Robin Miller's Mailbag for August 19, presented by Honda Racing / HPD

Robin Miller's Mailbag for August 19, presented by Honda Racing / HPD

Insights & Analysis

Robin Miller's Mailbag for August 19, presented by Honda Racing / HPD

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Welcome to the Robin Miller Mailbag as presented by Honda Racing / HPD. You can follow the Santa Clarita, Calif.-based company at http://hpd.honda.com/ and on social media at @HondaRacing_HPD and https://www.facebook.com/HondaRacingHPD .

Your questions for Robin should continue to be sent to millersmailbag@racer.com We cannot guarantee we’ll publish all your questions and answers, but Robin will reply to you. And if you have a question about the technology side of racing, Robin will pass these on to Marshall Pruett and he will also answer here.

Q: Given last week’s tests at Indy and Sonoma, the advantages of having a multi-car team are clearly shown. The Rahal team definitely made the right call to test at Sonoma along with the man they are chasing. My question is, with them being the lone Honda team in title contention, do you feel that Honda may step in and request that other teams share data to help improve their title chances? And with that being said, do you think that Andretti Autosport or Schmidt Peterson Motorsports would be willing to open up their notebooks if asked upon?
Alan, Butler, PA
   
RM: Good question. Everyone seems to think that Honda is helping Michael with the fourth car for JWil so that might be a likely candidate (and Rahal and Wilson meshed well as teammates at Newman/Haas) but I’d be surprised if RLLR asked anybody else for help and if anyone offered it up. But I’m sure Honda is doing everything possible behind the scenes to help RLLR.

Q: I saw your post about the ticket prices for Pocono in the mailbag.  For a race struggling with attendance I don’t understand why there isn’t a change in the economics. It is basic supply and demand. Pocono theoretically has a supply of well over 120,000 tickets. Yet the demand at current prices is for, what, 15,000 tickets? If you can sell 15,000 tickets at $50 you generated $750,000 in ticket revenue. What if you could sell 50,000 tickets at $20? Even if you sold just 30,000 tickets at $20 consider the added revenue at the track that an additional 15,000 people would generate.

Also consider how much more I’d be willing to buy a $4 hot dog if I only paid $20 for my ticket. At some point racetracks, not just for IndyCar, need to do a comprehensive supply and demand analysis. Inflation means the cost of things should go up. Reductions in expendable income means it was always better to watch racing on TV so I’ll just watch it on TV. What if ticket prices actually went DOWN and people saw it as a means of cheap entertainment that they could actually prioritize allocating some of their budget for because it costs less than going to a baseball game? 

Should I take my son to Detroit next year? He’s three years old. At $70 the answer is no. At $20 the answer is yes. Odds are he might not like the noise. I might end up leaving shortly after I arrive. I’ll throw the dice on Friday’s free practice and leave him home on Saturday if he doesn’t like it. If he does, an expensive ticket is a tall ask for me. Why aren’t people getting paid to do these things? I say that knowing either the Boston Consulting Group is the one getting paid to do it or nobody is doing it, because I’m an oldest child so I know I’m right.
Ryan in West Michigan

RM: I couldn’t agree more – empty seats don’t buy hot dogs, cokes or souvenirs. Fontana had a cool deal (four tickets, four pit passes for $99 I think) and obviously it wasn’t real successful but they tried what you’re suggesting. Tracks say they can’t just chop prices because that pisses off the season ticket holders but Pocono has grandstand seats that start at $25 and a two-day pit pass for $50 so that’s pretty good. Look at it this way: Honda sponsored Mid-Ohio, bought 15,000 tickets and gave them to employees and customers and it looked like they all attended and spent money once they arrived. ABC Supply is the title sponsor at Pocono and they’ll likely do the same thing and bring a few thousand people that otherwise wouldn’t be going. The Boston Insulting Group suggested to IMS it should gouge the fans it already has because they’ll keep paying so that’s exactly what’s happened the past couple years. But reality is going to set in in 2017.


Q: I was driving on I-95 South and noticed a billboard for the IndyCar race at Pocono. I was in shock. I’ll be going to the race for a third straight year. But no Indy Lights race this year at Pocono. Why is that? Actually I was interested how the Lights car sound and look. Very disappointing they won’t be there. One more thing: if Rahal beats Montoya in Pocono, I think he’ll win the championship at Sonoma.
Amon, Philadelphia, Pa

RM: I’ve heard from several fans in Philly that Pocono is being promoted so that’s good news. Lights runs IMS but opted not to run Fontana or Pocono with only 12-13 cars and that’s probably wise. I’d like to see twin 150s for IndyCar at Pocono instead of 500 miles – especially with only 23-24 cars. JPM’s average finish in his 10 previous 500-milers is THIRD so Graham really has his work cut out.
 
Q: This close to the end of the season, the question has to be; where is Will Power? He has been a machine during qualifying, but unable to convert to race wins other than the GP of Indy and then a stout 2nd at the 500 later in May. Some bad luck in Birmingham, and other than Toronto the second half of his season has been forgettable. It’s like the argy-bargey with Montoya in St. Pete set the stage for the year. Don’t even get me started on Pagenaud’s lackluster season. Let’s see Newgarden in that seat! BTW, I went on Indycar.com for the first time this year to check stats. They actually have a column comparing the heights of the drivers. Nice work IndyCar.
Trevor Bohay, Kamloops, BC Canada
 
RM: Well, he’s won five poles and led 270 laps (third most) but only has a pair of podiums and that one victory – a good season for most but definitely a “down” season for what we’re use to seeing from the defending IndyCar champion. Not sure why but it’s seems to be getting tougher and tougher to win. I thought Pagenaud would contend for the championship and he’s qualified well but struggled in the races. The Captain isn’t giving up on him after one year, though, as much as we’d love to see JoNew get a shot. Dave Lewandowski writes 1,000 stories a year for the IndyCar website and does an excellent job.    

Q: In the past some of the top  F1 teams have placed young rookie drivers that they have under contract with smaller teams in order to evaluate the drivers or to allow a seat to open on their current team, e.g. Fernando Alonso with Minardi or Williams sending Juan Montoya to Target/Chip Ganassi Racing. Which brings me to the question: has this method been employed in CART or IndyCar over the years? And with the attention now being paid to Josef Newgarden could you (possibly) see a Roger Penske signing Newgarden and essentially paying CFH Racing the sum of his contract and perhaps sponsorship dollars for 2016 in order to have Newgarden locked in for the future when a seat opens up at Penske Racing?
John Mylenek, Howell, MI

RM: It makes great sense and, in a better economy, I imagine it’s possible (RP farmed Paul Tracy out to Newman/Haas in 1995) but with Penske apparently funding two of his four cars this season I doubt it. And, for some reason, Tim Cindric isn’t a JoNew fan so I doubt he’d push The Captain to do anything like that.

Q: What do you think would happen if IndyCar were to fold? Would some of the owners form a new series? Could some other series step in, like that car racing series, you know, TAXICAB (or something like that)? Maybe somebody from Europe (not necessarily F1) or from out of the blue? Or would we be just plain out of luck?
Tim Davis, Detroit, MI

RM: Hard to say. CART was formed out of the ashes of Can-Am but had a base of unhappy USAC owners and I imagine the survivors of IndyCar would reach out to TUDOR sports car teams. Or would it just be the Indy 500 with new rules for a couple years while things got sorted out? Not sure but this certainly isn’t the time to try and launch another series.


Q: The tease news of IndyCar coming back to Phoenix sounds too good to be true. If I recall correctly, a number of teams have tested there in the past few years and the common consensus was they’d love to race the DW12 on the famous oval. Have you talked to any of today’s drivers about Phoenix? If the target date of April 2nd is correct, what has changed PIR’s mind re: the difficulty of hosting another event so soon after its spring NASCAR race? Also, do you think IndyCar would be joined by Indy Lights at least, perhaps Pro Mazda too? Would it be a one or two-day affair so teams could practice Friday night and race Saturday night? I’d love to see some type of reprisal of the Copper World Classic with USAC Sprints, Midgets and/or Silver Crown cars but I know that’s too much to hope for.
Bill Tybur, Tempe, AZ

RM: Haven’t talked to anyone but T.K. and, of course, he loves Phoenix (at least in its original configuration) but I have no idea why PIR went from having zero interest in IndyCar to seriously looking at a night show next April. Jay Frye of IndyCar seems to be the catalyst and he’s spot on when he says the race has to have 3-5 years (with the same date) to try and get back in people’s plans. I’m sure it will be a two-day show and I imagine some of the Mazda Road to Indy series will also participate. But don’t hold your breath on a return of the Copper Classic.
[ABOVE: Phoenix 1981, and Al Unser in the Longhorn LR02]

Q: I suppose, given the atrocious scheduling, lack of promotion, and overall incompetence at the Hulman Head Office, I should have disabused myself of any notion that Fontana was going to come back for next year much sooner than today, in spite of the fact it hosted the best race of the year (one I had the distinct pleasure of attending). It’s a shame; I was lucky to consider it a home track. Can I expect to ever see them back – let’s be generous – in my lifetime? On the other hand, how close to done is Phoenix? And what are the odds management will have the sense to end next season (or, perhaps, the season after that) on an oval as tradition dictates it should? Are any other facilities on an at least possible track to be added?
Garrett from San Diego

RM: I know Dave Allen of Auto Club Speedway is a big fan of Indy cars and he wanted to keep them if it made sense/cents but obviously a suitable date couldn’t be agreed on. I think Phoenix is getting close since Bryan Sperber (PIR president) is talking about it publicly. Love to see Phoenix end the season in early October (Cup race isn’t until mid-November) but I guess Richmond would be the other alternative and that’s fine because it drew nice crowds for the IRL.

Q: Maybe the best race in IndyCar for several decades and they decide to leave the track because of this ridiculous mutually agreeable date squabble. Or is there more to the story? The fluctuating sites, scheduling, dates and times are one of the many factors keeping Indy Car in the background. 

Got a question…..which would you prefer, having two races in Texas, like COTA in the spring and Houston in the “cool” fall, or having just the one race at TMS, where attendance has been dropping nearly every year? Doesn’t that diminish Gossage’s leverage somewhat? I agree, would like to have more ovals, and you hate to see any go, although they just killed one. So replace TMS with something closer to Indy, like Chicago, Kentucky, Gateway or even Nashville. You can even “package” and cross promote those ovals because of their proximity.
Jim, Indy

RM: I know IndyCar didn’t want to end the season at 9 p.m. on the East Coast and Dave Allen of Auto Club Speedway understands that but why not start at 1 or 2 pm in late September or early October? Love to see a sports car/IndyCar double-header at COTA and go back to Houston but only if it’s at the airport circuit they’ve drawn up. Eddie’s leverage is an oxymoron.

Q: Just saw the news about IndyCar dropping Fontana. I am as diehard a fan of IndyCar as you can get, but the constant ineptitude that the IndyCar management continues to show is beyond belief. The fact that IndyCar officials would rather watch football then give Fontana a date they can work with…well they just threw away one of the best races on their schedule. It is very sad that IndyCar will wrap up in a couple of weeks and F1 will just be ready to start the second half of their season. Mark Miles and the Boston Consulting Group are doing their best to destroy IndyCar. And a season-ending race in Boston…who cares? Very very frustrating.
Fred, Avon, IN.

RM: Not sure it wasn’t more about the time than the date at Fontana but, given a fall night race, it’s proven 25,000-30,000 would show up and, especially considering what they watched on television this summer. It does suck the season ends in two weeks but, hopefully, it will start in February and go until mid-September in 2016. Boston isn’t going to be the season finale. We won’t think.  


Q: So what is the real story? One of the greatest races in history enlivens the sport, gets the whole nation talking, and it’s gone. Did Miles’ ego do it? Just couldn’t admit his stupid plan not to race past August during the NFL season is a joke? Only IndyCar pulls this crap. If that’s the case, screw Miles and his corporate friends. Maybe the real reason is a longer season (a normal season) interferes with his golf schedule. So we get Phoenix back. A stock car Phoenix. Sure as heck won’t be like Fontana. At least Cindric and Power can breathe a little easier. I’m pissed.
Jonathan S.

RM: I think the real story is that IndyCar didn’t want to end the season with a night race on the west coast and Auto Club Speedway wanted a night race in late September or early October to end the season. And the sanction fee could have been an obstacle as well. Miles is lengthening the 2016 season, providing he can get it started in February, and likely go until mid-September. Not long enough but certainly an improvement.   

 
Q: YOU INDYCAR PEOPLE ARE HARD TO SUPPORT! I have been a loyal attender at IndyCar races for over 25 years. I’m sure you’ll trash this message – after all I’m just a paying fan. I love Fontana and this year was one of the top two or three races in 100 years! Now you drop it!. You should have given it a firm date for five years and stopped all the switching around, how can anyone promote a moving target like that? I sat out in the hot weather last June and we all know it needs to be at night in October. I’m so mad with IndyCar I could spit and I wish you would sell the series to savvy business people because it seems like you have a death wish. My question: is it for sale?
Harvey Pelovsky, Arizona

RM: Mark Miles says neither the series nor IMS is for sale. I asked John Menard a couple weeks ago if he was interested in buying either or both and he said no. Despite the continuous rumors, I don’t think it’s ever going to be sold.  

Q: I wished IndyCar and Fontana would have tried some idea like impose a local TV broadcast blackout if 80 percent of seats were not sold by the Tuesday before the race. Los Angeles and the NFL tried that with the Raiders and Rams to sell tickets and it did work.
George P.

RM: Food for thought but not sure it would have made any difference with a Saturday afternoon show in June.

Q: By NBCSN getting NASCAR, F1 and IndyCar all on their network, the big winner is IndyCar. Verizon was supposed to do wonderful things for IndyCar (I have not seen anything worth a poop), whereas NBC has advertised all three series and even have their announcers promote watching and telling the viewer why they might enjoy watching. And just when it is beginning to work the season ends for IndyCar…what a shame!

The one negative: since IndyCar pays teams to show up and is in fear that they won’t, the team owners have way too much say. Ever since AAA quit due to the carnage of Le Mans and Tony Hulman died leaving USAC without money or power…owners have had way too much power. TG gets blamed, but it seems that Roger Penske who ran with CART until it became obvious that without the Indy 500 open wheel racing was due to fail and he ran back to Tony George should shoulder a lot of the blame. Then the teams ran off Randy Bernard and now Derrick Walker, and unless Mark Miles gets a “set”, we’ll see the series flounder especially if we are saddled with these cars well into the 2020s. Let’s hope Pocono doesn’t fall on its face and the TV numbers stay around 500,000.
Terrible Ted

RM: It is real good that NBCSN has taken over SPEED’s role as the racing channel in this country and there is no doubt all the cross-promotion with NASCAR has helped IndyCar. If we could get an open wheel show it would be even better. The tough part may be finding good race times in between all the stock car series but it’s a helluva lot better than having a prime time on VERSUS. If there were a bounty on car owners I’d have bought a gun many years ago.  



Q: I just finished reading the history of the Savannah Harbor Raceway and noticed that it hosts an annual vintage event. Given the fact that it is in operation and was built with IndyCar in mind, is there any chance that an IndyCar race could be held there in the future?
Joe in Sacramento

RM: Tony Cotman, who helps IndyCar locate, design and construct tracks in addition to still serving as chief steward of Indy Lights, says the track is way too small and would need a major overhaul for IndyCar. If we’re going to race in Georgia let’s go to Road Atlanta [ABOVE].

Q: As any open wheel race fan knows unless they’ve been sleeping in a cave, the IndyCar series is vastly superior to Formula 1 in many ways. Given this superiority in terms of the entire competitive style of IndyCar, why is it not being promoted on a much higher level? Whenever we tune in on TV we see large sections of grandstands with pretty thin attendance. Does IndyCar have a committee in place to address the promotional aspects of the series?

Paul Tracy himself, while engaged in commentating at one of the early events this year was openly shaking his head in disbelief that IndyCar was not getting the publicity exposure it needs to bring it up to the attendance/interest levels it deserves. Sure, the Indy 500 is a big item and always up there in the public eye but the rest of the yearly agenda truly needs a team of experts to get IndyCar right up front and center where it deserves to be. Compared to IndyCar, F1 just looks like an overblown soap opera joke. Is IndyCar planning to put together a real system-wide promotional team?

Also in terms of location, is IndyCar planning any more international venues? Could you imagine putting an IndyCar race in Monaco, COTA, or any of the other traditional F1 circuits? I would hazard a guess that IndyCar is forbidden from racing in these venues by the F1 political machinery that knows full well that IndyCar would upstage F1 in spades.
Jim H., Vancouver. BC

RM: I always argued with USAC that it needed to be a promoter as well as a sanctioning body and the brass always disagreed. IndyCar does have Verizon to help spread the word but depends on its track promoters or title sponsors of the events to do the promoting. IndyCar has a tiny PR and marketing staff compared to NASCAR and it doesn’t appear there’s much in the budget for promoting races or drivers. But there needs to be. Mark Miles still wants to go international but don’t even consider any current F1 venues like Monaco. CoTA has a chance.

Q: It’s certainly great news that Road America and new Boston street races are added to the 2016 schedule with possibly Mexico in the running. Slowly but surely IndyCar management is listening, but not at the speed the fans want to, but it is progress. With that said, what would it take for IndyCar to add some entertaining racing elements like the standing starts in road/street courses, open pits during yellows, at a minimum? BTW I know you send out fans’ feedback to IndyCar management, I am hoping you will send this fans’ request from above, but how else does IndyCar get fans’ feedback? Is there a vehicle they use to see or get our feedback?
Shyam Cherupalla

RM: Don’t forget Phoenix also. The fans liked standing starts but the drivers didn’t because of the lack of dependability from launch control. The manufacturers spent millions of dollars on aero kits so I don’t think developing the system for standing starts is a high priority. Not much chance of open pits under caution either. As far as feedback, I would hope IndyCar looks at the polls we’ve been running on RACER.com because that’s a representative cross-section of its fan base.   


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Q: Would it be too crazy to purposely schedule Milwaukee and Elkhart back to back? Maybe even do the idea of Milwaukee the night after the MLB all-star game then us out of town fans can camp at Elkhart or tour the state for a day or two before a Saturday show at Road America.

If nothing else, it would be one hell of a promotion for the weekend show to have a full race and the media attention that it brings on a Wednesday with the sub-headline being that you can see these same cars and drivers in action again in three days just and hour up the road.
Steve, Pittsburgh, PA

RM: It might not be crazy if RA president George Bruggenthies was the promoter of both so he could offer a 2-for-1 ticket and co-promote both races. What might work would be Milwaukee on a Wednesday night (after the baseball all-star game when there is NOTHING going on in sports) and then Road America that weekend.  
 
Q: Do you think the NJMP track in Millville, NJ would be a viable track for IndyCar? The Rolex Series ran there for three or four years, but I’m not sure how that type of car compares to an IndyCar. The track is located a three-hour-or-less drive from Baltimore, Philadelphia and NYC. Could they draw enough spectators to make it work? I was at one of Penske’s dealerships in Turnersville, NJ last week and not one poster or anything promoting the Pocono race, which is only about two hours from the Pocono track. What gives?
Dave Bostrom

RM: I’ve never heard anyone at IndyCar even mention that road course in New Jersey so it might be viable but it’s not on the radar. And especially not with Boston on the schedule for 2016. Surprised to hear there’s no signage at The Captain’s dealership in New Jersey.

Q: Regarding your suggestions for chief steward, I just voted for Rick Mears but was thinking of Jon Beekhuis as well. It is nice to see good old teeth and curls get so many votes; it is a close race! I was glad to see you wrote he was a lot tougher than people think. He would be a loss to the broadcast for sure. I have enjoyed him since we both wore much younger men’s clothes. Good to hear about Road America, may COTA be our next victory. 
Tom in Waco

RM: I know Derrick Walker wanted to hire two or three full-time ex-drivers in race control and Beekhuis was one of them. Our RACER poll is pretty damn close between Rick (20 percent), Jon (19 percent) and Dario (17 percent) with Wally Dally Jr. and P.T. fourth and fifth. If IndyCar stays with three stewards I say let Beekhuis keep his NBCSN pit reporting job and officiate during commercial breaks.

Q: That was a sweet story on Colton Herta. He scored Top 5s early in the season, then scored his maiden podium and then winning two out of three at Snetterton jumped him to sixth in the standings. That must really have boosted his confidence after having butterflies and goosebumps being in his first season away from the States. I have tried to follow up on U.S. talent in Europe and see what is going on. I’d really like to see this young gun get a seat in Formula 1 in 10 years, something that his father never got the chance when he tested a Minardi in 2003. Hopefully, Colton may have better luck. And probably may ask: “Dad? What happened at Minardi in 2003?”
JLS, Chicago, Il

RM: Thanks, I find it amazing a 15-year-old just left his friends and family and went to a strange place to compete in a daunting atmosphere but I don’t think Colton is a normal 15-year-old. He’s got that drive and obviously a maturity beyond his years and he’s quite a story.

 

 


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Q: I have two questions for you if you don’t mind. First off, we hear all this talk about how amazing the 2016 IndyCar schedule is going to be, but do you have any idea when they plan to release it to the public? I sure hope they’re not waiting until the end of October like they did last year. And secondly, any idea if IndyCar has plans to reintroduce standing starts to some events next year or if they ever plan on bringing them back?
Jeremy Lukaszka

RM: Ideally, the schedule would come out the weekend of Sonoma but not sure things are far enough along just yet. But I think it will be before October. Standing starts are doubtful, which is too bad because they really made the street races better.

[ABOVE: The first Indy car standing start came in the Champ Car World Series race at Portland in 2007. No one stalled.]

Q: I believe IndyCar racing is the best and most competitive open wheel racing there is and the most entertaining with a combination of street, road, and oval courses. I am glad to see that the sport is slowing growing in popularity. However, I wish the growth would accelerate. One way I believe that IndyCar would increase in popularity is if one or two (or more) well known NASCAR drivers were to race in the IndyCar series, not on a regular basis but occasionally.

Is there any chance or are there any discussions with Jeff Gordon to run the 2016 Indy 500? Is there a chance that Jeff could run a season with IndyCar? The IndyCar season is much shorter than a NASCAR season so that may be of some small appeal to Jeff as he retires from NASCAR. I have heard Jeff say that IndyCar was not in his future but I just wonder what might be possible. Is there any other NASCAR driver(s) that might be tempted to run an IndyCar on an oval they are familiar with during the 2016 season (such as Brad or Joey with Penske NASCAR)? I think one of the bigger teams like Penske, Ganassi, Andretti should go out of their way to make this type of thing happen for the overall and long term growth of the IndyCar series.
Paul Richins, El Dorado Hills, CA

RM: Between contracts, sponsors, engine manufacturers and 36 races, NASCAR drivers don’t have the opportunity, availability or desire to add more races unless it was the Indianapolis 500 (Kyle Busch and Kyle Larson being the exceptions). But driving the pace car is as close as Gordon will ever get to the Indy 500. He’s said repeatedly he doesn’t want to race in the Indy 500 and I believe him. The best hope for NASCAR participation are one-offs at Indy like Kurt Busch and I’d love to see both Kyles do it but can’t see Joe Gibbs letting it happen.

Q: Now that PT and Seabass have gone for a ride, when will the PT and HCN ride occur?
David, Waxhaw, NC

RM: You know, I don’t think there’s even been much of a rivalry between Castroneves and Tracy. Obviously P.T. knows he got screwed in the 2002 Indy 500 but it wasn’t anything Helio did so I’d rather see a P.T. and Michael Andretti ride.

Q: Add this to the long list of marketing ideas that we all like to dream up for IndyCar: While reading on Indycar.com this afternoon about the “annual visit to the Indiana State Fair,” I wondered if IndyCar ever sends its drivers and/or show cars to the state fairs of other states in which IndyCar races? I know they tried it once in Wisconsin when the fair preceded the Milwaukee race. But it seems like a potentially efficient way to gain exposure (to families/kids) in those markets, especially if the effort was sustained for a few years. Perhaps get the race title sponsors to help with the costs. The Iowa Corn Farmers certainly deserve IndyCar’s support. The potential for two races in Wisconsin could merit their presence too.
Kirby, Indianapolis

RM: Not to my knowledge but it would be almost impossible unless the race and fair ran together like Milwaukee in the old days. It works here every year because many of the drivers live here and Tony Kanaan, Dave Furst, Steve Shunck and I recruit them every year at Mid-Ohio. The good news is that T.K. couldn’t walk 10 feet without being stopped for a selfie or autograph or handshake. The bad news is that in the six years we’ve done this, Kanaan is the only driver anyone ever recognizes.  


Q: Do you have an opinion on the NASCAR finish at Mid-Ohio? Will this just be an argument dependent upon whether you like Regan or Tag?
Waiting for Pocono!!

George

RM: My opinion is that a full-time NASCAR driver gave a Canadian IndyCar veteran a cheap shot in the last corner because he knew NASCAR wouldn’t penalize him.

Q: What did you think of Tim Richmond? He had the talent to win the Indy 500. It’s weird that NASCAR is just catching up to what Tim was 30 years ago. You think Earnhardt would have won all those championships if Tim had been alive?
Jeff Edwards

RM: I ran around a lot with Richmond when he started racing in USAC and he was fast, brave, talented and charismatic. He might have taken one or two titles away from Earnhardt. But what he did off the racetrack to several women when he knew he was HIV positive negates anything good or heroic about him. I knew one of the girls he infected and her life was hell.    

Q: I was looking back at Justin Wilson’s idea to replace catch fencing on ovals with big overlapping metal sheets, since that would be a lot safer for drivers than catch fencing. The obvious drawback is that you can’t put those metal sheets in front of a grandstand, since it obstructs the fans’ views. But what about the areas of ovals without grandstands?

The catch fence that killed Dan Wheldon wasn’t in front of a grandstand – it was in front of a bunch of billboards and a parking lot. Why on earth was there a spectator-friendly catch fence there instead of something safer for drivers, if there were never going to be any spectators there in the first place? If IndyCar tracks replaced all of the catch fences on ovals that aren’t in front of grandstands with Wilson’s metal sheet idea, they could cut the amount of oval catch fencing almost in half, and they could have it done by the start of next season. That would be a big step forward for driver safety, and it wouldn’t obstruct a single fan’s view of the action. It would cost some money, but I don’t think it would be outrageously expensive, and if the series had done this four years ago, Wheldon would probably still be alive.

Tracks could cut down on catch fencing exposure even more by designing a removable metal plate system that can be bolted on to existing catch fences and can be put up/taken down in a few hours. That would enable tracks to put up the metal plates in front of a grandstand when that stand is closed, and take down the plates when the stand has fans in it. That might have saved Tony Renna, and would have probably helped Kenny Brack at Texas as well. The racing world obviously needs to find a safer replacement for catch fencing that can be used in front of grandstands, but, but it’s going to be years, if not decades before we find that solution. Replacing the catch fencing in front of areas without spectators would be a good interim solution that can be implemented very quickly, if the desire is there.
Max L.

RM: There is no doubt keeping cars and debris out of the grandstand should be all of racing’s paramount concern and some kind of a guard like you propose needs to be developed. Tony George took the lead on the SAFER barrier so it would be nice to see NASCAR get out in front of this because if Austin Dillion’s engine goes into the spectators at Daytona we might not be having this discussion. Or any more races.

 

MX-5 Cup | Round 6 – Mid-Ohio

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