Welcome to the Robin Miller Mailbag 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 email@example.com We cannot guarantee we’ll publish all your questions and answers, but Robin will reply to you. And if you have a question about the technology side of racing, Robin will pass these on to Marshall Pruett and he will also answer here.
OK, the IndyCar season opener is in the books and we have two major themes in this week’s Mailbag – the fans didn’t like what happened to Robert Wickens, and they weren’t too thrilled with ABC’s coverage, either. So, in the interest of good taste and brevity, I’m only going to answer each topic once after the last question of said category. Thanks for your participation. RM.
Q: I am in total disagreement about the end of St. Petersburg. Wickens was absolutely punted by a driver that should have known better. Last lap my ass. Keep control of your car. To hear Alexander Rossi do anything other than take responsibility for losing control of his car is wrong. IndyCar is wrong for not penalizing him. Wickens made the only bad restart of his race, but Rossi not getting penalized was a slap in the face and just poor judgement on the part of “race control.” The worst part was, ABC wasn’t going to stick around for interviews with third place, so penalizing Rossi would only be known to people who care.
Rick Navratil, Phoenix, AZ
Q: I was going to give IndyCar an A for the first race of the 2018 season. The new aero package worked as planned. For the first time in years we saw the drivers “driving” again, with the cars sliding and the drivers sawing the wheel lap after lap. It wasn’t a surprise to see the success of the rookies, most of whom as used to driving loose race cars. Also, the tire degradation was a nice bonus, adding another variable to the strategy of the teams and drivers.
But while all this was good, I left the race with a bad taste in my mouth. Robert Wickens should have won the race. Here is a guy in his first IndyCar race dominating the field, but he gets taken out by an overzealous Alexander Rossi. And what about the restart? Why were the pace car lights still on, and why was the Push to Pass allowed on the last restart? All I could think of was NASCAR with their gimmicks of phantom cautions and G/W checker finishes.
Rick Schneider, Charlotte
Interesting opening race, but the story is what happened on the last restart. One unwritten rule told to drivers is that it is the responsibility of the driver overtaking to be able to make the pass cleanly. Early on, Dixon was penalized for unavoidable contact at the same place, but Rossi was not. Then, finding out that the pace car did not have the lights off…
As I recall, ABC (on the restarts that they didn’t miss) said on at least twice ‘one lap to go’, and then you see the pace car lights on, going for an extra lap. So, even if IndyCar stated it was going green via radio, a driver is conditioned so that if the lights are on the pace car, it isn’t going green. IndyCar still is struggling with a Race Control that doesn’t seem to be consistent with the calls. As for Rossi, he went for a move, took out the leader, went on to the podium, then sounded like a jerk afterwards. For that, I’ve lost all respect for him.
Frank, Phoenix, AZ
Q: So Rossi turned IndyCar into NASCRAP! Look at the video, alone he could never have made the turn, so he went all crash wagon and [got] no penalty? Come on, avoidable contact.
Q: I feel awful for Wickens and I saw that PT commented that he left the door wide open for Rossi and OK, he was going for the win, but it seems quite unfair that you take the fastest car out and end up third without any penalties. Do you think that was OK? RW was putting on a driving school, so hopefully we’ll see some more from him. Both the Penske and Ganassi cars were mid-pack, so maybe the new aero package will level the playing field a bit. I like the way the cars look with the exposed roll hoop and sleek engine cover. The helmet cams are the best!
Jim Doyle, Hoboken NJ
Q: I’m an old guy and maybe I don’t remember all that well, but when did racing mean bumping the guy in front out of the way? I thought Dillion’s win at Daytona was just terrible. And I just finished watching Rossi take out Wickens. I don’t agree with Goodyear and Eddie Cheever that he did what he had to do. If you can’t get around, them bumping the out of the way is chicken%^&*.
Mike Latino, Fontana, CA
Q: It is a good thing prize money in IndyCar is so skimpy. If Rossi had cost Wickens serious prize and finishing money, I can see the crews getting into a rumble. Miller vs. AJ, round II? As it is, just busted parts.
Rick Smith, San Diego, CA
Q: I think Rossi should have been given a time penalty equaling two-to-four finishing spots down for his move on Wickens. I don’t think IndyCar should be like NASCAR and let people punt each other scot-free, nor should they be as restrictive as F1. While I agree with Paul Tracy’s comment that he left the door wide open, it is still the passer’s responsibility to make the pass without taking out the leader. I would never want to discourage chargers from attempting passes, but you gotta make it stick; you can’t simply slide thru the marbles or overcook your brakes knowing the leader is there to limit your momentum and get you through the corner. Wickens’ behavior was way more sporting than how Helio would have done it… thank God his blocking ass has moved on to the golden pastures of IMSA.
Q: Good vs. evil, black vs. white, right vs. wrong. In the case of St. Petersburg, trying to determine one versus the other seems pointless. We, the fans, are the winners. A driver attempted a pass that every one of his fans, his sponsor and his owners trust in him to attempt. Another in his first race put on a performance I would expect out of Scott Dixon. With cars on the edge of control, they gave each other very little margin for error trying to win, and contact happened.
Rossi and Wickens both gained my respect for how hard they drove. The edge that existed in the cars was visible on TV. The difficulty driving them was evident by past champions losing them on their own. It was mentioned on ABC and IndyCar Radio that there was a buzz this weekend with the new cars, owners and drivers. From what I saw Sunday, the future of IndyCar is in great hands.
Jordan, Binghamton, NY
RM: Watching the replay, a couple things jump out. About 200 yards from the apex of Turn 1, Wickens moved over but not violently, because he said he didn’t want to get called for blocking. He did leave an opening for Rossi, and we saw what happened. My thoughts are that Robert won’t be as kind next time – since he was the race leader, he could have moved once all the way to the inside (he’s allowed one move), and basically told Rossi to pass him on the outside or finish second. I don’t blame Rossi for going for it, and he didn’t crash Wickens on purpose because he had no way of knowing his car would survive an impact. But I did have a problem with him blaming Wickens after the race. You just punted this guy out of his first win, and it’s his fault? I’ll be interested to see how Rossi reacts when it happens to him – and it will.
As for the pace car lights, it was some kind of malfunction that IndyCar takes the blame for, but the drivers were told they were going green on that lap by Race Control and the pace car pulled off, so Wickens should have been ready (and he admitted as much afterwards). As for the Push-to-Pass, that rule was changed in 2017 and now P-to-P will be activated for any restarts that occur on or after the white flag lap. Last year at Detroit, the race was red-flagged and then re-started with P-to-P.
And the non-call at the end… why was Rossi’s overzealousness any different than Scott Dixon’s? Because it was the end of the race? I thought Race Control wimped out and Rossi deserved a penalty because he took out the leader. Rossi is not a dirty driver. He was trying to win the race, and we’re going to talk about it all week, but he made a mistake and cost a rookie a victory after a flawless performance. It didn’t seem fair he was allowed to keep his podium finish, but who says racing is fair?
Q: I believe that Mark Miles has said that the broadcast contract for IndyCar is coming down to ABC and NBC. If ABC was using the St. Pete race as an example of what it can deliver, then it failed miserably. The production by ESPN felt amateurish. On two occasions, the race went back to green during a commercial, and that’s after watching the cars circulate under yellow for a lap or two. There was little or no video of Matheus Leist’s crash or Jack Harvey’s crash, and Power’s spin on Lap 1 was out of live camera view.
And on the ill-fated final restart, the picture switched to a low angle when the overhead view would have told a better story. And that’s just the production. I won’t go into the substandard color commentary, but let me put it this way; the broadcast would have been much better if Jon Beekhuis and Rick DeBruhl were in the booth and Eddie Cheever and Scott Goodyear were in the pits. Rest easy, Robbie. It looks like your gig with NBC Sports is going to go on for a while. Can’t wait to watch the NBCSN boys in action at Phoenix.
Don Davis, Chardon, Ohio
Q: Hey Robin, viewing ABC’s/ESPN’s inadequate (that’s putting it nicely) coverage of the St. Pete race Sunday provided clear indication to me where they stand in their support of the series. It was a total lack of quality, with no pre- or post-race coverage whatsoever. No announcement of the starting lineup or thorough post-race interview after an eventful last lap tangle. Not to mention they were at still at a commercial on multiple occasions when the race had returned to green.
One would think that with all the changes that happened over the offseason that the least the network could do is highlight the new drivers, aero kit, teams, etc. Yet it seemed all they cared about was making sure the viewer knew about their next televised races at the Indy GP and Indy 500. Perhaps I am getting mad at nothing, but with so much positive change happening in IndyCar, a quality TV network that is behind the series is icing on the cake. The bare-bones presentation we saw Sunday is alarming, and hopefully IndyCar’s top leaders are working on a deal that doesn’t repeat the lack of passion from the network that we saw Sunday.
Q: So I turn on the TV at 12:30 EDT expecting some kind of prerace show, 30 maybe 40 minutes and boom! Helio is giving the “start your engines” command from the fences. Come on ABC, was there nothing to talk about for the new season? Maybe a little insight into the new race car, or maybe the fact that there are a plethora of rookies and a handful of new teams to talk about? Great promotional job. Was the allotted TV slot so tight that they couldn’t let Seabass out of the car because of the microphone in the way? Had to make way for basketball. Your thoughts? Looking forward to NBC next time around.
Q: What a great race! Awesome way to start the season, cars looked great, nice to see the drivers having to drive the cars. With all the positives about the race, the huge negative again was the coverage. I really thought it would be impossible to do a worse job then ABC has done in the past years, but Sunday took the cake! It was so bad, in my opinion, there’s not enough space or time to write about it! My question is, do Jay Frye and the other heads of IndyCar watch the coverage the next day or two after the race?
Brad Heuer, Coeurdalene, Idaho
Q: Rookie on the front row; rookies leading the race; rookie race leader Robert Wickens from the DTM (or was it Stirling Moss in the car, from his driving performance), veterans spinning… ABC on Lap 12: “let’s interview Helio”. (Who needs to show the race? And oh, let’s miss the restarts). And inside 20 laps, “let’s have an overly long pit box interview with the car owner as the fight for the lead plays out”. So Rossi can crash the leader? And the third-place guy wins under the yellow!
Morris Wynn, Mt Pleasant SC
RM: I watched the ABC telecast and what’s infuriating is that they missed the first-corner action at the start when Willy P. tried Wickens on the outside (the camera just stayed on the first turn), and then they missed Jordan King passing Wickens for the lead later on with the same camera placement. I know I work for NBC and I’m prejudiced, but our producer Terry Lingner would never miss those shots because he knows racing, pays attention and is the best in the biz.
The three times (at least) the race restarted and ABC was still in commercial isn’t really anyone’s fault, just some unlucky timing. As for the new TV contract, the rumor is that ABC is offering 10 network races, but my comment is, so what? That’s just five or six more times to do a poor job, because it’s always been obvious that ABC could care less about IndyCar racing. Just having your product on national television doesn’t mean it’s good for business. ABC has no passion, no chemistry and no clue most of the time. Sorry, but I felt that way a long time before I went to work for NBC.
Q: I’ve got a simple question: How long will it be before Chip Ganassi starts knocking on Robert Wickens’ door?
RM: Depends on how Ed Jones does. It’s still early, but I imagine Wickens got on Chip’s radar last weekend. Or least he acknowledged his presence.
Q: There are about 20 different things to talk about, but I’ll submit a question about the officiating. I think the no-call on Rossi was marginal, but I have seen some professionals racers comment on the line Wickens took, effectively forcing Rossi on to the curb and causing him to get loose. The penalty I’m confused by is the one handed to Dixon. Does Race Control have any sort of flexibility with the penalty applied for avoidable contact? High-five to the officials for getting a quick restart at the end of the race. I was genuinely shocked by it, in a good way. What happened to Leist? ABC showed some debris being run over by what looked like a Foyt car, and five minutes later Leist is in the wall with a car that looked like it had a failure. (Read: not driver error).
RM: Obviously, avoidable contact is subjective so I assume it depends on the situation, and Race Control felt like Rossi was going for the win, not trying to purposely crash Wickens. But Wickens was the leader and got taken out, so some kind of a penalty was merited – not a podium finish. I get that Rossi was racing for the win, but he wasn’t penalized for his mistake. Dixon made an uncharacteristic mistake and was penalized, but I really didn’t see any difference between the two. Leist likely had something break because he went straight into the wall.
Q: Hearing ABC today brought me back to the 100th Indy 500 and Rossi’s surprise fuel strategy win. It seemed like the ABC team really didn’t have a grasp what was happening for a couple laps until Cheever quietly said. “He’s done it.” Why couldn’t there be a graphic, call it “Who’s got a shot?” that would track the fuel status of the top ten positions for the last 25 laps of the race? It would have predicted Munoz was going to run out and Rossi was in the best position to finish in front, though predicting how far he could coast would be hard. It’s a graphic that could be shown for mere seconds at a time and get the broadcasters and fans on the same page. I really think so much more could have been done by the broadcast crew in those last minutes. It was a missed opportunity.
Paul, Carmel, CA
RM; I’ve always heard that ABC pit reporter Rick DeBruhl knew that Rossi was going for it the entire time. He was supposedly selling the story on Rossi the last 25 laps and they wouldn’t take it. At NBC, if you have a story to pitch you can usually get right on the air, but evidently that’s not how it works at ABC. In my mind, the only thing worse than missing the story is turning down the story.
Q: Hope all is well and you are on the mend. But your replacement with Marshall on the videos has is doing a good job. And he even goes out and wins races to capture a good story. Tell me you have a plan to one-up him on your return to the track.
John, Newcastle, Aus.
RM: Seabass really seems to enjoy himself in those videos and he’s always pretty honest, so it’s a cool perspective. My plan is to engineer his car at Long Beach for the first session if Craig Hampson plays along.
Q: Amidst an exciting and fairly busy race broadcast, I kept hearing the ABC broadcast team making reference to there being 36 cars expected at Indianapolis. Either they’ve got something wrong, or they know something I don’t – my own count thus far has been 35 cars. Who’s looking to jump into the big show that I seem to be missing?
Garrett from San Diego
RM: Here’s a quick look: Andretti 6, Penske 4, Coyne 3, SPM 3, Shank 1, RLL 3, ECR 3, Ganassi 2, Foyt 2, Carlin 2, Dreyer & Reinbold 2, Harding, Juncos and that’s not counting Pippa Mann, James Davison or Buddy Lazier if they all come up with a car. That would make 36, but it will likely be 34 or 35.
Q: It sounds like the Indianapolis 500 has enough drivers, cars and engines to have 35-36 attempt to qualify for the race after numerous years of barely getting to 33. How do you see this playing out? Will we have a “Bump Day”, or will all comers be allowed to start the race?
I’m also wondering if we could see unqualified drivers jumping in a car at the last minute for a “Banzai” run – or is that even feasible in today’s racing world? A Bump Day would restore one of my favorite days of the Month of May, so I’m hoping for it even though a couple of teams may be left on the sidelines.
Scott Alderton, Fishers, Indiana
RM: I realize I’m old and live in the past, but I truly don’t see anything dramatic about one or two cars being left out if 35 show up. It pays nothing ($200,000) to start the race if you’re a non-Leader’s Circle member, so you raise $750,000 and show up but don’t make the show. There will come a time when IMS and IndyCar need those teams, so why not include them? They started 35 cars in 1979 and 1997, so that tradition is long gone… just like the days of Rich Vogler, Jerry Sneva or Bob Harkey jumping into a strange car in the closing minutes.
Q: This is shaping up to be a great year with the car count. When is the last time we have gained new teams like this and the car count has gone up? I was scared when some of the big teams started to drop cars that we would have a smaller field, but to my surprise we have even more cars. What is the full-season car count up to right now? Also from my count, we already have over the 33 cars for the 500. What’s the car count shaping up to be at Indy? I hope this is a big year for IndyCar, because right now motorsports across the board are dropping in ratings and car counts are going down, yet IndyCar is gaining cars and teams, and the TV ratings are staying level, if not growing a little. I know its not huge growth, but even one or two percent is better then none.
Rick from PA
RM: There are 22 full-timers with Mike Shank (six races) and Ricardo Juncos (nine) running several races as well. Indy will likely have between 34-36 cars.
Q: First of all, I’m thrilled that Conor Daly got a ride for the Indy 500. He’s a great guy and a great driver, and I think he really deserves a legitimate shot at a full season. However, people saying that his pure performances last year and 2016 merit a full time ride? I don’t think so.
I get that he was racing with teams where competition at the front was not always possible, but looking at how he did over the 2017 season, I don’t see how everyone can believe he was so robbed. Being dropped after finishing 18th in the championship (out of 18 full-time drivers in 2017 and 20 full-time drivers in 2016) two years in a row, when guys way further up the grid were in danger of being dropped just doesn’t seem that outlandish to me. Last year, Carlos Munoz beat him in the same team, same car.
No-one is complaining that Munoz needs a ride, and he’s had some damn good races in his career, especially at Indy. People point to him finishing second at Detroit 2016 as proof that he’s got true talent, but isolated drives don’t make him a truly brilliant driver. Hell, Carlos Huertas won a race in 2014 with Coyne, but I don’t hear anyone demanding he get a ride. I love Conor, I think he’s a damn good driver and that in a better team he’d put in really good performances. But the last two years don’t reflect that, and I think I’m one of the few people who sympathize with Coyne and Foyt as they try to work their way up the grid. Eighteenth out of 18 full-time drivers doesn’t prove that he needs to have a full-time ride. I hope he gets one, but not just because of how he did last year.
Max Camposano, Los Altos, CA
RM: First off, nobody is saying he’s a great driver. He’s won at just about every level he’s raced in, and I think he’s a good racer that could be in the Top 10 if he had some consistency. Could he be a winner? Of course, you already pointed out Huertas for Coyne, and Conor had some good runs with Coyne in 2016.
And I think most of his fans were hoping he’d get more than one year to develop some chemistry with A.J. (especially with T.K. and Eric Cowdin on board now) and I wanted Foyt to develop an American driver. I wrote a story about how neck-and-neck it was a few years ago in Lights between Daly and Josef Newgarden. What’s the difference? JoNew got five years to work on his craft and three with the same engineer before Team Penske snapped him up. It’s all about opportunity and continuity.
Q: Conor Daly has really rubbed me the wrong way these last couple of weeks. When talking about Foyt Racing, he has recently said things on the record in print articles like “I thought I did a good enough to keep my job”; “I’m use to being shafted”; “I don’t feel like I got a fair opportunity,” etc. He comes off as completely unprofessional. Foyt gave him a ride, without him bringing sponsorship, and it didn’t work out. Most don’t even get that chance. Be grateful! Move on.
Why would a team give him, with below-average results (third-to-last and last in the championship), a ride if he’s going act like that? I wouldn’t. He acts as if he is the only driver who ever found himself in this situation, and sounds spoiled and entitled. Then on a radio show about his 500 ride he spent most of the time talking about his “brand” instead of Dale Coyne, the Air Force, the 500, etc … Sometimes I wonder if he wants to be a racecar driver, or just someone who is famous. He’s a Danica, but less talented and less famous. Use to be a fan of his but not anymore.
Mark, Columbus, IN
RM: On television the other day he said he could never say anything bad about A.J. Foyt because A.J. gave him his first ride and then hired him for 2017 without bringing any money. So I guess it depends on what media format he’s being interviewed in, but in Conor’s case it was a bit of a blindside. I know Larry Foyt and ABC Supply wanted him back, but A.J. opted to go with Leist and Brazilian TV money and that’s certainly his prerogative. I don’t blame Daly for being miffed because he was led to believe he’d be back, but, to your point, it happens and that page has turned, so move on. And, so far, Leist is making Super Tex look pretty smart.
Q: I once asked my late father when he saw his first Indy 500, and he said 1949 when Bill Holland won! I recently looked up Bill Holland’s Indy stats and was surprised to see three second-place finishes as well! Is Bill an undiscovered oldie of greatness?
A hero who’s more deserving of modern recognition?
Brad Bryan, Hollywood CA
RM: In five starts he earned one win (1949) and those three runner-up finishes, so I’d say he was pretty damn good at Indianapolis. Holland was also leading the race as a rookie in 1947 [above] and slowed down to allow teammate Mauri Rose by, thinking he was a lap ahead. He wasn’t and Rose drank the milk, but it’s always been disputed whether it was a team order or not.
Q: I’m glad to see that Conor Daly is getting a chance to do the Indy 500 this year. Someone asked him in his Facebook live video if he was going to be able to do the Indy Grand Prix. He said that he would need to get $150K to be able to do that. Are there any rules in IndyCar that would prevent fans from crowdfunding to allow him to run that race? I would like to help an American driver as much as I can.
RM: Nothing in the rules to prevent any kind of driver funding like you suggest.
Q: The Indy Star’s IndyCar beat writer had a very, very series-friendly season preview story today – in fact I wonder if he’s secretly driving one of the IMS company Chevys. One part in particular grabbed me: “officials are projecting the 102nd [Indy 500] to break 300,000 in attendance, which, outside the 100th, would be the largest crowd IMS has seen in 20 years.” Is there way too much Kool-Aid being drank here, or do you think there’s actually a chance of that?
John S., Indianapolis
RM: If there are 230,000 permanent seats still standing and 20,000 are empty like last year, there’s nowhere close to 300,000 people. The Speedway never talked about crowd figures in the Hulman/Cloutier era and that added to the mystique, although the state police used to estimate 400,000 (ridiculous). At one time IMS had 305,000 permanent seats so a crowd of 330,000 certainly was possible back then. But everybody just goes crazy with these crowd figures today – 200,000 for the parade? Are you serious? Count the seats. Let’s just say it remains the largest, one-day sporting event in North America and draws more than 200,000 people.
Q: I’ve heard drivers, crew chiefs and announcers in IndyCar and NASCAR talk about tire degradation making better racing because the cars have less grip, it slows them down and they can pass. Why not just start with a harder tire? That’s going to slow them down and probably use less tires in a weekend, saving teams money. What am I missing? I’ve seen IMCA modifieds run a couple nights on one set, and they always put on a good show.
RM: Firestone’s optional tires for road and street courses add some strategy, if not passing opportunities, and that’s the purpose of having two choices.
Q: I believe Rick Mears used to be Helio’s spotter through last year. With Helio now essentially out of the series, what is Rick up to now? Does he still go to all the races? Or has he scaled back his involvement?
Ken, Geneva, Illinois
RM: I’m sure we’ll see The Rocket at every race. He’s still a driver coach and a great guy to bounce ideas off of for The Captain.
Q: I feel IndyCar is in a great position at the moment with F1 in disarray with the teams and the new owners. Lots of unhappy fans, partners and sponsors. I feel that if IndyCar can get things together with a real TV package and don’t shoot themselves in the foot, they could really capitalize on F1’s downward direction, with all the fans that are ticked off with not only the looks of the car, but the general direction F1 is headed. There is a very narrow window of opportunity though. The key is to really make a push with the worldwide fans. I just hope Miles does not screw it up. The time is now to jettison the NASCAR race at Indy, as NASCAR is in a downward spiral and it is time for IndyCar and Indy to separate themselves from anything to do with NASCAR. I really believe that IndyCar has a very narrow window to step out of the shadows and come back as a headliner on the global stage.
Jeff Laughlin, Irvine, Ca
RM: As long as television pays IMS $15 million for the Brickyard 400, it’s not going anywhere. And picking the right TV partner should help IndyCar, but it’s not going to make an overnight difference. It’s going to be a long process to get close to where CART was in the ’90s, if it’s possible at all. And I’m not sure disgruntled F1 fans care enough to watch IndyCar.
Q: I loved your list of racing books in the last Mailbag. I have enjoyed all of them, particularly “Black Noon.” I was curious to know what you thought of two other racing books that don’t get mentioned much, but which I think are first-rate. They are “Against Death and Time” (2004) by Brock Yates about the horrible 1955 racing season in both IndyCar, F1 and sports cars, and “The Limit” (2011) by Michael Cannell about Phil Hill’s 1961 battle to become the first American world champion.
RM: Brock’s book was one of the best but I’ve never read Cannell’s, just heard it was good.
Q: My wife’s family loves the TV show “The Bachelor” so of course I’m forced to watch. The season ended this week with Arie Luyendyk Jr. bringing the finalists home to meet his parents. There was no mention that Arie’s father is a two-time winner of the Indy 500, or that he was even a racer. Arie Jr.’s IndyCar background [2006 Indy 500, above] was never brought up either. With the season and the Indy 500 coming up soon, couldn’t ABC have used this opportunity to even mention IndyCar racing? Showing an old clip of Arie Jr. in the 500 would have made him seem a lot cooler than he came across on the show.
Steve, Danville, IN
RM: I’ve never watched so I can’t really comment on what’s been said about father and son, but I think they taped it a few months ago. And nobody is going to put Arie Jr. in an IndyCar unless ABC wrote a big check. Obviously, if they filmed his courtship at IMS it would be good publicity, but that’s not what women want to see.
Q: As with many of your readers, I continually lament the squandering of the our talented IndyCar drivers as a promotional vehicle for themselves and the sport that they star in. Case in point: we saw the weird Kia ad during this year’s Superbowl with Steven Tyler which had a brief cameo (uncredited) by Emmo. Now we have a full ad featuring Emmo wheeling the new Kia Stinger around an oval, with much smoke and noise coming from the pretty little red sedan. The ad clearly identifies Emmo as a former Formula 1 champion and Indy 500 winner. Now it’s great to see Emmo in the spotlight ¬– he was always a pleasure to watch (even though he had to endure the final Copersucar years in F1 before that failed).
But the tag line on the Kia ad is – wait for it – “Fueled by Youth”. Seriously? A 71-year-old, retired champion is the spokesman for an ad campaign “fueled by youth”? Maybe they should gone for a “fountain of youth” angle instead. I get that IndyCar’s partners are Honda and Chevy, but is the sole representative of IndyCar in a major ad campaign going to be a long-retired champion?
How can the marketers for IndyCar stand by without running to Kia – or other companies – to get one the young guns in IndyCar lined up for this sort of exposure? It says something about the shameful state of promotion of open-wheel racing that the most prominent racers showing up in national TV ads are Jackie Stewart and Emmo.
Royal M. Richardson, Chester, NH
RM: It actually says all you need to know that two old geezers like Emmo and JYS are still more recognizable and in demand than any driver in IndyCar. Getting JoNew and some of his competitors in a national TV spot is the kind of marketing that IndyCar needs, but there’s nobody to pay for it.
Q: I totally agree with you on electing some of the great departed racers into the IMS HOF “and that’s why it’s important to honor the deserving deceased like Herk, Mike Mosley, Bill Finley and Wayne Leary.” You can put me down for a couple of tickets to the banquet when Wayne Leary gets voted in. I wouldn’t miss it. A character and legend if ever there was one. I don’t believe he ever got the credit he deserved, only because he was working for Gurney. I was lucky enough to work with him briefly towards the end of his racing career. His knowledge and circle of associates was unparalleled. As Uncle Bobby said, “Wayne Leary can fix anything.” Thanks for your reflections on the past in IndyCar racing. Great stuff. The Heroes and Tough Guys videos are awesome.
RM: I know the IMS HOF wants living members to induct and it’s getting tougher to do, but there’s nothing wrong with honoring those deceased racers that helped make Indy such a treasure, and those four fit the bill. I watched Finley build an Indy car in his garage behind his house almost every winter with no aerodynamicist, no wind tunnel, no engineers and just a couple of helpers. He was exactly what racing was all about back then – a craftsman that could do anything.
Q: I got to attend my first IndyCar race outside of the 500 at St Pete and was there all three days watching the action. Got to see and talk to a lot of drivers and other personalities. I ran in the 5k and got a two-seater ride courtesy of Verizon. Got some great pictures. Very cool place to watch a race. I highly recommend to anyone to go there once. St Pete and IndyCar put on a great show. I think I saw more action Sunday in person than the people at home watching it on crappy ESPN on ABC. Side-by-side during yellows, and commercials during green… we’ve got to get rid of them.
Eric Rife, London, OH
RM: You picked a good one because, according to IndyCar, there were 366 passes during the race, which has to be a record for any street show.
Q: I haven’t written or commented about IndyCar for a very long time. All it took was the season-opener. We just got through the Winter Olympics and I survived endless curling coverage. As I started watching the race from St. Pete, I was compelled to check all the sporting channels to see if there was any curling being rebroadcast. The days are numbered. IndyCar didn’t get one new fan of the series, and I can see no future in the series. It is and has been a one-trick pony for years – that being the Indy 500, so let’s make it the only race worth watching. Where do I send the flowers?
RM: Actually, there’s more cars, teams and sponsors than I figured for 2018, and last Sunday’s race was pretty entertaining in between yellows and ABC commercials. Maybe it’s time to change sports.