the seat that we paid $80 for. This was quite simply the best racing I have ever seen. I know that some of the veteran drivers didn’t like the style of racing they put on especially for only 5,000 spectators but if you keep running races like that they just might get to 50,000-60,000 crowds at ovals and get more oval tracks to buy in.
I became an IndyCar fan around 2005 when it was almost exclusively an oval schedule and pack racing was a common occurrence so I have to say that ovals are my favorite, always have been, always will be. This race should have been the finale, it NEEDED to be the finale. It makes all kinds of sense to have the season end with 500 miles under the lights on a Saturday night with double points for all the marbles. Having the season end in Sonoma is a joke. All respect to Sonoma as a racetrack…it’s a great racetrack and a great event BUT a follow-Will-Power parade hoping for somebody to run over him or a serious pit gaffe to keep him from winning is not a suitable finale. And as big of an IndyCar fan as I am, I might not care enough to watch it.
Brett Michael Musick, Denver, CO
RM: You represent the overwhelming majority of fans I’ve spoken to or have received emails from and the cable TV number seemed to indicate the same trend. A day or night race in September or October at Fontana to end the season is hopefully in the works.
Q: I’m not the sharpest spoon in the drawer but what I am is a 30-year-old, white-collar worker with two young children who is passionate about cars and racing. Basically, I’m the demographic IndyCar supposedly wants the most but I have a hard time investing in what Mark Miles seems to want for a schedule. After watching your video where you called out Miles over what was going to happen to Fontana next year, I got to thinking about the kind of schedule I’d put together. Although we all have a dream schedule we’d like to see full of awesome races, I tried to keep it as realistic as possible, using races from this year or ones being talked about. I even used some of the dates already proposed for next year. The only change I made was making sure Boston DID NOT finish the season.
The schedule: March 13, St. Petersburg; March 20, Birmingham?; April 3, Texas; April 17, Long Beach; May 14, Indy GP; May 29, Indy 500; June 4-5, Detroit; June 19, Road America; June 26, Milwaukee; July 10, Toronto; July 17, Watkins Glen or ?NOLA or some road course; July 24, Pocono; Aug 7, Cleveland or Calgary or some street course?; Aug 14, Mid Ohio; Aug 21, Iowa; Sep 5, Boston; Sept. 18, Sonoma; Sept. 24, Fontana.
I’m sure this isn’t perfect but that’s a seven-month season with no international races. Surely achieving something akin to this can’t be THAT difficult. It’s a mix of 6 ovals, 6 roads and 6 streets. Get a good sponsor for every race, promote the hell out of each one and repeat for three years. It won’t fix all problems by a long shot but it should create some stability which IndyCar has lacked for 20 years. The racing is so good I just want someone else to watch it.
RM: The Glen and Cleveland would be high on my list too; I just don’t see it. Texas won’t run that early because of its NASCAR race, so I’d go to Austin.
[ABOVE: Rick Mears at Watkins Glen in 1979, when he finished runner-up, as he would again the following year. He finally conquered the Glen in ’81).
Q: Pretty well everything has been said about Fontana and I have to agree that it was one of the most exciting races of any kind that I have watched, and extremely dangerous. I was surprised that Ed Carpenter made the comment that he did. Will Power, JPM and Tony Kanaan have accomplished more than Carpenter can ever dream about. Their comments made a lot of sense. They also raced as hard as anyone, Carpenter included. And none of them crashed into their teammates. I noticed that Carpenter tweeted his comments. I doubt that he would have made those comments in a driver meeting or in a television interview.
Dave Nicholls, Whitby, Ontario
RM: Like I wrote last week, I’ve got no problem with the guys hanging their asses out to critique their racing – pro or con. T.K. said it was nerve wracking and crazy but no doubt a great show for the fans and that nobody held a gun to his head to do it so that summed it up for me. But Ed has no problem expressing himself in a driver’s meeting or on television.
Q: Don’t let Montoya, Tim Cindric, Michael Andretti or Will Power influence the future of the sport. No one wants anyone hurt. SAFETY is greater than ever and improvements are always being made. If you don’t like it, go to NASCAR! IndyCar needs more races like Fontana, check the ratings. Please use your head, IndyCar, listen to the people who pay to get in the tracks. As a 50-year fan and after the affects of the split, IndyCar is at a major crossroads. Don’t let the racing become single file with only a couple lead changes. For champs like Power to broadcast negative comments, don’t you think the real fans appreciate your hard driving and what you have on the line? Damn straight they do. Look at your grandstands, guys – nothing but air. Don’t ever EVER think the racer in that car is not appreciated. Wake up!
RM: That seems to be the dichotomy: a race many people loved, NASCAR drivers raved about and it’s still being discussed two weeks later while some of the best, bravest drivers saying it was lunacy and shouldn’t have happened. But JPM and Will’s actions spoke louder than their words – they led more laps than anyone and mixed it up all day at the front.
Q: I was just reading the transcript of the teleconference with Mark Miles. It seems like he is talking the talk in terms of schedule length and the race this past weekend. Ratings were up 83%! While a load more than nothing is still not much, it is proof of just what IndyCar needs. I’m not sure what type of package to run at Pocono, but they need to be able to pass and have that WOW! Factor of straightline speed. The same goes for Iowa. At this point, things are good in terms of competition. To anyone who has been crying about the “pack racing”, go back and re watch some of those IRL races… Ugh. That was pack racing. Fontana was equal parts show, race, and anatomy waving contest. Hopefully they don’t totally screw the pooch on the schedule, race control, and cars, going forward! Oh well, a guy can dream right!
Chris, Langhorne, PA
P.S. To those of you who don’t know the significance of my hometown, look it up. That was the definition of dangerous!
RM: The TV number was up because the race was wildly entertaining and it didn’t start at 9:15 p.m. on the east coast like in 2014. I don’t think Pocono will resemble Fontana, regardless of what package is chosen, and is likely going to be more strung out while Iowa is usually fast and furious in any configuration. But I agree Fontana didn’t resemble those old IRL pack races.
Q: I agree more with Dave Malsher than with you. It was pack racing. To me the racing seemed very Hanford-device like. The number of overtakes doesn’t correlate with the quality of racing. Uncle Bobby is right: The series needs more differentiation between. It needs to be more of a constructors’ series (for both cars and engines). It’s not good that 20 drivers can win each week. Do you really want Nigel Mansell racing with Dennis Vitolo? To me, ovals stink because the cream can’t rise to the top. It’s all slingshot crap, and that includes Indy. Mears trying to catch Johncock was high drama, and there was no passing. Nothing was better on an oval than Fittipaldi and Unser at Indy in 1989. Two guys ran away from the pack without any riffraff to interfere. If there would have been 10 other cars in the scrum, it would have been a mess.
S.P. Brown, Grand Junction, CO
RM: Well, first off David wrote a commentary and the story I wrote was giving quotes from drivers on both sides of the argument before summarizing that racing is dangerous and that’s the attraction. To suggest the cream can’t rise to the top on an oval is ludicrous. A 500-mile race certainly brings more drivers into play but there were no pretenders at the front at Fontana or Indianapolis.
Q: I want to preface this email by saying that I do not believe there is one guy in IndyCar – or any other form of racing – that should be considered a coward because they thought the racing was dangerous. HOWEVER, the one and only thing wrong with the Fontana race was that several drivers admitted that they didn’t think the race was safe BEFORE the race started, but went out anyway. By going ahead with the race, those drivers are to blame for whatever happens next. Not the crew, not the league, not the fans, not the sport.
Power said that “someone’s got to take responsibility for how this day has panned out.” Why is it not the driver that takes that responsibility? No one forces them to be the car. The courage of the driver is not to push himself or the car past the limit. Courage comes at seeing where the limit is and having the common sense to say I’m not crossing that line, knowing that that decision could quite possibly mean your career is over. If you believe, as a driver, that the risk officially outweighs whatever the reward will be, you have the RESPONSIBILITY to say “no.”
You know who had courage? Mike Conway when he went to A.J. Foyt and said (at Fontana, by the way) that he didn’t feel comfortable racing on ovals anymore [ABOVE] and wanted out. He knew that his IndyCar career was over at that instant, but did it because he knew, for him, it was the right thing to do. Speaking of Foyt, he said, “I enjoyed this type of racing when I was racing.” This type of racing isn’t new, and drivers who know anything about the sport should understand that before they make their first trip onto the track. Just because you can handle the first time out, or the first season out, or the first decade out, doesn’t mean you’ll be able to handle it every single time you go out.
To borrow a line from “Moneyball”: “We’re all told at some point in time that we can no longer play the children’s game, we just don’t…we don’t know when that’s gonna be. Some of us are told at 18, some of us are told at 40, but we’re all told.” A DRIVER needs to know when that point is and say enough is enough. After Fontana, what I’m seeing from Will Power, TK, and JPM (and others) are guys that, while GOOD enough to be in the car, don’t have their head in the game enough to be safe at it anymore. The minute you start second-guessing yourself and others at 220 mph is the minute it’s time to get off the track. If you don’t think it’s safe, you go to your boss and say you’re done. These guys are smart enough to know that but are too afraid to do it. THAT is why I think these guys come off as cowards after Fontana.
Mat, Peoria, IL
RM: As I said in a previous email, their actions spoke louder than their words because Willy P. and JPM raced as hard and wild as anyone at times and I’ll always wonder if Will would have said the same things had he won. Of course they’re not cowards and Montoya wisely settled for fourth at the end instead of going for it because he was thinking points.
Q: I watched the Fontana race and was very disappointed in the pack racing. Judging from the latest Mailbag, I am in a minority. That’s OK, different people like different stuff. In the end, it is totally irrelevant. From what I can see, IndyCar is dead. Only 3,000 spectators? There is no spin/opinion that can make that right. I was at the first CART race at Fontana, the house was packed. What is the difference? Real cars (my opinion). Real racing (my opinion). Driving spec cars with the throttle planted does not draw crowds and is NOT racing (my old fart opinion).
All of the op-eds, consulting groups, aero tweaks, blogger rants, etc. will not rescue IndyCar. I believe something radical needs to happen. Actually, something radical HAS happened – Indy Car races to empty houses and the reaction is the shuffle the deck chairs. THAT is radical. I would suggest hard tires, way less downforce, big HP, and claiming rules on (at least) engines to enforce cost limits. Too radical? I don’t think so. I just wonder who will rescue our favorite sport?
RM: I never saw a “pack race” with four or five grooves and it drew our largest NBCSN audience (509,000) in three years so somebody liked it. But let’s address Fontana. When RP opened it in 1997, it had roughly 60,000 seats and Marlboro, Toyota and Honda helped fill roughly a third of them with free tickets. The September and October races in 2012 and 2013 drew an estimated 30,000 so I’m not sure we’ve lost that many fans. But we do need a Superman.
Q: Hearing drivers complain about that race and ripping on their own sport was a disgrace; especially while there are so many valid complaints they could bring up (i.e. Miles, race control, scheduling, apathy towards fans). Tell Uncle Bobby to back off. He never drove 215mph-plus with cars all around running four different grooves, inches apart. If he seriously thinks that was easy and talent was not needed (just point and go), then he needs his head examined. Obviously, I saw a different race. When tires went away guys were backing off to get through the corners, then re-applying the throttle carefully. You know what, if he and all the other old timers were young again and raced Saturday they would have gotten out of the car when it was over and said ‘That was hard, dangerous, but damn fun!’
Before he died, Chris Economaki said the worst thing that ever happened to motorsports was the unwillingness to embrace danger; its this that created interest and drew fans back in the day. Nowadays it’s downplayed so much we’ve lost that edge. Safety is always first priority now, and it should be. But just like Tony Stewart said after Wheldon died, racing is dangerous. We’ve advanced so far in keeping drivers, pit crew, and fans safe; just shut up and drive. Or, as Ed said, get out of the car. That was the most thrilling race I’ve ever seen. Listen to the reaction we’ve heard. Just like you put it on Sunday night, if you call yourself a race fan, watched that race and didn’t like it or had a problem with it, then hit the road and don’t come back because you are a complete idiot. This is how fans are created!
RM: I guess my response is that if all the drivers had been bitching afterwards, maybe there was a problem. But more than half seemed to think it was controlled madness and I know the older fans didn’t like hearing complaints because they revered guys who never mentioned safety. I wrote that story today about Kunzman, Pancho and Merle Bettenhausen just to illustrate the different mindset from 40-50 years ago. They weren’t necessarily any braver or less aware of the dangers than today’s drivers, they just never made an issue of it. Ryan Briscoe took the scariest ride of anybody but climbed out, brushed himself off and said it was a helluva race. He didn’t sound crazy or anti-safety, he just sounded like a racer.
Q: Fontana was a breathtaking race to watch on TV. The fact the stands were empty was an extraordinary indictment of IndyCar management. Can’t imagine the sponsors were too impressed, never mind the track owners. However, the interviews at the end were telling. I can hardly imagine what it was like to be out there five abreast at 200 mph. The geezers who have been around the block a bit were unhappy and the kids were unconcerned because, of course, it could never happen to them. Kudos to Will, TK & JPM for speaking out – they raced hard all day, they have nothing to prove in the gonad department other than they would like to get back to their families of an evening.
Time was we used to lose three or four drivers a year and that was deemed acceptable. But times change. It’s no longer deemed acceptable to see the boys in the morgue, that’s why so much has been spent on improving car and track safety. Twenty years ago we would certainly have lost a couple on Saturday. How did we end up with pack racing when there has been much discussion and activity in IndyCar to stop it? Do we really want to wait until we lose a TK or JPM or one of the kids before the problem is taken seriously – isn’t it enough that we lost Dan!
Like the next man I want to see the boys have at it and race hard, balance the car on the throttle, dab just enough brake etc, I do not get excited following the funeral arrangements. The sport we love is dangerous; since Jackie Stewart started making noises, much has been done to ameliorate the danger – we will never eliminate. But this was a situation we knew about and ignored. Killing the drivers is not going to be the panacea that puts bums on seats. Let’s not manufacture circumstances where the best publicity we get is when we lose one. There is a better way.
RM: I can remember going to Michigan and then Fontana in the CART days and wondering if we were going to lose a driver or two because of all the wild passing and dicing at crazy speeds. There were lots of big crashes and flips and only one fatality (Greg Moore) in 40-plus years of high-bank, high-risk racing before Wheldon’s accident in 2011. We didn’t lose or even hurt anybody at Fontana and this outrage over the first close encounter racing in years is puzzling to me. Had it been sunny and 96 degrees like predicted, I doubt we would have been having any discussion about “pack racing.” It happened, everyone escaped and I doubt we’ll see it again unless circumstances prevail. I guess if it bothers anyone too much, they should watch soccer.
Q: The lack of a safety crew response after the Dillon crash made me wonder just how much NASCAR actually cares about safety. They brag about their cars, but if you crash in one you’re sometimes on your own to get out and seek medical attention. After seeing Austin was OK, I remembered a race where Dale Jarrett got tired of waiting in his car and had to start walking towards the infield care center. Yes it was a huge wreck and a chaotic scene but anyone should have been able to see the upside down car that needed attention.
My biggest issue isn’t that they weren’t there instantaneously, but that after the dust had settled and they had time to assess the situation they still did no more than drive a truck and ambulance over and sit there, race team members did everything. A professional team with proper training and planning would have known what to do. The real heroes of NASCAR safety today are the dedicated race team members who produce the high quality cars and are willing to do whatever it takes to help out wherever they can.
Mike, Northern CA
RM: The fact NASCAR doesn’t have a full-time, in-house safety team of trained professionals is unconscionable but I can assure you that IndyCar drivers feel a whole hell of a lot safer in their environment.
Q: How ironic given all the talk about pack racing at Fontana, that last night NASCAR dodges another bullet (or perhaps tactical nuke is more appropriate). To me, this looked even worse than the Bobby Allison Talladega crash. If Austin Dillon were in an open cockpit car we have another Dan Weldon event. Fortunately, the Cup car’s safety features worked and more fortunately, so did the fence… barely. Will be interesting to hear you and some other open wheel guys comment on this one.
John Weaver, Camp Hill, PA
RM: I’d say that keeping a 3,500-pound race car traveling 200mph out of the grandstands is a monumental achievement but everyone best be thankful that engine didn’t go sailing into the crowd.
Q: I read through Derrick Walker’s response to IndyCar fans and I’m glad he took the time to answer the fans. I especially like how he mentioned that an equivalency formula could be in the works, similar to sports car racing. I think that is EXACTLY what IndyCar needs performance wise. He brought up the great cost of engine development and he is spot on. Developing engines for IMSA, F1, WRC, IndyCar, NASCAR, etc. etc. is incredibly expensive. Bringing some of those well-developed engines to IndyCar and balancing the power/efficiency to each other would be a great way to get new manufacturers into the series. Renault is having problems in F1? Let ’em run a few motors in IndyCar to help work out the bugs. Renault gets to sell more engines and double their research with little expense. It’s a win-win. It works well in sports cars and I see no reason it can’t work in IndyCar.
Kudos Mr. Walker, this is the kind of thinking IndyCar needs. I’m also glad he points out that the rules of yesteryear don’t work today: modern times need a modern IndyCar. I do have on closing observation though. You want IndyCar’s problem in a nutshell? Google “Juan Montoya wins Indy 500” and “Indy Cars flip.” One gets 400,000 hits. The other gets over a million.
David Zipf, Lexington, KY
RM: Not sure the equivalency formula is a well-oiled machine in sports cars but it’s about the only way Indianapolis will ever get 40 or more entries. And I think it’s human nature – we all like watching spectacular crashes that drivers walk away from.
Q: After reading his “IndyCar 2018” article in RACER, I’m at a loss as to how an old-timer like Derrick Walker can speak about the future yet seemingly have no clue to the present. Some examples: “There are a lot of people who think the best days are behind us and to go backward is the way to go forward. I don’t believe that.” Look at the ratings and fan turnout at races…the best days are behind you. “If we opened up all the rules, I’m not sure that would do the job – I don’t think the old school rules would work.” So stick with the spec car idea and watch the series die a slow death from boredom and lack of innovation. “Add 50-100hp, you could still scare all the drivers. We cannot afford to make the cars too fast for the tracks.” 50 HP? Scared drivers? Too fast? Are you hosting a race series or the Rose parade? “You run into the problems [with] TV schedules. What network can you get? We need to be thinking about eyeballs on TV screens as well as at the venues themselves.” TV is going the way of the dinosaur, in-house produced free streaming is the future where the kids can watch it on their phones and tablets if they can’t afford to go to the track. Honestly Robin, he needs to be checked for the levels of carbon monoxide in his blood, cause his brain isn’t getting much oxygen.
Napalm Nick, Locust Grove, VA
RM: It’s my fault. I took him to breakfast last week and he used way too much syrup on his pancakes. But seriously, he has to put on a happy face for the future even though I think he knows deep down it’s a train wreck.
Q: Am I a bitter CART partisan by being upset that on the IndyCar website the statistics page only has race results for the IRL going back to 1996? So CART, USAC and AAA don’t exist? Stick and ball sports vary in accepting other leagues: MLB and NBA generally do, NHL doesn’t and NFL is in the middle. But it WAS a merger (ABOVE, first post-merger racer at Homestead in ’08) and IndyCar loves to talk about the glorious history going back to 1911 of the 500. Can I also point out something about oval and road course races that surprisingly gets overlooked? A lot of them are too far to travel to. I am going to the Pocono race in August and it’s a three-hour trip one way (assuming no major delays on the NYC bridges). Watkins Glen, New Hampshire, Dover and pretty much anything else are even farther. So the lack of support races doesn’t bother me, traveling so far in the age of 500 TV channels does. Lots of people don’t like street races but I see the logic behind what Bernie Ecclestone preaches: go where the people are (and whatever third world despot will pay for good PR).
Jim Overmeyer, Islip NY
RM: No, you’re right: that is very insulting because all IndyCar really has is its heritage and past heroes. Steve Shunck talked Randy Bernard into letting him put together a gorgeous IndyCar Record Book in 2013 and I think they printed 5,000 and sold them all. I wish it could be an annual tradition because it’s a collector’s item. Ovals tend to be in the middle of nowhere (MIS, the old Texas World Speedway, Newton, Ia.) but you’re a good man for making the drive.
Q: So it seems to me, I read a lot of “IndyCar is killing itself.” I think it comes down to relevancy. Is IndyCar relevant and therefore viable? Not sure most people get how hard it is to pilot any racecar anymore. When I was young and learning about racing it was a far step above the technology of my car. So, the technology was interesting. Now, most road cars are at or above the level of complexity that most racing series cars (especially ladder series cars) are at. Hell, most folks do not work on their own cars and so the connection to that technology is distant at best.
I spent much of this last winter and spring watching (or background listening) to the CART series from 1988 to up to about 2002. That’s a ton of mileage. I watched most of these races the first time around. What hit me this time around was the crowds and often the lack of crowds; they did start going away after a time and by the late 90s there were a lot of empty seats. Was it becoming less relevant back then? People will only be interested in what is relevant to them. Horse and buggy disappeared because it was no longer relevant. To think that IndyCar will last forever or any time much longer seems to me to be short-sighted. Really? IndyCar in 2078? Not sure I can imagine that being relevant.
Randall, Dixon, CA
RM: If IndyCar makes it to 2020 we’ll all be thrilled. As for relevancy, The Split in 1996 was the killer. CART managed to hang tough for three or four years and keep good crowds and big fields with major manufacturer support but Indianapolis suffered without the major stars and teams. Then Penske left and the dam broke and CART was toast. So we had two series that nobody really followed for 12 years before TG put them back together in 2008. As it stands today, just like Dan Gurney’s White Paper of 1978, open wheel racing is the Indy 500 and a bunch of little races nobody knows or cares about.
Q: While the Fontana race was amazing, one issue is eating at me. Once again we saw a start where the cars were not lined up correctly. I know you have written about this a lot, but I just don’t get why IndyCar doesn’t see this and simply wave a yellow and make them run another lap to line up right. Since it seems so obvious, you have any idea why IndyCar doesn’t see it?
John from Naperville, IL
RM: Got no clue except the pole-sitter usually seems to think the start won’t get waved off so he takes off early but single file at Toronto was a joke and so was Indianapolis. The flying start is the most exciting part of the race for many people but it’s been neutered.
Q: First, a bit shocked to read your preference for TG over Miles. We may not agree with all of Miles’ choices, but at least he seems to a vision/direction in mind. TG’s only goal seemed to be control of the sport. Once in control, he seemed to have no interest in moving the sport forward (or, at least no clue how to do so).
Second, with the news of Laguna Seca’s likely affiliation with ISC it occurred to me that this track could serve well as an early season venue to help shift the schedule earlier. So much focus has been on foreign races or very southern locales, but this could be a very nice place to run a race between mid-February and mid-March. The PGA plays a marquee event at Pebble Beach (less than 15 miles away) the second week in February. Sonoma could even stay on the schedule with that amount of separation on the calendar.
Third, any idea if Carlin will be stepping up to the IndyCar series next year (or at least any feedback on how they are enjoying their first year in the IndyCar ladder system)?
Kirby Kinghorn, Indianapolis, IN
RM: I think TG has skin in the game and IndyCar is in his blood so if he got a couple of good lieutenants it might work. I have no idea what Miles’ direction is but I do know IndyCar is in a steep dive. Laguna is a possibility and Carlin indicated it wants to move up sooner than later so 2016 wouldn’t surprise me at all. I think Trevor Carlin is enjoying his Indy Lights competition.
Q: Talk about when Indy Cars raced on banked tracks. Remember when Johncock won Atlanta in the newly designed Wildcat? The high banking eliminated most of the handling problems and they never new how bad the car was until they took it to a flat track. I never thought I would see Dale Coyne Racing win an IndyCar race. It looks like any given Sunday almost everybody has a chance to win. I like that! Was Paul Gentilozzi good for open wheel racing back in the Champ Car Series days? Your writings are so spot on. Did Chris Economaki ask you very much for his ‘From the Editor’s Desk’ columns? I enjoyed reading his scoops on the racing community. Did you have a mutual, professional relationship with him?
Please do not retire.
Tom B, Wesley Chapel, FL
RM: I do recall Gordy winning the 1983 season opener at Atlanta and then struggling with the Wildcat at Indy, prompting him to switch to the March 83C. Strange coincidence – this 1983 Wildcat Mk9b [ABOVE] is for sale here on RACER.com at the moment. Justin Wilson gave DC his initial win in 2009 before adding Texas in 2012, and then Mike Conway in 2013 and Carlos Huertas added to the DCR tally. Paul was good for Gentilozzi. I wrote stories for Speed Sport News from 1970 to ’87 but my relationship with Chris soured after that. His column was a must-read for 50 years and he only used a few scoops from me because he had most of them anyway. No plans to quit.
Q: After watching your video in support of Fontana, I had a suggestion and a plea to the IndyCar fans. What do you think about racetracks being able to sell tickets to fans that cannot attend the race but want to support the track?
I live in Pa. and can’t make the trek to Calif. but I would be more than willing to purchase a special promotion ticket to support the track. This type of ticket would not include entry to the racetrack. Let’s say the ticket cost half price and it helped the tracks as well as the fans since they could support races that they want on the schedule but cannot attend. For that matter, I would love to see IndyCar offer a season pass where fans could support all the races remotely versus in person. I know this is a big change to the business model, but if there are 300,000 diehard fans out there, I have to believe half of them would buy into this type of a program to support all the tracks. I would love to hear your thoughts on this as well as any feedback that Fontana may have. I have my check for Fontana in 2016 written out, just let me know where to send it.
Eric Jordan, Dunmore Pa
RM: I think it’s an intriguing and great idea if there’s a logistical way to pull it off. Let me ask Dave Allen of Auto Club Speedway but I do like your idea of some kind of IndyCar season ticket that you could buy but it would be transferrable. Would you be interested in a job in IndyCar marketing?
Q: Took a few days to let the race sink in before writing. I’m sure you got a lot of knee-jerk responses afterward on both sides of the “pack racing” fence. Bottom line for me after a few days is that what they had there was super exciting. It wasn’t like those IRL races where guys ran side by side lap after lap basically blocking the guys behind and making it difficult to edge in front, instead it was actual racing with a slipstream, a lot like the heyday of NASCAR at Daytona or Talladega when they had no restrictor plates and guys could actually race for the win. I understand that some drivers are upset and I know they’re putting their lives on the line. I don’t want to see anyone hurt or killed. No one does. But dammit, this is auto racing. The spectre of it is always going to be there no matter where you race.
How lucky were they at Toronto when that Lights car got upside down? That was exactly where Krosnoff died but on the opposite side of the track was it not? And what about Dario? His career ended on a parking lot. I think the issue is not one of speed or proximity but rather one of respect and mental attitude. I go to a lot of sprint car races and supermodified races when I can. In both those types of very fast and dangerous open wheel cars (which run weekly… more often than IndyCar…) I just think there’s a much higher level of respect between the drivers. No swerving close to someone else. No blocking. They run hard and there are slide jobs on the dirt but I just feel like everyone takes care of everyone else so much better than the guys in IndyCar. I mean, you said it yourself, Rahal got $30k for the win. Why on earth would you put yourself in some really bad spots on the track for $30k? Run hard, but run smart! Know that guys could get hurt and take care of one another!
Whether we like it or not, IndyCar is essentially a club racing series. It just costs a lot more to race it and you get one shot at big money every year at Indy. It won’t lessen the racing to give an inch once in awhile. You might even end up gaining six to nine spots like some of those guys who ran in the back did at the end thanks to the wrecks. On a related note, I think the fact the cars are really safe now comparative to the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s contributes to the lack of respect we see today. Safety is great! But safety also seems to make drivers more willing to take risk.
Dave Long, Reading, PA
RM: You are spot on. Those old IRL pack races were six to eight rows of cars running in formation, completely unable to get away from each other with lots of interlocking wheels and insanity. I know, I know, there was plenty of insane driving at Fontana but its wider and longer than Las Vegas and there were different grooves all day. It’s amazing that 10 drivers weren’t killed back in the IRL days. Of course the tragedy is that after all the close calls, Dan Wheldon loses his life in in the final race with those cars. You also make a good point in that street racing has been just as dangerous as ovals the past 20 years. But cars and tracks are safer across the board and that’s why you see drivers taking more chances in midgets, sprints and Indy cars. The respect factor isn’t what it was in the ‘50s, ‘60s and ‘70s because the consequences on flipping a midget or sprinter aren’t nearly as harsh.
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