Robin Miller's Mailbag for September 2, presented by Honda Racing / HPD

Robin Miller's Mailbag for September 2, presented by Honda Racing / HPD

Insights & Analysis

Robin Miller's Mailbag for September 2, presented by Honda Racing / HPD

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: I think Justin would have been proud it was a hard-fought fight to the finish to crown a champ. Can’t toot my horn enough, Dixie is the freaking man. He’s not always the fastest or most exciting but when he needs to he throws the hammer down. Can’t say I’m huge on the whole double-points deal but if you get rid of it I believe Dixon still wins, right? (That’s excluding both double-points races)

Sad to see the season end but looking back at few things that stand out for Dixie this year and amazing things have to be his drive at the Indy GP…from last to 10th with no cautious after Helio punted him and coming out of the garage at Newton. It was a total team effort to win it and they showed it today. It’s crazy he’s won every year since 2005, finished in the top four in points every year since 2006. His four championships he’s won with four different configurations of Indy cars, three different engine manufacturers and four different teammates in the #10 (Scheckter, Wheldon, Dario and TK) but the one common is Chip Ganassi and Scott Dixon are a match!

It’s going to be a long off-season but this will help a little bit, keep up the awesome work, Robin and everyone at RACER – can’t wait for the Drive for 5!
Todd, Iowa

RM: Sonoma turned out to be a lot more dramatic than any of us figured and Ganassi’s whole team effort was impressive as hell to help their teammate. Like Stefan Johansson said in the latest story I wrote about Dixon, the Kiwi has the ability to lock in and check out in tough conditions. But Montoya would have won by four points without the double bonuses at Indy and Sonoma.

Q: Wasn’t it ironic that on a day when the paddock honored such a great guy who never got the big break he deserved but never once whined and cried about it, we have two Penske drivers that were bitching and moaning after the race? Power is whining about the pits being closed on yellows and the true winner is never decided on the track and Montoya is bitching about double points. Regardless if I agree with their complaints or not, all drivers have to deal with the same rules and circumstances.

Yes, they made the statements in the heat of the moment but I often think a person’s true character comes out in those moments. Didn’t they take anything away from Justin’s death and the traits that made him such a wonderful human? I realize that this isn’t the first time that the Penske guys have griped and groaned as well as a large number of the field, but it just hit me much different this last weekend because of Justin’s death and the type of person he was.

Having said all that, Roger Penske doesn’t seem to be a guy that makes excuses or puts up with them. Does Penske hear what his drivers say and chew their asses? They look like a bunch of spoiled babies, which, in turn, reflects poorly on Penske Racing (in my mind).
Josh R., Salem, Ore.

RM: It wasn’t surprising to hear JPM diss the double points because he’s always been against them and it’s only human nature to feel jobbed after his consistency, but it was out of character for him to dismiss Dixon’s season as “S%$#.” And while Power is right about how the fastest car seldom wins road or street shows anymore, it’s the same game for everyone. Doubt if RP said anything because I imagine he felt the same way. But it did come off as poor sports from the fans I’ve heard from and Penske doesn’t like that kind of publicity.

Q: I heard a rumor that Roger lined up his drivers and gave ’em a Mo Howard special – a slap across all their faces.
Jake Murray

RM: Yep, then he made them all fly commercial.

 


Q: Wow, the championship was handed to Dixon by the mistakes of Montoya and Power. Hard to say who is at fault with that one but one small mistake can make a big difference. I kind of agree with Montoya that the double points is kind of a joke and minimizes the hard work all season. Curious if Dixon would have won without the double points. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not taking anything away from Dixon who drove a brilliant race. He is as fast as he is smart and if he has a decent car is always there at the end.

A complete bummer for young Rahal but again, there’s nothing you can do after the fact once the damage is done. It really sucks that his last two races have been impacted but others’ mistakes. IndyCar had better not penalize Newgarden for the pit incident. That was a strange one but where was Newgarden supposed to go?

A short but interesting season. The off-season is going to be pretty interesting.
Jim Doyle

RM: The last thing anyone expected was for Montoya to make a mistake because he’d been flawless all season. But that’s why we watch and even the great ones get impatient sometimes. The final point total with the old system would have been Montoya 478 to Dixon 474 and Rahal third with 448. Newgarden got hosed because he would have beat Power out of the pits but IndyCar (rightfully) didn’t do anything because he had no other choice.

Q: So you got Power blaming the yellows for his loss instead of the punt by Montoya and Montoya blaming the championship loss on double points instead of punting Power. How upset was Roger after these two managed to blow it? And with Power leading early and pitting, why would Penske even bring in Pagenaud and risk even getting near Power and cause that traffic jam with Newgarden? Why not hold him off until the next lap when the pit was clear? Seems un-Penske like.

Great day for Dixon and too bad Rahal got punted. Finally, a wonderful tribute to BADASS JW on NBCSN.
Jeff, Stuart, Fla.

RM: I didn’t see The Captain afterwards but think about this: In the last seven years Team Penske has been leading the points with either one or two races to go and has ONE championship to show for it. My understanding is that Cindric was holding Power to wait while Pagenaud was being told to pull in by Kyle Moyer and Simon stopped because he didn’t want to take a chance on hitting his teammate. Fair enough, just part of an out-of-sync day for Penske Racing.

Q: With all due respect to Scott Dixon, Juan Montoya won the 2015 IndyCar championship, if the series were run purely as a racing series. Without the double points at Indianapolis and Sonoma, Juan was still the champion. And it doesn’t matter if the points were announced before the season started or that Juan damaged his car and had to fight back to the front. A sixth-place finish still wins the title.

I have no doubt the double points idea was done mainly to get eyeballs on TV for the last race. And though there was drama at the last race, it was TV drama. I’m sure everyone that follows IndyCar hates what NASCAR has done: The green-white-checker, lucky dog, and the infamous debris caution all used to manipulate a race to keep eyeballs on the TV. We IndyCar fans watch because back in the day the best teams, best drivers, and best car designs battled on the track for wins and championships. But as Will Power said correctly, “We have to decide if we’re a sport or a casino.”
Rick, Charlotte

RM: I agree Rick that IndyCar doesn’t need gimmicks to have an exciting run to the title and it never has but the 0.59 overnight rating on NBCSN showed the double drama worked (and the attendance was also up).

Q: OK, I wanted Montoya to win the title… really bummed out since he led the entire year. Congrats to Dixon, But I HATE double points, always have, always will. It is a contrived way to increase entertainment that this series does not need.

To those bitching about the double points aiding JPM at Indy, do the math, take away all double points and he wins the title anyway, with one DNF. In a series that is so competitive why have the double points? What is the rationale that the great wizards at IndyCar use? What’s next, extra points if you lead at the halfway mark of a race? How about points for the fastest pit stop? How about points for the best motor home? Contrived nonsense.

Great reporting this season in the mailbag and on NBCSN.
James Petro, Canton, Ohio

RM: As I said in the response above your letter, it worked in terms of more eyeballs – on TV and at Sonoma – but I’d like to believe the good racing all season would have resulted in the same upticks. And, to your point, as competitive as this series has become let the results decide without any artificial coloring.

 


Q: End of season or not, double points should not have been awarded for Sonoma. To put Sonoma at the same level of importance as the 500 is upsetting to say the least. If anything, double points for Indy is too much. How about 1.5 points for the 500 and regular points for the remainder of the season? It would keep things closer competition-wise for the remainder of the year while still honoring the prestige and importance of the race.
Jeff, Chicago

RM: I like your suggestion. If you have to give more points for any race, then just use Indianapolis (USAC did it for years) for obvious reasons. But, as Rahal said, it’s just as tough to win Toronto or Mid-Ohio or Pocono, so just make everything count the same.

Q: So, I’m guessing Montoya is first driver in motorsports history to never trail in championship points (even after the last race) and not win the championship? I know double points the last race is gimmicky, but it sure made it exciting. Now if we could just convince Fontana to be the second-to-last race of the season, we would have a great 2-race California trip to end the season.
Matt Converset, Decatur, Ind.

RM: I checked with Russ Thompson, the wise ‘ol sage who keeps NBCSN and ABC announcers up to speed with statistics every year, and he said it was the first time in history – USAC, CART, Champ Car, IRL or IndyCar.

Q: Really disappointed by Montoya’s championship loss. It’s a real shame. Personally I don’t agree with the double-points rule for the last race. Even Helio, who didn’t even win a single race, could have won the championship. I mean, it’s unfair and it needs to be changed.

My point is that the championship should have been decided by the drivers performances all over the year, with equal points for every race, like 1999, not just with one double-points race at the end of the year. A lot of people are saying that the same thing happened in ’99, but at that year we didn’t have double-points races. Sure it’s more exciting for the fans, but it just doesn’t make things fair for the drivers and the championship is decided by one driver’s performance in a single race. And we have to remember Mid-Ohio with the suspicious Sage Karam spinning. Montoya should have won that race and the championship could have been already decided. IndyCar needs to stop making these nonsense rules and get things back to normal. That’s my honest opinion.

Anyway Chip Ganassi’s cars did a nice job, working together as a team. We can’t forget that. Penske, instead, did everything to lose the championship – a lot of mistakes that didn’t allow the other three cars to be at the top 5. It could’ve maybe allowed JPM to be the champion if there were a Penske car in the top 5. Is Montoya already signed for next year with Penske?

By the way, is there any news regarding the 2016 schedule? Any chances we have Cleveland and Laguna Seca added to the schedule?
Thiago Viana, Sao Paulo, Brazil

RM: Judging by the mailbag, your sentiments are shared by most IndyCar fans – they don’t like double points or gimmicks. But Castroneves would have had to win the finale to be the champion and, don’t forget, Ted Horn, Tony Bettenhausen, Tom Sneva and Scott Sharp all won championships without winning a race. JPM will return, along with all three of his teammates. NO chance for Cleveland or Laguna next year but in talking to Mark Miles after Sunday’s race, it sounds like Mexico City still has a chance.

Q: Awarding extra points for a unique or prestigious event (Indy 500, 24 Hours of Le Mans, etc.) recognizes the event is different from the norm. However, extra points for a regular event is a manufactured gimmick akin to the NASCAR Chase. If there are no special set of technical rules, the race is not a global attraction, and the race course is itself not unique, then what is the purpose of giving an event “prestige” status?
Kyle Lantz

RM: Nothing more than to guarantee the championship won’t be decided until the last race.

Q: I’m sure you’ve answered this a hundred times in the last few days. So here goes number 101: What do you think of double points? I’m hoping you are against it.
Mike Talarico, Riverside, Calif.

RM: I hate it and IndyCar doesn’t need it (look at the past decade to see how many times the title came down to the finale without any gimmick).

Q: Perhaps Penske should have rented the blimp with 30-foot letters saying “Big Picture.” The invocation should have added “and give Juan Pablo the strength to think of the Big Picture.” As he crossed the line each lap the spotter should have said, “Remember the Big Picture, Juan.”

To me it was only a matter of time before he pulled a Paul Tracy and screwed his whole year. I love JPM’s passion, but the gene that controls the “Big Picture” had been mutated at birth into a right foot muscle that just cannot help pressing down. He can complain all day long about double points, but it was his championship to lose… and he did that all on his own.
Lee Johnson, Keller, Texas

RM: That’s the irony. Montoya has become a patient, smart, savvy veteran and he doesn’t throw away races or opportunities like P.T. And while Will played the good soldier and tried to shoulder the blame, JPM made the crucial mistake after a flawless season.

Q: Does anyone care that Dixon won the championship? Montoya and Rahal are both stories worth writing about. Ho-hum Scott Dixon won another title by being great this year?

As for the race: The yellow for Fillippi is a joke. They try to remove a car stuck on a curb and wait until the last second to throw a yellow and they can’t deal with a car under power with a rolling local yellow?

Montoya lost the title because he punted Power. The broken front wing serves as a penalty, but he deserved a penalty as much as Bourdais.

The racing itself isn’t ever great at Sonoma, but it was less than great this weekend. After the season IndyCar had it needed to go out with a bang. It had drawn in new fans and a new audience. I’m sure ratings were probably higher this week because of the season as a whole.

I’m just sitting here scratching my head at a loss for words to describe this final race of the year. Oh well, F1 is at Monza next week and IndyCar probably won’t be back for almost a year. Maybe by then I’ll be over it.
Ryan in West Michigan

RM: On a national level, no, not enough people care but the finale did have a better crowd and TV rating than last year, so it’s progress. There were some badass passes by Tony Kanaan and Charlie Kimball and, considering Sonoma’s tightness, it was a pretty good show. Dixon has a way of putting people to sleep with his precision but so did some of the greats before him. The Filippi caution was certainly puzzling but the 2015 season was damn good racing from start to finish.


 

Q: I love when my kids (8 and 11 years old) sit with me and watch IndyCar and F1. (BTW, they’re not mutually exclusive, as many seem to think.) So seeing Justin Wilson’s assigned nickname affixed to most of the cars was disappointing. I’ve never met the man, but never really saw him embrace that nickname – he just seemed too polite for it.

Although many are now laughing at me and will call me a prude or whatever else, I’m not here to please them. Instead, I have a responsibility to set an example and bring up my kids up to not talk like sailors. It does make a difference in many areas of one’s life. I’m a big boy, and don’t immediately change the channel at the first hint of language I don’t personally use, and I understand even stuffed shirt-type drivers might say something they wish they hadn’t in the heat of the moment on live TV. But my kids didn’t watch a single minute of the season finale with me (I always watch on DVR) because of the unending photos of a word that would get them sent to the principal’s office if they used it in school.

IndyCar is not the only offender here, as many otherwise great car magazines and other media outlets also insist on using non-kid-friendly language, but it was just really in our face this weekend. This longtime fan kept his kids from watching this exciting race. Makes it tough to reach the younger crowd if their parents see the product as PG-13 and won’t expose them to it.

Kudos to Dale Coyne (maybe others too) for having more class than most. “Godspeed, dear friend” is a much more fitting for the man and the audience.
Greg Tracy, West Milton, Ohio

RM: Appreciate your honesty Greg and I guess I’m foul-mouthed enough I never even considered it offensive. But we were told not to wear our buttons in the pits on Saturday because NBCSN was sensitive to exactly what you are talking about. Still, in its context, it seems more endearing than vulgar because of the irony that JWill was this gentleman outside the car but such a fierce competitor inside it.

Q: With the racing world still reeling over the loss of Justin, we keep the Wilson family first and foremost in our thoughts and prayers. I want to acknowledge and commend you on a beautiful tribute to Justin at the beginning of the Sonoma race. I am not afraid to say my eyes were not dry and I’m sure that if most are honest they will say the same. Also the writings of David Malsher, Marshall Pruett and you in RACER.com were outstanding. Thank you all for taking us a little deeper into Justin’s life.

As fans, we should continue to honor Justin by helping his family in any way we can whether it be by thoughts and prayers or a donation to the Wilson Children’s Fund. There are several ways to donate which can be found on RACER.com

Steve Kohansky, Millville, N.J.

RM: Thanks Steve, I thought NBCSN’s coverage was respectful and dignified – just like JWill – and the sound bytes from his fellow drivers, Bill Pappas, Dale Coyne and Derrick Walker really added a nice touch. I told David and Marshall it’s always difficult to have three people write tributes because the theme would be repetitious but in this case, I thought it was three different perspectives of one very special racer. And the early outpouring of support to take care of the Wilson family has been fantastic so keep it up.

Q: I had the pleasure of being one of those fans Justin made time for at Watkins Glen the day before he won Dale Coyne’s first race. There was a meeting or commitment or something along those lines he had to get to (and his people kept letting him know) but he stopped and signed my wife’s hat, asked what her name was, if she was having a good weekend and then told her to enjoy the race. I know there are probably hundreds of fans out there that have that same story or experience… BUT in that moment, my wife felt like she was the most important fan of them all. So, thank you Justin Wilson for being you. Thank you, Robin, for the AMAZING tribute on NBCSN. Keep Racin’ BadAss!
Yvonne Moonan, Reading, Pa.

RM: I think your wife’s experience was shared by a lot of fans over the past 12 years and that’s why Justin’s passing touched so many people and resonated so deeply.

Q: It was great seeing lots of fan buying the Wilson shirts. Most of the larger sizes were sold out on Friday. James Hinchcliffe and a bunch of DCR guys bought quite a few.

Now that the season is over, do you have any insight on next year’s driver lineups? I read that Coletti might go to Formula E next year so Bourdais might have a new teammate.

James Hinchcliffe is very fan friendly. He even saved my hat from being lost after I had my pic taken with him. Is he OK for next year?
Reginald from San Diego

RM: I wrote on Sunday that Honda wants to pair Josef Newgarden with Graham Rahal at RLL but Ed Carpenter and Sarah Fisher are trying to hang onto him with Wink Hartman likely lowering his profile and financial input. I heard Carlos Munoz might want to move to KV Racing so Conor Daly could slide into Andretti if Smithfield Foods can take him. Hinch is going to test later this month and it appears he’ll be fine with SPM for 2016. And Tony Kanaan will be back with Ganassi for the 100th Indianapolis 500, just not sure Chip will be running four cars next year.

Q: Congratulations to Scott Dixon on winning his fourth title. I’ve been a fan of his since 2003. Regarding the race, what do you think of the pit drama with Pagenaud? I feel for Newgarden – he has had so many strong runs in his career and they seem to get spoiled by a variety of blunders. He should have had a podium Sunday. I look forward to seeing Newgarden continue to be a threat whereever he drives – I hope he stays on the upward trend.

Regarding Will Power’s comment about the races being a lottery with how cautions play out, what does he propose the series should do? How many ovals are you thinking for 2016?
CJ Shoemaker, Kalamazoo, Mich.

RM: I explained what I’d heard in an earlier response but I simply think Pagenaud stopped because he didn’t want to mess up Power. I’ve chronicled the bad pit work that has cost Josef at least two wins the past two years and that must either stop or he needs to go someplace else (but take engineer Jeremy Milless with him). Will just wants the pits to remain open at all times and I agree with him but it’s not going happen. I think Iowa, Texas and Indy for sure, Pocono is 60-40 and Milwaukee 50-50.


Q: So Sonoma is over and so is the 2015 season. Congrats to Chip and Dixie! How long are we going to need to sit around watching NASCAR and F1 to wait for any news on the full 2016 schedule and driver announcements? When will the season start? Where will it start? When will it end? Where will it end? Where will Newgarden drive? Does Conor land a full-time ride? Enjoy the off-season – I am sure you’ll catch some sprint car races.
Eric J, Hayward, Calif.

RM: I don’t think Mark Miles wants to announce anything until he knows if Mexico City is a player because it would open the 2016 season in February. And he seemed optimistic on Sunday evening. Sonoma will host the finale in mid-September and the schedule will have better spacing than this year. The drivers’ lineup won’t take shape for many months, like normal, but there’s not a bunch of interchangeable seats or jobs. See my answer above your question about Josef and Conor. I’ll be going to Eldora on Sept. 26 for USAC’s Four Crown.

Q: What an amazing job by Mikhail Aleshin and Oriol Servia who finished 10th and 12th, respectively! Aleshin kicked some ass and Servia was badass for JW. Now the interminable offseason awaits.
Rob Peterson, Rochester, N.Y.

RM: Considering he’d been out of a car for a year, Aleshin was really impressive and the talk is that he’s coming back in 2016. Considering Servia told his crew not to put on new tires Friday because the grip and downforce made it impossible for him to turn the car because he wasn’t strong enough, he made a helluva comeback.

Q: What a beautiful tribute you did for Justin. Already had tears in my eyes and even more after that. But as a die-hard race fan, we grieve and then go racing.

I’m against canopies. I have been thinking all week how to protect the drivers head better without canopies. I’m not an engineer by any means but what if some type of bar that could be attached the body of the car and somehow that curves around the top part of the driver’s helmet right about the visor and other one that is right below the visor? So that if some part that would come towards them it would be able to deflect it. With enough room between the drivers helmet that the helmet would not bang against it but also would still give them plenty of room to be able to see. Wish I could draw it out but I’m no artist, but given the chance to show somebody I would be glad to.
Terry Gobble, Urbana, Ill.

RM: Not sure if anything can be done until there’s a new car and that won’t be anytime soon if the owners have their way. IndyCar is looking into what kind of options, if any, there are but according to people a lot smarter than me, a canopy wouldn’t have saved Justin from that ferocious impact.

Q: There has been talk about adding a canopy to the cars, but aren’t they just as dangerous if the car is flipped over? Peter Windsor had someone on his channel talking about canopies on F1 cars, saying they could put explosive bolts to get drivers out. I don’t know about you but I don’t want explosives on racecars. How about just extending the role hoop forward so the driver’s head is covered and you don’t have to worry about a canopy in the way to remove the driver?
Santiago, Phoenix, Ariz.

RM: I’ve got two words for that question: James Hinchcliffe. Doubt they could have saved him if a canopy had been involved.


 

Q: Here’s a real suggestion: Since it seems that the real problem is parts coming off the cars, eliminate wings and bodywork – just a tub and wheels. I know it’s hard to put the genie back into the bottle but can’t we try?
Phil Brown, Oakland, Calif.

RM: It was the nose, nothing from the aero packages, that got Justin but a prominent member of the IndyCar fraternity wondered how an old Gurney Eagle (ABOVE: Mario Andretti’s 1974 Eagle at Michigan) would look with today’s safety features but none of that crap hanging off the car?

Q: A fox runs across the track at Pocono, several laps of yellow (one lap, if any, would have been plenty). A car slows on track (Sonoma) and we have several laps of yellow, (one lap, if any would have been plenty) plus sweeping the track????? PLEASE!! That’s just two of many examples (not to mention closed pits under yellow) that smacks of the idiocy of NASCAR. These extended yellows carry to much effect on the outcome of the races. If the owners are as powerful as Derrick Walker and previous directors have said, why do they put up with this?
Donald McElvain, Polson, Mont.

RM: Because those cautions helped some owners but sweeping the track is a necessary evil these days.

Q: I wanted to share an act of kindness by Ganassi’s Mike Hull. On qualifying day, I took my son to Sonoma. He broke his arm skateboarding and was a bit down about being “on the DL” for football season. Kids his age are free, and we bought a garage pass for just $20.

During the driver autograph session on Saturday, we wandered back to the garage and strolled by the haulers. Mike Hull was sitting on the steps of the Target truck, checking his phone. Sage Karam was nearby. I explained to my son that Mike is “the voice” in Scott Dixon’s ear during the race. I think Mike realized what I was explaining. He came up and asked my son about his arm. Then something amazing took place. “Would you like to come inside the hauler?” Mike asked. My son’s eyes exploded.

The drivers were not around, but Mike reached into a cabinet and gave us some new team hats. And then Dario Franchitti popped in for a smile and handshake. Let’s summarize: into the team trailer with a race strategist; free swag; Indy 500 legend meet-up as a bonus. My son was beaming. He’s a Dixie fan now!

More to the point, in the midst of the tension of a championship, hours before crucial qualifying at a track that is hard to pass on, Mike took time for a young fan. Kids are the future of the sport, and Mike just made a very good investment. He is a class act all the way.

There are many acts of kindness in the paddock like this that go unreported in the press. I used to interview Justin Wilson at Sonoma for my blog. His death was an awful blow to anyone who knew him. This weekend the members of the IndyCar community put away the anger and discord to come together as a family. It was spectacular to be there and very healing, for participants and spectators alike. I wish I could thank Mike again.
Scott Bloom, San Francisco, Calif.

RM: Mike is an old-school soul who understands we need young fans because he was one 50 years ago and what he did could make your son a lifer.

Q: I know that this year fell short of the record for the highest number of different drivers winning races but how does seven different teams winning compare to modern era records? This was a stat that I think highlights one of the bigger positives of the 2015 season. I appreciate your work on NBC Sports, watched every race.
Doug Kemerly

RM: It ties 2013 and 2014 and 2001 (20 races) and I can’t find any year that was better in the modern era. Thanks for watching.

Q: What were your thoughts about Paul Newberry’s call from the Associated Press to shut down IndyCar because it’s too dangerous? Not sure of his professional credentials but he suggested that IndyCar could be replaced by NASCAR for the Indy 500 on Memorial Day weekend. (Sounds like he is on NASCAR’s payroll) Somehow he thinks F1 and NASCAR racing are much safer form of racing. I guess he hasn’t seen Alonso almost losing his head at Spa or Austin Dillon’s wreck. Yes, no one was killed but they were lucky.
Peter Machado, Fairhaven, Maine

RM: ESPN only covers IndyCar when there’s a fatality or spectacular crash and some people only write about it when the wounds are still fresh and they can get some national recognition. It’s his opinion but I don’t see it getting any traction – or attention after this week’s Mailbag.


Q: Thanks for providing a forum for fans to have their voices heard. After 39 years of being a fan of the series, this is where I get off.

If you’ll indulge me one last rant: It is time for IndyCar to ride off into the sunset…and stay there. It can’t be retooled, rebooted, re-imagined, revamped, or even restored, it needs to be removed. From requests for canopies, to spec cars with “aero kits,” engine lease programs, the Loser’s Circle welfare program, racetrack roulette, inept league management, championship point gimmicks, and mid-weekend rule changes. It’s not racing, it’s a soap opera, and a bad one at that.

Getting away from the original idea of a “formula” car, changing the race from an “open” to an “invitational,” and forming a league that is run, de facto, by the team owners, killed this sport. Coupled with the p••sification of the typical American “fan” forces me to ask the question, “who cares anymore?”

I remember old-timers who thought the change away from the roadster was a huge mistake, or the loss of dirt tracks, but now I’m the old timer and, true to form, I don’t understand what the hell is going on anymore. Safety is important, but a canopy? These cars have gone over 200mph for over three decades, how many drivers, races, testing, and miles have been run since then? It’s akin to asking for training wheels for MotoGP.

Why would you let children run shifter karts with no safety belts, roll cages, or air bags and ask for a canopy for adult professionals? At what point do you consider racing dangerous, 55mph, 100…? If you run with the bulls and you’re too slow, do you blame the bull for goring you? It’s a bull, dumbass.

Racing is dangerous, period. It wasn’t accidents that people came to see, it was the risk, the innovation, the competition of overcoming natural and mechanical obstacles along with overcoming the other competitors. This is no longer a passion, but a hobby for the wealthy – yacht racing with wheels. Where there once was oil and grease stains on fire suits, now there’s champagne and vegan appetizer.

One hundred years was a good run, but it’s time to shovel grandpa (along with all of us old-timers) into the grave. To all of you remaining, enjoy the next-generation of “virtual” racing where nobody gets hurt, risks anything, or even has to leave the home or the comfort of their couch. I’m going fishing.
Napalm Nick, Locust Grove, Va.

RM: First off, thanks for being a steady and passionate contributor to the Mailbag from way back in the SPEED days. I agree with 90 percent of what you said but while the cars aren’t as glamorous or fascinating and the drivers aren’t the Wild West characters we loved, the racing is pretty damn good. Enjoy your new hobby.

Q: After taking in the full 2015 Verizon IndyCar season, after all that was complained about, it was a year IndyCar slowly surging forward to the good.

The part of losing Justin was very bad on everyone. I remember going to Mid-Ohio and my wife and I getting an autograph from him when he was driving for Dale Coyne, he was so polite and happy to talk with us, that people really need to learn from how he handle himself. My wife and I must have talked to Justin for 20 minutes that day. Instead of us asking him questions, he was asking us questions. He asked us where we from, he asked us what we thought of the series, he asked my wife how she became an A.J. Foyt IV fan, and of course she didn’t hesitate to tell him that it was because he is so cute, ha ha. But Justin’s response was awesome, he simply smiled at her and said, “Ya know, he is very good-looking guy, but I’ve got good features myself! It was just one of those moments were you talked to a popular driver, and he had the time to have a conversation with you. Will never forget that.

Anyway, that is one tough loss that will be remembered for 2015. As far as the racing of 2015, it was as best as it’s been for a while. The Indy 500 is a can’t-miss with the current package, Fontana was dangerous but, as a fan, it was edge-of-your-seat close racing like the IRL was. I think Fontana was even better ’cause guys could still get a little space between each other.

The road course races are always naturally good racing. I think Iowa was one of the best races I watched this year. Nighttime, short track, good tight racing.

But with all that, the stories for 2015 are what made it great. Graham Rahal winning two races, Ryan Hunter-Reay coming back at the end of the season to win two of the last four races and finishing second at Sonoma. Josef getting first and second wins. Sage Karam racing to earn a job! Loved that! Need more Sage Karams. As an Ed Carpenter fan, sorry Ed – at Iowa, Sage was right, it was hard short-track racing. Juan winning Indy! Sebastian Bourdain winning two races! And how about Sonoma? I have to say I felt really bad for Juan, but Scott Dixon is by far the best out there. He knew what he had to do to win the championship and he and his teammates did it in style. For the last 15 laps, my wife (the A.J. IV fan) were both on the edge of our recliners watching the end of that!

I guess my point is, Robin, even though a lot of fans complained about this and that this year, I really have to disagree. This was one of the better IndyCar seasons in the past few years, by far. I wish we didn’t lose Justin. That’s a heartbreak for everyone. I hope Mark Miles can continue to grind it out and work on the schedule. I understand that attendance is down and interest is going elsewhere, but a lot of us fans need to just keep at it and get our butts to the races needed support. Would love to see IndyCars at Gateway with NASCAR Trucks!

Also, can you shed light on how far are we from closing the deal on Phoenix? Also, what are chances of IndyCar going back to Michigan since Fontana didn’t work out?

Andy St. Marys, Ohio

RM: This is the rebuttal to Napalm Nick. Thanks for the good story on Justin and your overview of 2015. Phoenix is going to happen and Gateway is interested in IndyCar but not sure the feeling is mutual. I think there’s a better chance of Richmond than Michigan in 2017.

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