Welcome to the Robin Miller Mailbag as presented by Honda Racing / HPD. You can follow the Santa Clarita, California-based company at: hpd.honda.com and on social media at @HondaRacing_HPD and https://www.facebook.com/HondaRacingHPD
Your questions for Robin should continue to be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org We cannot guarantee we’ll publish all your questions and answers, but Robin will reply to you. And if you have a question about the technology side of racing, Robin will pass these on to Marshall Pruett and he will also answer here.
Q: Road America was worth the two-day drive out from San Diego! I had gotten the $100 weekend special (though I didn’t know where to get the free event program) and went all three days. Friday didn’t seem that crowded and I didn’t mind as it made it easier to walk around and photograph the cars. Saturday and Sunday seemed well attended to me, at least more than Sonoma. It was my first IndyCar event at Road America so I don’t have any reference to attendance levels – was it like the old days? Lots of good places for photography and plenty of food vendors. There seemed to be a lot of track activity going on with Lights and the other various MRTI series as well as the different Pirelli World Challenge classes. Overall the event seemed well organized for a first-timer like me.
Reginald Legaspi, San Diego, CA
RM: First off, congrats because you get the prize for the longest drive and IndyCar is going to send you some swag for your efforts. As far as attendance, Road America’s president and general manager George Bruggenthies said it was one of the largest Friday crowds he’s ever had and the three-day total looked like the old CART days of 100,000-plus with approximately 50,000 on Sunday.
Q: I ordered my Road America tickets last year when the advanced sale started and from there it escalated to deciding to fly or drive, and whether to camp at the track, an off-site grounds or get a hotel. Ultimately, my brother and I made the 600-mile drive through the night from Pittsburgh, PA to get to the track in time for the gates to open Thursday. After the four days of being at the track, exploring each section and watching a practice, qualifying or race from a different area, Road America, IndyCar, the Mazda Road to Indy and the Pirelli World Challenge all provided a grand slam that made it well worth the tolls, gas and coffee disposed on the way to and from. Though I probably won’t be back in the next couple years, this is a race I would gladly tell everybody I know who is passionate about racing to make the drive at least once. Do you think Watkins Glen can live up to the hype in a similar form when I go up there Labor Day weekend? And do you think IndyCar caters to them and possibly the Pirelli World Challenge could be included on future dates?
Alan Bandi, Butler, PA
RM: No, I don’t think the Glen will come close to Road America’s turnout, but let’s be realistic because Elkhart Lake had more than a year to promote and the Glen is going to have about three months. But, given a few years and the same date I think the Glen can get some decent crowds, and I’m sure support races will be included but this year the Ferrari folks were already booked and kind enough to share the weekend with IndyCar.
Q: I enjoyed the Road America video you published on Sunday. I agreed with you that it was great to be back at the venue, the fans were awesome, the racing from second on back was great. I agreed wholeheartedly that IndyCar’s fan base is in the Midwest and that they need to return to Road America. Then you dumped all over the Detroit Grand Prix. Detroit was brutal this year. The track was insanely bumpy. I get it. Insulting Belle Isle wasn’t necessary. I’ll concede that a singular full-distance race is sufficient. Perhaps the racing would be even better if it was a single race. Obviously the promoters identified that the surface has to be addressed again. I don’t think IndyCar would return if they felt that GM and Penske wouldn’t resolve the track surface issue. Blasting a venue that has the best volunteers and an event that is paid for by GM and Penske is senseless. We all get it. You want Milwaukee back the week after Indy. You’ve made this very clear on a regular basis. As for Milwaukee … sadly, I don’t feel it’ll return again. There’s a million reasons why it won’t return. Very little of it has to do with it not being the week after Indy. It’s time for IndyCar to evolve and its fans as well. IndyCar will go where it’s wanted. Obviously they weren’t wanted at the Milwaukee Mile. I’ve accepted that IndyCar will never return to Michigan. In closing, if Detroit/Belle Isle is so bad, the next time you visit, don’t let the door hit in you the ass on the way out.
Rich, Oakland County, MI
P.S. – I hope this is shared in the Mailbag. No hard feelings, huh?
RM: First off, no hard feelings, and I’ve told people for a long time that Detroit has the nicest and biggest staff of volunteers I’ve ever seen and they’re always pleasant (rain or shine). I understand going to Detroit as long as Chevrolet is competing and The Captain has done as much to polish it up as possible, but it’s never very good once – let alone a doubleheader. And certainly not the week after Indianapolis. It’s a major buzzkill. As I said in the letter above, Milwaukee has never been the week after Indy since the merger in 2008. So give it all the drivers at Indy with a 1 p.m. starting time and co-promote it with George Bruggenthies (and come up with a cool 2-for-1 ticket for both Wisconsin races) and it will work. And, BTW, charging $35,000 for a hospitality parking place is senseless, and that’s why so few show up at Detroit. But I do like Tim Horton’s doughnuts.
Q: I hope IndyCar’s biggest takeaway from Road America is to let the tracks dictate start times and as much as possible, the date. It all starts with successful events. The biggest factor for successful events is a smart start time. I’m afraid the next race at Iowa will be unsuccessful because of a dumb start time on a bad day. Iowa should be Saturday night. IndyCar needs to STOP letting TV dictate things.
Matt Converset, Decatur, IN
RM: There is no denying that, ideally, all Sunday races need to start no later than 1 p.m. local time but, obviously, television and the promoter need to work together if possible. Last weekend was perfect because IndyCar was early and NASCAR was later at Sonoma. But let’s take Iowa. It chose the late Sunday afternoon time – not NBCSN.
Q: A glorious and successful race weekend in Wisconsin. Nice to have a 1:00 start time all wrapped up by 3:30. Is there a way to race at Milwaukee and Road America, and get good crowds at both, and appease both promoters? Or would fans most likely have to choose one of these two races? Is it better to have one wildly successful 50,000-plus-attended race at a primo circuit or two events with 20-25K attendance? How much traction does this Norfolk race have? A Grand Prix of Norfolk does not give me goose bumps. But if the community gets behind it and it is planned and promoted properly, then bring it on. Let’s have more 1 p.m. starts on Sunday, where possible.
Mike, Avon, IN
RM: Absolutely it’s possible to have two big crowds in Wisconsin – CART did it for 15-16 years. But only if IndyCar co-promotes Milwaukee, hires George Bruggenthies and his people to promote it and gives the fans a sweet 2-for-1 ticket deal for an early afternoon green flag. I think I prefer one huge event than two turnouts in the 20,000s but I’d take 50,000 and 25,000 in a heartbeat. Not sure where Norfolk stands, but a city with no major sporting distractions seems like a good place for an IndyCar race – especially if the city wants to get behind it like Norfolk indicates (the city management and politicians have been to a couple IndyCar races in the past two years checking things out).
Q: IndyCar has, by my count, six solid venues that in recent years have combined a reliably stable commercial foundation, strong local buy-in and support, and good-to-outstanding on-track racing: St. Pete, Long Beach, Barber, Indy, Toronto and Mid-Ohio. I agree with you that Detroit is not optimal, but the racing there hasn’t been bad (when it’s dry), and The Captain seems to have made it stick as a commercial/civic matter such that it at least seems stable. Add to those the fantastic show IndyCar put on last week at Elkhart Lake (and here’s hoping that it sticks). That’s eight very solid events. With luck and serious attention to building date equity, IndyCar should be able to put Phoenix and the Glen back in that column. That should be 10. The Indy GP event isn’t the greatest, but it isn’t bad either. Let’s call it 11. Now, I know that isn’t exactly the promised land, but it’s a solid place from which to grow. I just know the series can build better support in Iowa than it’s seen recently, and the Texas lukewarm support has always been a mystery to me. My point, I guess, is that good things are happening in IndyCar. Slowly, perhaps, but they’re happening. I wish the naysayers would relax, enjoy the terrific racing and give support to the series. Maybe I’m just jacked by Indy and Elkhart Lake, but things seem to be looking up.
Bert C. Reiser
RM: My rank would be (after last weekend): Indy, Long Beach, Road America, Barber, Mid-Ohio, St. Pete, Detroit, Iowa and Toronto in terms of race-day attendance. Let’s give Phoenix and the Glen a couple years to get some traction and let’s move the Indy GP to the fall. Going back to some old friends seems to be the right path.
Q: I have a question about IndyCar not wanting to run at Mosport or Canadian Tire Motorsport Park. The concern seems to be mostly about the runoff areas’ safety. I am curious who has the concern: IndyCar, the drivers or both? You can convince both groups that racing between concrete barriers on a street circuit is OK. If their concern is high-speed runoff areas I would point to a place like Turn 3 at Toronto at the end of a very high-speed long straight and the 90-degree right turn. Concrete everywhere, not a really deep runoff, same at the end of the back straight where Aleshin submarined Montoya a couple of years ago. I would have to believe that the racers would tend to respect the natural terrain boundaries of a racetrack and work to stay inside those boundaries. I know if you ask a driver they will want to race most places, if it is possible, and many have run Mosport/CTMP at different times in their careers. So is it IndyCar who made the decision or did the drivers have “more concerns than normal” about the venue?
Mike Canner, biased Toronto fan
RM: Both groups are concerned, although one driver said he thought Mosport was just as safe as Toronto for the very corner you pointed out. And it’s not like IndyCar has turned Mosport down, just not sure there have been any serious talks.
Q: I attended the IndyCar race at the Glen a few times between 2005 and 2010 and it was very relaxed and enjoyable. We camped on the infield at a cost of $50 for the weekend. They are now asking $275 to camp on the infield. Called the track and they said IndyCar set the prices. Are these guys nuts? Are they trying to kill this event before it even gets underway?
RM: That seems pretty steep (about $100 more than Road America) so I’ll ask the IndyCar management if they have any influence on pricing.
Q: What a fabulous return to Road America for IndyCar after a long hiatus. It made me so happy to see the huge turnout. The drivers and teams put on a great show too, proving that this track is perfect for IndyCar. Tony Kanaan made a comment in a post-race interview that the series needs to go to more permanent road courses where people can bring their families and camp. It got me thinking about the first track I ever camped at for a race weekend: Mosport. It’s another high-speed track that would lend itself well to IndyCar, though it likely needs a bit of fencing and runoff work to make it safe. If run in early September, I think it could co-exist with the downtown Toronto race. Hardcore fans can attend both, but I think Mosport will attract fans that Toronto doesn’t – those that want to camp at the track for the weekend and can’t afford downtown hotels. What do you think? Will IndyCar ever return to Mosport after so many years away? I know Ron Fellows opened the dialog last year when the Toronto race was in jeopardy, but has there been any more talk since then?
Cale, Waterloo, Ontario
RM: I was at Mosport in 1968 when Dan Gurney swept the USAC doubleheader and it was fine, but you have to remember that Indy cars weren’t downforce monsters back then so the track was fine. Many drivers, mechanics and engineers today say no way IndyCar can run there because it’s just too risky without the runoff areas. But ALMS ran balls out there a few years ago and IndyCar was looking at Mosport as an alternative last year if Toronto wasn’t ready, and Fellows & Company have made it a showplace. But I know IndyCar needs at least two and probably three dates in Canada.
Q: I’ve been, and it is fabulous. Now it is back. Why did IndyCar even drop Road America from its lineup?
Anthony Jenkins, Canada
RM: When IRL and Champ Car merged, Road America and Surfer’s Paradise didn’t make the cut, which made no sense then and really looks dumb today.
Q: Robin, you probably don’t get too many of these, and maybe I’m just in a good mood, but I gotta say: I’m happy. I’m writing this on lap 9 of the Road America race and this is just … good. This is how/where/when and the way IndyCar should be! Rossi, Daly, Rahal, Chilton and Munoz are awesome. Rossi is moving along nicely, Daly is battling in the top 10. Newgarden is up a bunch of positions. I know you’re going to get more bad than good, as you do every week. But I don’t know what more you can ask for this weekend? The future is bright. Watkins Glen later, Iowa next week. With the direction of the series, with the crop of drivers, with the on-track product, with the schedule (still needs to be longer, though). Now I’m watching you talk about the crowd, and look at the attendance. Just gotta say Robin, today’s a good day. Feels nice to just be content for once with my favorite motorsport!
Tory, Las Vegas, NV
RM: This week, Tory, the ratio of positive-to-negative mailbag entries on IndyCar are roughly 150-1, as expected after such a great weekend. I think it cemented the fact IndyCar’s fan base was, has and always will be in the Midwest given the proper place and time. Glad you watched and enjoyed.
Q: Brother! That was a barn burner! So nice to see Indy cars back at Road America. Power put on a clinic, but I loved seeing the youngsters; Newgarden and Pigot put on a heck of a show, as did Daly before his suspension failure. I think IndyCar is in good hands with good young American talent like that ready to take on the mantle, not that the old boys are doing too badly as TK showed! The crowds looked good, too. Would like to hear Barnhart explain the blocking call, then letting it slide, but if that’s the worst of his shenanigans this year, so be it. At least he didn’t black flag Helio!
Trevor Bohay, Kamloops, British Columbia, Canada
RM: Pigot was plenty impressive, as was Conor, and JoNew sucked it up like an old-schooler from the ‘60s and drove like a warrior through the pain. I know of at least one team that’s eying Daly for 2017 and Pigot is getting some looks, so it’s good to know somebody is paying attention.
Q: I agree with all your comments on your video recap – what a successful weekend. While Power led most of the way it was by no means a cakewalk for him and yes, with a few more laps TK may have passed him for the lead. It was exciting racing from front to back. Regarding Newgarden, how can Penske not take notice of this guy? Every interview he was positive and took responsibility for the mistake in qualifying, played down his injuries, had nothing but good things to say about the team and just handled himself like a pro. What more does a Penske or Ganassi look for in a driver?
RM: It was documented there were 134 passes for position from second place on back and I’ve had more people raving about the great racing throughout the pack. I’ve been saying for the past couple years that JoNew is the “Penske-perfect package” and The Captain claims he’s on the team’s short list down the road. Not sure Chip pays attention, but Mike Hull does. And how can either not want Rahal as well?
Q: Does Josef Newgarden have what it takes to drive in F1? Haas needs an American driver to get the USA enthused. Could Josef do the job?
Jenks from Ohio
RM: I’m sure he does, but why would he want to go run for 14th when he’s contending for victories and championships here? Those were his words a year ago and I think he’s about being a racer and not a field-filler.
Q: I have been to Road America since the 1970s. While the oval racing constituency’s interest was centered on Indy, the center of the open-wheel, road-racing universe was always Road America. This year’s Road America race was transformational in a way that I did not anticipate: It signaled the closing of the last major wound of “the split,” and a major constituency of IndyCar was welcomed back into the fold. I spent a lot of time talking to fans (some of whom are friends), many who had not been to an IndyCar race, or rarely watched one on TV, since 2007. This fan base has felt slighted ever since Road America was left off the map during reunification. They never got over the fact that the neither the IRL nor Road America could come to an agreement for a race for the new, combined series. Now that the series is back, I sense we are on the road to recovery. There were lots and lots of vintage CART “Welcome Race Fans” banners on display, lots of historic memorabilia and lots of people looking forward to a new era of IndyCar at Road America. Technically, the split was over when the two series merged. But I think the split ended in spirit last weekend, when Road America resumed its place as one of three premier events on the IndyCar schedule. Indy is obviously the premier event. Long Beach is the premier street event. And now Road America has resumed its position as the premier road course event. Perhaps I am making too much of this. But I heard this over and over again: It’s like getting the band back together. Your thoughts?
Ed Joras, Libertyville, IL
RM: I think you are spot on because of all the letters, suggestions and complaints about IndyCar since 2008, the overriding drumbeat was that Road America was a must! I talked to more people over the weekend that were either ecstatic to be back at Elkhart Lake or returning to their first IndyCar event since 2007. There was an energy and enthusiasm that I didn’t even see at Indianapolis last month because you people are IndyCar’s faithful – the ones who drive to races, proudly wear a Hinch hat and camp out at Elkhart Lake.
Q: I am so glad NBCSN sent you out to Turn 5 to report about the fans. What a crowd! And their enthusiasm was evident throughout the weekend. I so wish I could have been there, but I have The Glen to look forward to in September. Maybe next year for Road America. I too heard griping from a few people about what a boring race it was since there was no passing. What race were they watching? The passing and extremely close racing that NBCSN showed us yesterday was phenomenal! And TK was so close to winning. I also cannot praise enough the bravery of Mr. Newgarden. I love the fact he doesn’t whine or gripe; just buckles down and does his job. Now whom at NBCSN do I thank for adding coverage of practice on Friday and the new post-race show? I feel that IndyCar fans are finally seated at the adult viewing table and we certainly appreciate it.
RM: I don’t know if it was as big as Mansell’s debut at Road America, but the crowds were massive all three days and the racing was excellent. Like Montoya said, if you didn’t enjoy that then its time to move on. I think Sam Flood and Rich O’Connor deserve the credit for NBCSN going to live practice shows (and there’s going to be a few more in 2016) but the post-race show was actually us scrambling to fill the three-hour time slot since the race only took 90 minutes.
Q: I’m a 30-plus year fan of IndyCar racing and of Road America. I live and work within a 50-mile radius of the track. I’m surprised, shocked and delighted that my teenage daughter and her friends are talking about the race, before and after the event, and many attended and can’t wait for next year. They discovered IndyCar and are new fans. I never thought this crowd (14-20 year olds) would put their phones down and become race fans like I did at that age. Many of my coworkers who are NASCAR fans decided to give the race a try, and they were overwhelmed by the drivers, the race and the facility. To quote one staunch NASCAR fan after attending: “I’ll never again sit cramped in the stands to watch an oval race when I can watch IndyCar racing at a facility like Road America.” The bar I hang out with was abuzz with talk about the race, people spoke of being at the race and it was met with envy from those that didn’t attend. Many others spoke of watching it on TV and of how good of a race it was. I’ve never seen or heard of this kind of interest in Indy car racing since prior to the split in ‘96. Sunday night at Slinger Superspeedway, a local stock car short track that has produced the likes of Kenseth, Reiser, [Ted] Musgrave, Kulwicki, the Sauters, Rich Bickle and many more, they were talking about Road America in the pits, stands and on the P.A. Did I die or is this a dream? Not only was Road America a huge success in terms of attendance and quality of racing, it created conversations and praise about the event and the facility like I would have never have imagined.
Craig Claerbout, Slinger, WI (home of the fastest paved 1/4 mile)
RM: That’s incredibly good news and I wonder if it was the access, brats, people, weather, Indy cars, drivers, non-stop action or all of the above that wooed your daughter, her friends and the stock car folks? It gives me some renewed hope.
Q: I think I’m about to give up on Marco. He may have his father’s (and grandfather’s) genes, and possibly their natural talent, but he just can’t seem to get it all to hang together. For a long time, people slagged him off as not trying hard enough, that he wasn’t dedicated to his craft. Too much sense of entitlement. But then he went to England, got a driver coach and did show improvement on road courses. But he’s still not carrying his weight. I think his last chance would be to go to another team. Graham Rahal perked up once his dad stopped trying to run his car. If Michael can’t/won’t kick his butt, he needs to go somewhere where someone will pull the safety blanket of being an Andretti out from under him. The thing is, I don’t know who would give him a first-class ride given his results. He’s not gonna go to Penske or Ganassi. Besides the animosity between them and Andretti on a team basis, they’re already set with a primo driver line-up. So, where would he go? Marco has a job where if his name wasn’t Andretti he’d have been long gone. And as long as Michael runs the team, I don’t see that changing – which leaves Marco as a “might have been.”
Chad R. Larson
RM: Mario was hungry and Michael was driven to succeed by the pressure of the family name but I don’t know what to say about Marco. He’s always good at Indy and most ovals but has struggled most of his career at road racing. He did show a glimpse of improvement after his English coaching but now he’s back in the back – at every street show and road course. Bobby Rahal never intervened when Graham drove for Newman/Haas or Ganassi; he stayed on the other side of the pit wall. When his son came on board RLL, it only took a couple of years for him to step down from the pit box and head for the grandstands because he felt it was better for everyone (and the results are tough to argue with). I think Marco feels enormous pressure to be an Andretti and needs a change of scenery, but where would he go? Dale Coyne might take him for the right amount of money, but who else? Some suggest he’ll go run sports cars and just the Indy 500, but that seems kinda desperate – except it is becoming a desperate situation. I’ve been saying for years that IndyCar needs Marco to be a star, but you wonder now if it’s even a possibility?
Q: My 16-year-old daughter and I attended the race today in Elkhart Lake. We drove up, saw three great races, and now I’m back home in west suburban Chicago by 6:10 p.m.! Thank George B. and his team at Road America for a great day. As someone who supported the Milwaukee Mile races for the past few years with the late start time, I really appreciate the noon green flag. And hopefully Mark Miles and Co. will not move the date, nor dictate a late start time because today’s festivities were first rate! (will “not” move italics)
Joe Z., Naperville
RM: Good to hear Joe. That was always my contention as to why Milwaukee wasn’t working – 4 o’clock starting times on Sunday aren’t going to cut it with people from Chicago or Iowa or Indy. And George was adamant about an early green flag.
Q: How big was the race turnout with fans? I heard them say it was the biggest Road America crowd since the days of Nigel Mansell. I hope that they will be able to draw that sort of crowd in Year 2 and also see if the Glen will pull in a good crowd. And with Chip Ganassi winning at Le Mans with Ford, could you ever see him bringing Ford into IndyCar to supply a motor for his team? This would be great for IndyCar to pull in a third supplier. The new Ford is a turbo!
RM: No official numbers were given out but if I remember correctly, the Mansell debut in 1993 drew 65,000 on race day and was deemed the largest, one-day sports crowd in Wisconsin history. I don’t think last Sunday rivaled that but it was easily 50,000 and 100,000 for three days seems more than reasonable. I asked Chip about Ford to IndyCar and he said this might be the best time to ask.
Q: I’m sure the mailbag is full of praise for the Elkhart event, but how about the level of driving in the series? Over the past two weekends, there has been incredible wheel-to-wheel action with a minimum of carnage. There was more action in one lap at Road America than you see in a two-hour F1 race. Great stuff. Even the rookies have been very solid. Conor Daly has been as outstanding as we all knew he would be. Is his future in the series secure now? Do you think any of the bigger teams have him on their radar?
Lee Tobie, Cincinnati, OH
RM: Other than going out to Turn 5, I was in the pits for the whole race, but I thought our NBCSN coverage showed just how racy it was from start-to-finish – especially the final seven laps. I know of one team that likes Daly but it’s not one of the Big 3 – yet.
Q: Robin, that race was amazing! Action-packed and fun as hell to watch. Did TK ever express his displeasure to Rahal for his blocking moves as he exited the pits? Tony really had to get on those brakes … I figured race control would have intervened on that one. It also looks like Will Power is proving his critics wrong … I love it!
RM: Not to my knowledge, he didn’t say anything on his radio either, but T.K. got the position back so no need for another intervention from race control. Not sure Will has too many serious critics. I mean, he’s only won 27 races and 44 poles in the past decade.
Q: Paul Tracy made a good point on the broadcast about Road America needing to build a pit exit lane for cars to blend back onto the racetrack. Also, why wasn’t race control penalizing drivers for veering directly onto the track?
Rob Peterson, Rochester, NY
RM: You exit the pits, get up to speed as fast as possible and move to the outside to set up for Turn 1 – plus your visibility is very limited with all that crap hanging off the car. P.T. is right and hopefully Road America builds a little blend lane by next year.
Q: Robin, please clear this up for me. Castroneves blocked Kimball and Hunter-Reay was able to pass Kimball because of the loss of Kimball’s momentum due to the block. Before the lap was completed race control was ordering the No. 3 car to give back one position immediately. This did not happen for a couple of laps @ a four-mile circuit. Finally Castroneves did let Hunter-Reay through before Turn 5. Cindric said on the radio to Helio “we’re good.” In my opinion, Kimball should have been let by also because the block killed his run and allowed Hunter-Reay by. Why did race control only ask for only one position to be given back, and not right away? Everyone knows the Penske team doesn’t need any breaks or “help” from race control.
RM: It did screw Kimball, but it’s part and parcel with Road America’s length, the response and what’s happening on track. By the time race control decided it was a penalty, communicated the info to Helio and the team argued back, RHR had passed Charlie. So when Castroneves allowed RHR to pass, he technically fulfilled his penalty even though it was Kimball he blocked.
Q: There was so much going on it got lost in the broadcast shuffle. How does Helio get a blocking penalty and not get disqualified for never giving up the position? Yes, I understand he gave up a position to RHR. That’s not how this works. He blocked Kimball. He had to give a spot to Kimball. The fact that RHR got by Charlie isn’t race control’s fault. What is their fault is not enforcing the penalty. If the No. 3 was given a black flag, instructed to give a spot to the No. 83 and didn’t after a couple of laps, the No. 3 should no longer have been scored. I’m curious if IndyCar has the guts to fix this mistake. Otherwise the race was spectacular. Can’t wait for Watkins Glen.
Ryan, West Michigan
RM: (See above answer). Actually, Helio did give up his spot – it just wasn’t to the guy he blocked.
Q: What gives with all the shade being thrown on Alexander Rossi? The latest comes from Paul Tracy on the TV broadcast at Texas. Paul did recognize Rossi as an up-and-coming talent but then proceeded hit him with the backhand of not having enough personality. This seems to be a common refrain in media and fan circles. The guy not only has to be a winner but also has to be the life of the party in order to be accepted as an extraordinary driver. But a substantial contingent of media infers that Rossi has a personality limp as a wet dishrag. I wonder what their reaction would be if Rossi gave a post-Indy 500 interview on the same note as Gordon Johncock gave to Chris Economacki after the race in 1982. If you remember the scene was absolute chaos and bedlam but to hear Gordon tell it everything was under control. The dude didn’t flinch one iota. Gordon Johncock was truly the “King of Cool.” As I see it, that should be Alexander Rossi’s model. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely loved it when Tracy punched Tagliani or fed Bourdais a knuckle sandwich, but does every driver have to aspire to that? Whatever happened to the cool, calm professional that kicks the field’s ass, thanks the sponsors and quietly retires to his trailer?
Bob Marston, Fremont, California
RM: I don’t think P.T. was picking on Rossi, I think he was merely pointing out that the guy didn’t seem too jazzed after winning the biggest race in the world. But he kinda reminds me of Mike Mosley’s demeanor out of the car. Very quiet, very reserved, very controlled.
Q: Awesome race! Awesome track! Those are two things that I can say about Road America despite Will Power leading 46 of 50 laps on his way to victory. I have one recommendation for IndyCar, Road America and George Bruggenthies though: Increase the race distance for 2017! One lap at Road America is 4.048 miles. Today’s race was 202.4 miles. If the race was to be run caution-free, that distance could easily be covered in 90 to 100 minutes. I assume the TV window also dictates the race distance.
Back in the CART/Champ Car era the races at Road America were anywhere from 200- to 242-mile affairs:
1982-98 and 2016: 50 laps
1999-00: 55 laps
2001, 2003, 2004: race shortened to 45, 34, and 48 laps, respectively due to time limit
2002: 60 laps
2005: No race held
2006: 51 laps
2007: 53 laps
With that said, should IndyCar increase the race distance at Road America for 2017? I recall the Pocono race being increased to 500 miles for 2014.
Ken C., Thunder Bay, ON
RM: Since the race took a little over 90 minutes because it only had one yellow flag, that might be a suggestion to get some serious consideration from Road America and NBCSN.
Q: I can’t agree with you more on returning to Milwaukee the week after Indy. I would much rather watch a race at flat-track ovals like Milwaukee, Richmond and Indy because it is spectacular and demonstrates how Indy cars do not need high banking in order to go fast and to put on a great show. You stated in last week’s mailbag that they are beginning to sell the grandstands at Milwaukee, so it sounds like the current owners of the track have given up. I think this would be a great opportunity for Hulman & Company to purchase the track at a rock-bottom price. The rich tradition of open-wheel cars at Milwaukee needs to be preserved, and IndyCar needs another flat oval, so this seems like a perfect scenario. As Paul Newman famously said in “Winning,” “We always go to Milwaukee after Indy.” IMS could promote the Milwaukee race all during the month of May and help return that track and race to its former glory. You need to take Mark Miles to lunch at Mug-n-Bun and make it happen!
Adrian Long, Ringgold, GA
RM: Milwaukee worked for 90 years because it was the race after Indy with all the Indy drivers. Champ Car went to Milwaukee the week after Indy, but none of its drivers (besides Bruno and Bourdais a couple times) raced at IMS so that luster was lost and the IRL didn’t go until July or August. But the state owns the property and it’s not for sale – it is still a big part of the state fair in August. I believe only the small bleachers in Turn 4 have been sold.
Q: I agree that the rules would not permit restarting the Texas race from the beginning, nor would they permit Joseph and Conner back in the event – unless all the team owners agreed to start the race from the beginning (and to allow Newgarden and Daly to run), the rule problem could be waived. I know the odds of that happening are only a little better than either you or I winning the lottery, but it would be a possible solution. With all of the fan interest in a complete race, it could also build a lot of goodwill for the series. The only issue could be if Newgarden or Daly were in contention for the championship, then I could see some objections. But, as I do not see either of them being in that position, especially by August, I don’t see that being a damper on the plan.
Kevin Eads, Anderson, Indiana
RM: I won’t name names, but I can tell you that at least two owners went to IndyCar and demanded that the race be restarted on lap 72 and not rerun in its entirety because they were concerned that Newgarden could come back and win. And Josef is fifth in the point standings as of today.
Q: I hate the idea of anyone being guaranteed in the Indy 500 by any means other than being one of the 33 fastest, but economic reality is opening my mind to an alternative. Sebastien Bourdais is quoted in a RACER.com article from May as saying 33 cars should be pre-declared, and qualify on one day. There’s a sensible way to do this: Declare a deadline. January 1st, March 1st, whatever. File your entry by then, or be among the first 33 to be entered for the 500, and you get to race after your qualifying run. This way, sponsors can commit to a car sooner. Team Murray (with Matt Brabham) could have been better prepared if they knew they in advance they would start the race; a potential sponsor would have ponied up $500,000. First come, first served. Get the money together and submit your entry. In the coming years, bump day can mean something again if the formula can be changed and people can afford IndyCar racing, but until we get 40+ cars showing up every year I don’t see a more sensible solution. Any possible new short track racers coming to IndyCar or Indy Lights? What about Jarret Andretti? Ed Carpenter is in the final years of his career, and Lord only knows if Bryan Clauson will get another shot; otherwise no USAC guys left in IndyCar. And finally, whatever happened to “Gentlemen, start your engines!” Drivers seems so cautious and PC in cases when all the drivers are men. Thank God they still do it right at the Speedway.
Steve, Eugene, OR
RM: I spoke with Brett (Crusher) Murray about this very thing last month. Had he been “locked in” to the race he could have raised another half million for Matty Brab and, obviously, many others might have been able to extract a better deal since they’d be able to guarantee they’d be racing. Of course it goes against the very fabric of Indy and it’s depressing to think we can barely get 33 cars but, until the trend changes, why not? Jarrett isn’t ready for an Indy car and B.C. will have a shot as long as the Byrd family is in his corner. Your last question about the command speaks for itself. This isn’t your father’s Indy 500.
Q: I was watching the video of Hinch lapping the Glen, and noticed that he’s flat all the way from the Turn 1 exit to the bus stop. Any word on what speeds they hit? I know some people are worried that there aren’t any low-speed corners for outbraking, but they passed at the Glen in the IR07, and the DW12 has been racier at every single track. The speeds on the straights should create some amazing tows, which will in turn create great passing opportunities. I think this race is going to be fantastic. What do you think?
RM: To average 136mph a lap probably requires 190mph on the front straightaway and Turn 1 should be the optimum braking zone with push-to-pass added. Hinch said it was like driving in a video game and insanely fast, so I’m hoping it’s half as exciting as last Sunday at Road America.
Q: Question about IndyCar and the Glen. We’re obviously pleased and excited about open wheel’s return to the best road course in North America – sorry cheeseheads. But how is the race going to be promoted, and by whom? I live in VA and attended each year the first time they returned and was very disappointed at the lack of promotion and the nonsense posturing that went on between the two organizations. What is the usual radius for advertising (one, two, four hours away)? My friends in Rochester, NY said they barely heard a peep about the race during those years and absolutely crickets in Buffalo and Syracuse. (Suggestion – strike a deal with Wegmans grocery store). No idea about NYC, but I’d think one of the biggest cities in the world would be their No. 1 target. There’s no reason the Glen couldn’t/shouldn’t pack ’em in for a heritage race like this but it will obviously require effort on the promoters/Indycar’s part as well. So, what’s being done?
Derek, Sterling, VA
RM: I believe it’s a co-promotion between IndyCar and the Glen (much like Phoenix was) so I would hope they get it fired up ASAP since that race is only two months out. I will ask Mark Miles and Jay Frye about the strategy and report back to you with their answer. But it’s not worth wasting money promoting it in New York City – that’s not IndyCar’s audience.
Q: How come those who either win the championship or have success in Indy Lights disappear if they do not move up to IndyCar? Why do they not continue to race in Indy Lights if they cannot break into IndyCar? It seems like they would want to be around IndyCar teams, tracks, sponsors and continue to have their face/name out there. Cannot see how it does them any good to not be on track and racing in open-wheel cars on IndyCar circuits to hopefully get noticed or at least fill in for someone (a la Will Power at St. Pete)?
Steve Riccomini, Chico, CA
RM: It’s all about money. Had Josef Newgarden, Gabby Chaves and Spencer Pigot not received financial help for being Lights champion, they likely would not have gotten their foot in the door. Pigot said it best: “It’s hard to get an IndyCar ride but it’s even harder to keep it.” Zach Veach has gone from Lights winner to trying unsuccessfully to land an IndyCar ride to running Lights races again (he won last weekend at Road America). It’s not going to get him an IndyCar ride.
Q: In last week’s mailbag you said, “Obviously, the best thing would be for all the races to either be on NBC or NBCSN, and I think NBC Sports would promote the hell out of Indy – just like it does the Kentucky Derby – as well as the series.” It got me thinking about the two events on the biggest day in motorsport – the Sunday of Memorial Day weekend. Can you imagine flipping on NBC to catch the Monaco Grand Prix and not changing the channel for the 500? The cross-promotion would be fantastic, especially since F1’s ratings on NBCSN continue to rise in the US. When you talk about NBC’s promotion of the Derby, I could only imagine what they would do, considering all they do now, if they had full-season broadcast rights. All morning I could see broadcasting from Indy on NBCSN while NBC handled the Grand Prix, then coverage would continue on broadcast NBC up to and including the 500 post-race. What a wonderful day that would be. Ahh, well, we can dream …
RM: Obviously that would help elevate both audiences and I think IndyCar would be wise to offer to help NBC buy out ABC’s contract.
Q: As we know, Bryan Herta Autosport eventually “merged” with Andretti this year. Was there ever any discussion between BHA and Carlin to run a joint IndyCar program? Given Colton Herta’s continued relationship with Carlin overseas, and knowing Carlin wants to move up, was that a possibility? That also got me wondering if the Leaders Circle payout could be transferred to a new entity if it was formed as part of a merger with an existing team.
Mark, Mississauga, Ontario
RM: I think that’s a distinct possibility (saw Colton at Road America and he’s growing up quickly), but hopefully Trevor Carlin is in IndyCar before little Hertamania is ready.
Q: Over the past couple weeks we’ve heard a lot of talk from IndyCar officials justifying their handling of Texas as “per the rulebook.” But what does the rulebook actually say? “220.127.116.11: INDYCAR may without limitation order the completion, postponement, or cancellation of any Event or any portion thereof for any reason. INDYCAR may terminate a Race before its scheduled number of laps or allotted time and in such case determine the Race results and disposition of the awards and may terminate a Race after one or more Cars have finished. INDYCAR may increase or reduce the scheduled number of laps or allotted time, and/or may declare an Event completed, postponed, terminated or abandoned.”
So the exact same rule that actually gives IndyCar the power to postpone the race until August also gives IndyCar the power to add 71 laps to the race distance – or to abandon the race altogether, and declare a new one (which would allow Newgarden and Daly back in). I understand wanting to follow the rulebook, but there’s no rule to “follow” here – the rulebook grants IndyCar wide authority. I don’t mind tuning in for a sprint race, but for the sake of the fans that are driving out to TMS and sitting out in the heat, why wouldn’t IndyCar do the most fan-friendly thing and give them a full race?
Mark Zastrow, Seoul, South Korea
RM: I can’t answer that, but I know several drivers (besides Daly and Newgarden) lobbied IndyCar to just rerun the whole race. But Jay Frye says he’s sticking by the rulebook.
Q: With all the inexplicable bitching about too many street circuits and no ovals, I have a solution: a temporary oval course, like that masterpiece that CART ran in the Caesars Palace car park in 1983 and 1984. Those were fantastic races, hosting the Gas Man’s last win and Michael Andretti’s debut. The ‘84 show was fantastic, even if Big Al didn’t think so. The layout wasn’t like a normal oval; sure, it was more like a trapezoid, so it was unique in that perspective, too. Please suggest this to as many people as possible in IndyCar. Oval fans would appreciate a revamped take on oval racing, and it would have the accessibility of the street races. I know something like this was once proposed for Cleveland, but perhaps in a new market, like Norfolk, VA, or Oklahoma City, perhaps?
C.W., Chicago, IL
RM: It was a racy joint in both configurations, but even better as an oval in ’84 when Big Al gave The Gas Man the finger to let him know what position he was running. I’m for anything similar to Caesars Palace or any airport circuit.
Q: Watching the wrangling that took place in GTE before Le Mans, it occurred to me that I think this might be exactly what IndyCar needs. One thing the ICONIC committee lacked was manufacturer/partner representation. The only members with vested interests were the management representative Randy Bernard (now gone), ownership representative Gil De Ferran (no longer in that position), and Eddie Gossage, whose own agenda serves precious little purpose to IndyCar. We don’t need some contrived, ceremonially named group, but I think the next time the chassis/engine formula is changed, Honda and Chevrolet need to have a say in things. In May 2014, Derrick Walker said they both OEMs were open to an equivalency formula, but I don’t know if that’s still true today. Regardless, if you open things up just a tad, make it a bit easier for manufacturers to join and then work on equivalency, it would lessen the burden on the current OEMs by making it easier for others to join. Honda brings the perspective of the longtime partner who didn’t get the head start they thought they would when the formula changed from 2.4-liter to 2.2-liter V6’s. Chevrolet brings the perspective of the newer partner who found a way to instantly gain competitive traction. They both bring the perspective of a marque expecting to field a third of the grid, only to be unexpectedly burdened with half the field for half a decade. That experience should not go underrepresented or underutilized. At Le Mans, no one boycotted, no one threatened to leave the grid and no one left the grid when changes were made to each manufacturer’s cars. I can see all the same crap that comes about currently in IndyCar with homologation and engine/aero changes now. But hell, we’ve been dealing with that since we raced pinewood derby cars in Cub Scouts! All I know is that we do have proof that this kind of thing can work on some of the biggest global stages.
Dan Wagner, Ft. Worth, TX
RM: What better source to answer your question than Mr. Le Mans, Marshall Pruett: “Great questions, Dan. Having seen how hard it is to achieve true parity with BoP in sports cars, I’d hate to see it introduced in IndyCar. What I would like to see, however, is a return to specific options. Pick your 2.2-liter twin-turbo V6 purebred engine, a X.X-liter VX, etc. If manufacturers want to come in with a stockblock engine, as they were one allowed, then go for it. If a diesel is desired, go for it. But rather than welcome in anything, and then try and balance it by giving more/taking away from the other engines, defining the options, boost, revs, and any other predetermined areas as necessary, would, in theory, provide a fixed approach. The stock blocks might have an advantage at some tracks, the diesels at others, and the purebreds elsewhere. I’d be fine with that. Once we get into constant bitching and balancing, all the fun leaves the room and you’re stuck with continually unhappy manufacturers. Give them a choice on what to pick for architecture, stick to those rules, and let them know if they come up short, it’s on them to make the improvements in the design lab or dyno room. Once BoP enters the equation, it will be like Aero Kit Rule 9.3 all day every day.”