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 email@example.com We cannot guarantee we’ll publish all your questions and answers, but Robin will reply to you. And if you have a question about the technology side of racing, Robin will pass these on to Marshall Pruett and he will also answer here.
Q: I am a big fan of the test format at Sonoma this week (Thursday). Any chance this happens a couple times a year, as it helps both the teams and the younger drivers? Also as good as Graham [Rahal] has been the year, a case could be made that the other Rayhall [Sean] has been just as impressive. Big props for buying him tires if that’s still on.
RM: I’d say as long as it benefits the IndyCar teams, which obviously it does, then it will happen again in 2016. What I like best is that it’s a proper test and lots of laps for the Lights’ kids – not just 10 or 12 laps for show. Waiting on Cooper to give me a friendly discount.
Q: I know it always comes up the week after the race if it’s empty, but since I’m seeing the ads now, I thought I’d chime in. Pocono has been advertising the race on Philly.com. I have also seen digital billboards in both Harrisburg and Reading, PA with an ad for the race. Apparently they were also giving away race tickets on WMMR in Philly, which is akin to radio advertising. I think there’s been some decent promotion this year. Certainly much more than I saw the past two years, but maybe I’ve just been lucky enough to stumble across it this year? It’s nice to see it.
Dave Long, Reading, PA
RM: That’s good news Dave, thanks for the update. There are a ton of open wheel fans in Pennsylvania so maybe this new date will help.
Q: Hey Miller, how are tickets selling at Pocono this year? Any early indications if it looks good? I went the first year and I’d love to go this year but the seats I want are a little higher in price then I want to pay. You want a good seat at Pocono so you can see the whole track so I wish they would drop their prices a little. Has a track ever tried to your knowledge selling like a $10 ticket and hoping they get a full house and end up making their money back on food and drink? I think if I were a struggling track I would try something crazy like that because hell what do you have to lose? A place like Fontana only sold like 4,000 tickets so either way you wouldn’t be out a ton of money. You could still charge more for the best seats but the others pretty much give them away anywhere you can! This also might draw some repeat fans for the next year. I know this is another one of my crazy ideas but wanted to see what you thought about it
RM: I’m told better than last year but we really won’t know until race day. I looked on the Pocono web site and the prices seem reasonable ($65-$75) for grandstands at the 200 level and $40 for a pit pass ($50 for both days) with kids 12 & under half price for any seat. I know they had a great promotion a couple years ago (I think it was $25 or $30 for a reserved seat if you bought it early) and I think Pocono is pretty price-conscious compared to a lot of places.
Q: Long-time follower from way back. Last week a fan from Philly said they probably weren’t coming until Sunday because there was nothing to see on Saturday and you agreed but that’s not true. Please let Denny in Philly know that SVRA will have races all throughout the day Saturday on the infield road course. I’ll be in Group 8 racing in a Orange Datsun 240Z – see schedule here:
http://www.svra.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/Pocono-Provisional-Schedule.pdf Plenty of on-track activities.
RM: Thanks for the SVRA info and it’s always fun to see the vintage Indy cars, but I think Denny was talking more about a support show like Indy Lights or some kind of modified race. And it’s cool you guys are running but most people go to Pocono to see the oval, not the road course and that remains the $1 challenge at Fontana, Milwaukee, Texas, etc. Keeping the paying customers entertained.
Q: With all the talk about IndyCar returning to Phoenix, my question is will the racing there be as good as it was in the past? In my opinion, the tin-top guys screwed that track up. When they changed the dogleg and moved back the wall that separated the oval from the old road course they really changed the nature of the track. They claim the radius of Turns 1 & 2 are the same, which may be true, but the actual racing line has moved out one or two car widths.
Chris, Colorado Springs
RM: Can’t answer that until we see cars on the track but it was a gut shot to see how PIR’s character was changed to accommodate NASCAR. I get it, I just hated to see that banking because it was so challenging for an Indy car. But as good as these Dallaras race, I’m sure it can still be entertaining for IndyCar.
Q: Now that one classic track has been added to the 2016 schedule, what are the chances any others get added? Specifically Phoenix International Raceway! The new cars plus the new banking would put on one hell of a freakin show! Hey IndyCar and Mr. Sperber, please oh please add PIR!
Juan (not Montoya)
RM: As I reported a couple weeks ago, it’s a work in progress as PIR and IndyCar are trying to find a decent date for both but it sounds like it’s moving forward. Funny, a lot of new fans didn’t realize PIR was built for Indy cars in 1964 and was a bastion for the next 31 years.
Q: With the additions and changes to 2016’s calendar, is Barber likely to hold its current spot in the last weekend of April like it has for several years now? Seems like the success and stability of the event would dictate it stays where it is, right?
Bryan White, Asheville, NC
RM: I think it could be April 23-24 next year so technically it’s not the last weekend since April 30 is on a Saturday. But it’s become a good event and it’s earned the right to stay in late April.
Q: We are fans of the Milwaukee Mile and are excited with the news that IndyCar will return to Road America in 2016. We are wondering where is the best spot to watch a race up there? Thanks for keeping us posted on all things Indy Car!
Julie & Tim, Racine Wi
RM: There are so many good vantage points and that’s why it’s fun to walk around but I like Turn 5 or Turn 6 or Canada Corner or the Carousel. Brats and fried potatoes, and rent a golf cart because you’ll want to move around.
Q: It’s about time that Road America came back! Now it’s up to us fans to pack the place! I plan on doing my part. Since IndyCar is saying they will make the 2016 schedule longer, will that open up a conversation to hold more doubleheaders in the future? And when will Toronto get theirs back? By the way, Watkins Glen will be receiving a $12 million complete repaving that should finish up by November.
Rob Peterson, Rochester, NY
RM: Sounds like Toronto wants its doubleheader back and, of course, Detroit but that’s about it. Love to see IndyCar back at The Glen.
Q: Took the family to the Milwaukee Mile IndyFest again this year and had a blast! The best race I’ve seen at The Mile in a while. It was my four-year-old’s second IndyCar race at Milwaukee. My father took me as a kid to this track in the early 1980s, and now I’m carrying on the tradition by bringing my son to the race. Thanks to Andretti Autosport for helping keep the race here at The Milwaukee Mile. Any more news on Milwaukee’s status for 2016? Will Andretti be promoting this event again? How will the upcoming IndyCar race at Road America effect the Milwaukee race status? Looking forward to Road America and hopefully The Milwaukee Mile in 2016.
Kurt Newgord, Racine, WI
RM: Andretti Sports Marketing has shut down so the only way IndyCar returns to Milwaukee is with a new promoter. Don’t think Milwaukee has much affect on Elkhart Lake, one way or the other.
Q: I met you in Milwaukee in 2014 and asked you about that venue’s future. I saw in recent mailbag you said it would be 50/50 for 2016? Since you already noted your position I guess I will ask the question in a different way……was the series happy with the turnout in 2016? Do you believe the growing turnout is there or will it be enough for 2016? Did sponsorship in 2015 improve? Does the addition of Road America help or hurt Milwaukee? I ask because without Milwaukee, us Chicago fans are going five hours to either Road America, Newton, or Indy! Has a downtown Chicago road course ever been discussed with city officials? The Joliet and old Chicago/Cicero tracks always seemed to be well attended? Help us get a track/race! Is Sebastian Bourdais going to be back with KV in 2016 and beyond? Other than Graham Rahal, I’d nominate Seabass as comeback/most improved driver of the year? Agree?
RM: The crowds at Milwaukee were disappointing, to say the least, and Michael Andretti’s group threw in the towel despite having a good sponsor in ABC Supply. Mark Miles says he’s looking for a new promoter to keep it going but easier said than done. I still believe it’s penciled in on the 2016 schedule but the clock is ticking. CART tried to have a street race in Chicago but it got gunned down by politicians. Yes, Seabass is negotiating a new contract with KVSH as we speak but he won last year too so he’s not really a comeback candidate.
Q: We need more ovals in the series. Yes, road racing is a purist’s delight, but wheel-to-wheel duels and dives into the corner at over 200 mph are much more exciting. Both Michigan and Kentucky are midwest venues within driving distance of the home of IndyCar and both give a total unobstructed view all the way around the track. What is the roadblock?
Earl from Illinois
RM: I think as long as IndyCar runs at Belle Isle, there won’t be a race at MIS, although no reason it couldn’t run in the late summer. Kentucky needs to be re-paved and that’s going to happen so it could be a possibility, although attendance really sagged in its final years.
Q: Just got done ordering tickets for Road America. Four days of track action and paddock passes to boot for $100.00. I also did something that I thought I’d never do- emailed Mark Miles and said thank you. I would suggest that anybody that buys the RA tickets also send a thank you. Now waiting for I500 and Milwaukee ticket announcements.
Mike in GB
RM: That’s a damn good price so I’m glad to hear RA boss George Bruggenthies is making the return fan friendly.
Q: So if someone finally figured out that running two races in close proximity in the same state, like Elkhart Lake and Milwaukee, and cross promoting and ticket packaging the two events together, that it might actually be a potentially great idea, then why can’t they do the same with COTA and Texas? Ironically, weren’t the huge crowds early on at TWS for IndyCar because of a “packaged season ticket”? Goes back to the old marketing principle that your best new business prospects (in this case, ticket buyers) come from your current customer base. As I’ve said before, this stuff ain’t brain surgery.
RM: There has been talk of a joint Wisconsin ticket (I think Champ Car did it one year) if Milwaukee sticks around but I imagine that only has a good chance if George Bruggenthies promotes both races. The TWS season ticket was for its two NASCAR races and IndyCar but there’s never going to be any kind of cooperation between COTA and TWS as long as Eddie Gossage is calling the shots. They aren’t allies.
Q: I read most of the comments about the last IndyCar race at Mid-Ohio. I thought the race was interesting and I was pleased that Graham [Rahal] held off challenges to the end. Regarding comments that stated it is a track where passing is very limited if any can be made and they are. You agreed. My question is what would a top-notch track designer suggest how to change the track and provide passing zones?
What is wrong with it as it stands now? It has not been changed in several decades that I have watched races and attend many in the past. The Hungary F1 race this year was held on a track that has a similar criticism of no passing zones, and yet this past F1 race was the most exciting race this season. So, what would a designer of repute do with say three options that have different costs? What would drivers like to see changed? The Indy infield road course was modified a year or so ago. How was that project organized? Could there be lessons learned from that experience if changes were made to Mid-Ohio? How do you create changes that will allow more passing? I think some drivers were allowed to provide comments on the proposal before the construction began.
A track designer had the last word just as the architect and audio acoustics expert argue about designing a music hall, the acoustic engineer should have a big say in the final design. It is music, not a pretty place, that really counts. Money is always a limiter as is confined space, especially at Indy. I am afraid in the case of Mid-Ohio as is the case for so many road courses, there is very little money available to get a return on investment to make even minor change to matter. Still, it is always nice to dream.
Thomas Grimes, Waco, TX
RM: Like Road America, Laguna Seca, Sonoma and Watkins Glen, all these road courses were designed and built 60 years ago for sports cars and small formula cars – not for 200 mph Indy cars with downforce. Despite their narrowness, Elkhart Lake and The Glen have long enough straightaways for passing zones but not Mid-Ohio. It needs the keyhole to be lengthened and widened because the only passing possible is usually on restarts going into Turn 4.
Q: I enjoyed your article on Graham Rahal and of course it was great for him to win at his home track. To me, the question is “why did it take so long for Graham to break through?” (And you could ask the same question about Newgarden). It sounds like part of it is having the right people around the driver, and allowing the team to grow together over more than one season. I think it’s also a lack of seat time. It used to be these guys banged around tracks playing with setups and building up confidence away from the heat of a race weekend. Its sad if a young guy gets all the way to IndyCar and then washes out after one year because his (too short) time is up. Speaking of which, my fingers are crossed that Conor Daly, ABOVE, gets a full season (and not in that damn two-seater) in 2016. How ’bout if JNew moves to Ganassi, and Conor takes his seat?
Lee Robie, Cincinnati
RM: Graham more than held his own as a teenager in Champ Car as Bourdais’ teammate, then won his initial IndyCar start at St. Pete in 2008 and was very impressive in 2009 with Newman/Haas. But, between then and his next win at Fontana, he went through a host of teams and engineers and seemed to lose his confidence. Eddie Jones, Martin Pare and Mike Talbot have been good medicine for Rahal and racing is all about confidence in your team and yourself. But JoNew won in his 55th start and should have won at Mid-Ohio in 2014 so it didn’t take him long at all. Youngsters don’t get much of an opportunity anymore, certainly there’s no patience in bringing them up like the old days, and there’s also no testing to speak of so it’s a tough grind. If JoNew going to Ganassi would open up a seat for Daly, I’d be all for it but not sure that would be the case.
Q: I for one would love to see Josef remain at CFH, and realize the accomplishments he and the team have made since day one to be considered a threat at any race venue, go foward and build it even better. And (fingers crossed here) – expand to a third car for Ed’s oval campaign to keep a constant team-mate throughout the season. I don’t have a clue of how life is at the CFH shop. Can’t see it being anything other than a family atmosphere. Is it that way at Chip’s shop? What do you think the difference in money would be if he went to Ganassi? If Josef has trouble deciding his future, maybe he should speak to RHR about staying loyal to the team that gave him a shot, even though others were offering.
DZ, Lowell, IN
RM: I’ve said recently I don’t think Josef wants to leave CFH because it’s his home, he’s appreciative of the opportunity and together with Jeremy Milless they’ve become a threat everywhere. Not sure how cozy the merger is, but FH is definitely family to JoNew. And I’m not saying he’s possessed by the almighty dollar either but he deserves a nice raise and if Wink Hartman can give him one, he probably stays. But, if Ganassi is calling, it’s also hard to say no.
Q: With the Silly Season fully underway, we not only have the annual questions of who stays and who goes, but there are the drivers currently not in the series that would like to be. Thursday’s test session at Sonoma featuring the ladder series drivers has only exacerbated that, with a handful of them also saying they’d like to put together a package for 2016. Given the fact that there are always more drivers looking than seats available, what’s your best guesses at not only the current driver lineup, but also “new” drivers that have a better-than-average shot at making it to the series next year? While Carlin has said it would like to move up – which opens up at least one or two new seats – are there any other scenarios where the series grows in terms of teams (new teams, old teams coming back, or current teams adding cars)?
Scott, Bargersville IN
RM: Ed Jones of Carlin says he’s ready but I think he and the team need another year of American seasoning. Sean Rayhall, Spencer Pigot and point leader Jack Harvey are all appear to have the skills but they’ll likely need sponsors to move up and all three probably need another year in Lights. Bobby Rahal wants to expand to two cars if he can find funding but there isn’t much movement in the way of new teams or open seats. I thought A.J. might be in the market for one new driver but it sounds like Sato and Union Jack are staying in 2016.
Q: Do you think that Chip’s Ford GT program might snipe some current IndyCar drivers into early retirement? Perhaps opening up a seat for a young American on the IndyCar team? If you had a two-car IndyCar team and the following Indy Lights/Atlantic drivers to choose from whom would you choose? Jay Howard, Alex Lloyd, Raphael Matos, J.R. Hildebrand, Jean-Karl Vernay, Conor Daly, Jonathan Bomarito, Stefan Wilson, Jonathan Summerton, John Edwards or Dane Cameron?
Paul Hirsch, Erie, Pa.
RM: I don’t think so. T.K. wants to run the 100th Indy 500 and then maybe think about sports cars in 2017 but Dixie has another 7-10 years. I’d hire Daly straightaway and then I’d have a shootout for the other seat – one day at Mid-Ohio and one day at Milwaukee.
Q: I have to apologize to you – I told you at the end of last season to stop carrying the Graham Rahal flag. I’m glad I was wrong, he has really matured and he showed it this season and this weekend at Mid-Ohio. I hope either Rahal or Dixon can win the championship, because I am not a Montoya fan. What a perfect weekend! Rahal wins at his hometown race, the weather was excellent, and I had a chance to ride in the IndyCar two-seater with Sarah Fisher! What a rush – I can now die a happy man.
Mark Suska, Lexington, OH
RM: No apology needed, Graham hadn’t given people much to cheer about the past two years but you can’t be as quick and mature as he was as a teenager and forget how to drive. He’s in a good environment and driving with confidence and it shows.
Q: I am wondering what is going on with Will Power this year. He seems to be qualifying fairly well as he does have five poles, but he hasn’t been able to convert any of those into wins besides Indy GP. His start at the Mid-Ohio 200 wasn’t entirely his fault, but in his position he should be hammer down and go for the gusto. Seems like he is just not catching any breaks either with the yellow that came out, but I think he should have been going off strategy from JPM as he is chasing him in the championship. He also has been taken out of a few races this year (Milwaukee, Detroit). I hope he picks it up and gets two in a row and repeats as a champion but that is going to be a huge challenge. I am also going to be attending my first Indy 500 next year and want to get some info from you as you probably know best on what to do and where to stay. I would like to know where is the top three places to sit are and what are some nice places to stay in Indy and must-see things when in town for four days.
Jeff Warrilow, Alberta, Canada
RM: I think the fact Will only has one victory shows how hard it is to win in IndyCar right now but he certainly hasn’t lost any speed. Is he pressing a little because of JPM? Possibly but that’s natural among team-mates. You want to sit as high as you can in one of the four corners (north, south, east, west Vista and the Vista Deck is the best but likely sold out already). If you can’t get anything high in those sections, try the north and south short chutes. Downtown has the Embassy Suites, Westin, Conrad and Hyatt all within walking distance of downtown mall and 15 minutes from the track. You need to see the IMS museum, take a ride around the track in the tour bus, go to the memorabilia show on Saturday and catch the Little 500 at Anderson on the night before the race. Get a good steak at Mo’s, Italian food at Iaria’s, fish at the Oceanaire, and Mexican at LaMargarita in Fountain Square. The Conrad also has the Capitol Grille and it’s excellent (get the coconut cream pie).
Q: I attended the show at Mid-Ohio and thought it was an interesting race. Congrats to Graham. However, I still see my favorite young American driver, Conor Daly, continuing to roam the paddock without a ride. Is there any hope this talent will be in a full time ride in 2016? Also, any hope for sponsorship for Justin Wilson? Man, I remember when drivers used to score rides based on talent.
Brian Henris, Fort Mill, SC
RM: Daly did some impressive work for Coyne and SPM this season and either would have scored him a ride back in the day. But times have changed and talent or promise isn’t enough. The thing that baffles me is that Conor has Smithfield Foods in his corner and they want to help advance his career but, so far, no takers.
Q: After reading your Mailbag for last week, I too was intrigued by the poll question on how can IndyCar best improve the product. While I wish we could go back to the ’70’s (more than ten years before I was born, by the way) I think there is an alternative. What would be the problem with IndyCar offering some kind of points bonus to drivers who compete in other series’ premier events? Run the ‘feature’ event, you get a five-point bonus. Win the thing, and you get a 10-15 point bonus.
It would provide some incentive for guys like Penske and Ganassi to run their IndyCar guys at Daytona for NASCAR or TUDOR, some of the smaller teams to run their drivers in the Chili Bowl or Knoxville Nationals, and for us fans to watch and support our favorites all year long. The best part is that the driver would get the bonus, so he could run for any team. The IndyCar squads wouldn’t have to field the cars themselves, the drivers would bring the points with them. That concept would also encourage some of the smaller IndyCar teams to bring in a big event winner to Indy and the other IndyCar races since they would get the bonus points upfront for running the driver just once (and the associated boost to Leader Circle payments). Limit the number of bonuses offered per driver, and see who decides to go where!
Chris, Langhorne, PA
RM: I like the idea of Indy drivers trying other disciplines but the concept is a little flawed because teams like Ganassi and Penske could field cars or pay for rides and that gives their drivers an unfair advantage. We don’t need the IndyCar title decided by somebody who earned 20 extra bonus points in a sports car. I just want to see Josef Newgarden, Graham Rahal and Marco Andretti run the Chili Bowl and make a bunch of new fans.
Q: My question to you is in regard to the Leader’s Circle payout. Do we or IndyCar have any idea yet on how many cars will be given the Leader’s Circle awards for next season? With the double points gimmick at Sonoma a handful of good cars (the #8, the #7, and the #41) could be outside the top 20 if that’s how IndyCar is going to do it. Oh, and by the way, if IndyCar wants to give out 25 leader’s circle prizes, then I should go to Indy and pitch my own start-up team to them.
Justin Brockwell, Richmond, VA
RM: The Leader’s Circle currently supports 22 cars so I don’t think that’s going to increase or decrease by 2016 and that means Karam/Saavedra, Jakes and Hawksworth, ABOVE, are fighting for two spots.
Q: How about John Doonan, Mazda Motorsport director, to replace Derrick Walker? He knows the sport, deals with team owners and oversees driver development. This could easily be done if my original idea is put into place: the state seizure of IndyCar assets as a criminal enterprise. (See pervious Mailbag) This could be the first step to total reunification of USF2000, Indy Lights and IndyCar, thus making it an attractive, one shop shopping for track promoters.
RM: I asked John if he and Dan Andersen wanted to run IndyCar and he smiled and said: “No comment.” But he’s a good suggestion, even though he and Dan are much to smart to walk into that minefield.
Q: In reference to who should replace Derrick Walker? I think I have the answer to the question. Someone with balls, who doesn’t care what others think! I hereby nominate Uncle Bobby, or AJ. Either would be great. The thought of AJ bitch-slapping whiney drivers, or Mark Miles, would make for great TV. Or if Uncle Bobby gets the nod, let’s have Sam Posey as his assistant. Who could miss an episode!
Curt Cyliax, Doylestown PA
RM: Not sure there would be any owners or drivers left after a couple of races but it sure would be entertaining for a few weeks.
Q: I was really liking the LED system on the IndyCars at Mid-Ohio. A very nice touch, easy to make out on TV (and I’d imagine in person), cool to see the ‘PP’ flashing when a driver is on the button. And, best of all, unlike most new things IndyCar tries, it basically went off according to plan! Well done IndyCar! On a much less positive note, in his RACER interview last week, Derrick Walker admitted that despite all the previous “IndyCar 2018” hoopla, the new car in 2018 idea might well be scrapped. What insight can you offer on this subject?
Rob, London, ON
RM: The LED system (or Indy lights as NBCSN pit producer Jenny Nickell called them) were easy to see and I liked the pit stop time being displayed as well. They were suppose to debut at Indy but had some glitches so well done to whomever fixed the problem. I believe some of the owners convinced Miles they didn’t have the money to change cars in 2018.
Q: In regards to the possible Sage-gate thing, I am 100 percent positive there were team orders involved. I worked at Newman/Haas Racing during the 2008 season and the team had hired a guy from Ganassi to kind of help them with the learning curve for the Dallara chassis. At Detroit of that year Dan Wheldon had a peculiar spin late in the race that seemed to coincidently help Dixon.
Later that week I was chatting with some of the other guys about it and this guy mentioned that indeed that spin was on purpose. In my naivety I questioned him and asked why a professional would purposely spin and cause a caution, to which he replied “Because your boss/team asked you to do something and you want to keep your job.” Our code phrase was ‘You’re losing gearbox oil pressure’ and that was told when we needed to bring out a yellow.” I’m sure you already know about this sort of thing, and I know most of the paddock knows these things go on.
I understand why no one in the sport would want to talk about or elaborate about this sort of aspect of the sport for fear of negative attention or losing their jobs. I’m no longer in the sport, so I don’t have those worries. My intention isn’t to be some kind of whistleblower, I was just interested by you ‘Sage-Gate’ article and wondered if you were really going to investigate the story further or if you weren’t actually aware this sort of thing happens in IndyCar. The fact that Ganassi still seems to be using the ‘gearbox oil’ code phrase lends me to think everyone in the sport still knows it’s going on but won’t really do anything about it.
RM: One of my mechanic buddies said it was like O.J.’s trial: Sage was exonerated but everybody knew he was guilty. Of course it’s gone on for years (Mario asking on the radio if Michael needed a yellow in 1991) and it will continue – that’s racing, as they say.
Q: When Lewis Hamilton lost the race in Monaco because of an ill-timed pit stop under safety car it was a huge deal, yet it seems like that happens at every IndyCar road or street circuit. Why can’t IndyCar have a better system to prevent full-course cautions like F1 does? If you spin and beach it or stall it then that’s it – you are done. Get out of the car and have the marshals hook it to the crane. There really shouldn’t be this many full-course yellows as they turn the race into lotteries. Yes I understand that they tend to spice the show up but shouldn’t the guy who has done the best job all weekend (Dixon @ Mid-Ohio) deserve to not have the race yanked out of his hand because of other people’s mistakes?
Pouya, Riverside, CA
RM: I preferred the pits to always be open but closing them is in the interest of safety workers so I understand. As for Dixie, yep, he got hosed by that caution two weeks ago but in 2014 he came from last to win at Mid-Ohio because he got a lucky yellow flag. It evens out in the long-run. I’ll grant you that Dixon was going to make a real snoozer of that race and lost through no fault of his own, but it turned out to be entertaining and closed up the championship. So I don’t know if it’s better to have purity or crapshoots.
Q: Since the Mid-Ohio TV ratings for the tape delayed NBCSN broadcast were almost four times that of the live broadcast on CNBC (and set a record), will IndyCar finally wake-up and start races at 1:00 p.m. on Sunday and 7:30 on Saturday night to build strong events and cater to the paying customers like they should?
Matt Converset, Decatur, IN
RM: We discussed that elsewhere, but I think if you could guarantee the IndyCar air or re-air would be directly behind NASCAR, then you could do exactly as you suggest.
Q: Let me preface this by saying that I’ve been a pretty big detractor of Mark Miles, and that I understand what sort of difficulty the condensed schedule has put on the crews. But I think something is getting overlooked: I think part of the momentum IndyCar has gained recently is because they had so many races in consecutive weeks. It has allowed IndyCar to stay more visible to the public and hold their attention. I think this is one part of Miles’ strategy that actually worked. What do you think? In my opinion they should try to do this more often in the future… but obviously something would need to be done to help out the crews.
John in Dayton
RM: I suppose to a point you are right because consistency is important, as is date equity. But if the races at Fontana, Iowa and Milwaukee hadn’t been kickass, not sure NBCSN would have had four good ratings in a row and NASCAR probably deserves a little assist as well – least for Mid-Ohio. I think the 2016 schedule will have more spacing and that’s fine; every two weeks is perfect.
Q: Any update on 2017 designs on the new IndyCars? Will we see the removal of those fugly rear wheel pods? A removal of most of the excessive DTM-style winglets? Do you feel the new cars will fit the Indy Lights car style; clean, smooth, and real open wheel? Looking for your want list of what you would like to see as well.
Brent Logero, Denver
RM: I’m not sure there will be any major, physical changes to the cars for 2017. And I’d like several new chassis and engine manufacturers and 50 cars going for 33 spots at Indianapolis but that’s not likely. I do like seeing good racing and nobody dominating like today so leaving the cars alone might be the best option. Of course we want to see innovation and people taking a chance but that’s just not very pragmatic right now, and I’m not sure it ever will be again. Derrick Walker wanted new cars by 2018 but that’s been tabled.
Q: I’m a diehard motorsports enthusiast, and I have to admit that NASCAR is on the top of my pedestal. However, since NASCAR went to this tapered spacer (politically-correct restrictor plate), and started tinkering with track-specific aero packages, it’s my opinion that they are losing complete focus on the things that have made them into the powerhouse that they are, and are now starting to lose some of their most loyal fan base, including myself.
Then on top of that, the asinine reports that they are considering restrictor plates for Michigan and Fontana next year? Awful. When will NASCAR realize that the dumbest thing they ever did was implement this stupid Chase gimmick and that going back to the old way (the way it should have always been) will be the only way to begin to right the ship? I’m also excited to hear about the potential new additions to next year’s calendar (Road America, Phoenix, Mexico City, Laguna Seca). Is there any chance of COTA being a possibility in the near future? As bad as things may seem sometimes in IndyCar, I think we need to realize how good we have it now, compared to a few years ago. There is now stiff competition between manufacturers. One of the G.O.A.Ts of the spot, JPM, ABOVE, is back. There is an abundance of great young talent, and there is an American competing to win the championship driving for a David competing against two Goliaths. The schedule is a work in progress, but is improving. I didn’t care for the looks of the DW12 at first, but it’s grown on me over the years. If we can only get a few people in the front office of IndyCar to listen to the fan base, the possibilities are endless.
Nicholas, Petal, MS
RM: Anytime we have a NASCAR die-hard considering defecting to IndyCar we are happy to give you a forum. IndyCar is the best show on four wheels (along with midgets and sprints of course) but still lags way behind NASCAR in popularity so that’s the main priority (or should be). I think Mark Miles listened to the fans and teams about the schedule and it’s going to be longer and stronger in 2016 so that’s progress. Give me your address and I’ll send you a Josef Newgarden hat for a Little E dog collar.
Q: I probably have you beat as an IndyCar enthusiast. I was born in Miami, Florida in 1948. My father used to attend the midget races held in the Orange Bowl in the late 1930’s (guessing on the time). Jim Rathmann’s garage was two blocks from my father’s glazier shop and I remember, as a nine-year old, meeting Jim. I also remember being at the beach (Miami Beach on Memorial Day) in in 1955 and my father listening to the Indy 500 on our portable battery-powered radio. I had to have my father explain to me what the Indy 500 was about and, from then on, I was “hooked”. My father took me to the first closed circuit live broadcast of the Indy 500 in 1964 (truly “Black Noon”) in Miami. However, I never missed a closed circuit televised transmission of an Indy 500 until it finally went to network TV.
I’ve watched every Indy 500 since 1964, whether live or network TV. After we get the tradition of 33 starters for the 100th running of the Indy 500 over with, why not institute a ‘Garage 34’ space on the grid for something truly experimental? The thing that drew me to open wheel racing at Indy was the new and highly innovative technology that people employed to try to win the “Greatest Spectacle in Racing.” This won’t upset the current state of affairs using the Dallara chassis and the aero kits. It is only one entry and can be by invitation, only. Just a thought from a devoted fan that has literally been through all of this for almost my entire lifetime.
Kent Taylor, Destin, FL
RM: It’s certainly seems like a good idea to create more interest and we all wondered if the Delta Wing could have been an added starter in that capacity. I think that’s why Le Mans has come alive lately – it’s the place for ideas and innovators to meet and that captures people’s imaginations.
Q: What IndyCar needs is a little TV exposure like the kind Danny Sullivan gave them in 1986! I caught a 1986 episode of Miami Vice (titled Florence Italy) where Danny was the main character throughout the show. It was no cameo appearance and he was pretty good. Too bad the cars featured were the old IMSA sports car series. Now, can we get Graham Rahal and his fiancée, Courtney Force, to do show?
John Sedlak, Venice, Florida
RM: God I remember that episode and thinking I felt bad for Danny because he seemed so stiff and un-natural but maybe he was better than I thought. Mario and Michael Andretti were on that Home Improvement Show with their pal, Tim Allen, but I don’t think it sold many tickets to MIS or Fontana. We need Hinch in a Late Night talk show is what we need.