Q: I’ve noticed many times that when commentators are providing background on drivers in the series a frequent narrative is, and I’m paraphrasing, “He really wanted to be in Formula 1, but that didn’t work out, so he settled for IndyCar.” I guess that’s true of many drivers in the series, but it makes IndyCar sound second -ate. There must be a way commentators can mention a driver’s European racing background without referring to IndyCar as a silver medal. Do you have an opinion on this? It just seems counterproductive to make it sound like drivers are in this series because they couldn’t be in a “better” series.
Brendan from Milwaukee
RM: I think it’s natural for good road racers like Robert Wickens [above, testing Virgin’s F1 car in 2011], Alexander Rossi, or Jordan King to aspire to F1, and Rossi made it despite having no funding to speak of, but IndyCar is such a better option in terms of being a race driver because he’s been able to show his skills. Conor Daly had some success in Europe and a decent connection with his father, but it was going to cost millions to ever get an F1 seat so he came back to the States. Even JoNew spent time across the Pond, but saw the reality and high-tailed back to the USA. F1 is regarded as the pinnacle of road racing but I don’t think anyone (ask Fernando Alonso) looks down on IndyCar.
Q: Just bought our tickets for the Portland Grand Prix, Paddock Passes, Pit Passes, Champions Club – the whole shebang. In the receding past, there was a service called “Kangaroo” that offered rather clunky but useful LCD video/race radio sets for a fee at CART races. It transformed my race day experience, as the signage at PIR was not so very wonderful. By 2007, the scoring pylon itself had many banks of lights missing. I would guess Kangaroo is long gone. I am not a Verizon customer. Might there be a trackside service or some other way to get these functions for someone who owns an iPhone or other smart phone, or is willing to rent a device?
Gary from Portland, OR
RM: I will ask Kevin Savoree and Kim Green (the promoters) but I imagine something can be worked out.
Q: Just thought I would let Mailbag Nation know that tickets for the Portland race are now on sale!! Go to Portlandgp.com to get your tickets. I bought 10 tickets for all three days for $95 a piece! Portland was the first IndyCar race I went to way back in 1984, and watched little Al win his first race. I cannot wait for Labor Day weekend, hope to see you there Robin.
Brad Heuer, Coeurdalene, Idaho
RM: That’s good news, and a good price. I’m hearing tickets sales are going well so that’s encouraging since it’s been such a long time between races.
Q: You mentioned that you think IndyCar could quite easily go down to just one oval a year, thus leaving the series to eventually find replacements for Phoenix, Texas, Iowa, Gateway and Pocono. Apart from Mexico City, where there is a lot of speculation about a return, what road or street course events do you think are most likely to join the fold?
Peter Williams, Kent, UK
RM: Good question. IndyCar has looked hard at Mexico City, and if 18-year-old Pato O’Ward continues to impress as he climbs the ladder, he could be the draw IndyCar needs to return. I hope Carlos Slim is paying attention to this kid. He is a gasser. Calgary might still have a chance and I’d love to see Mosport or Montreal (we need another Canadian race).
Q: Wasn’t it Justin Wilson who penned a story on RACER.com about oval tracks moving the grandstands to the infield on oval tracks? I know it would cost too much, but isn’t Phoenix in the middle of a whole rebuild? We all agree something needs to be done to ovals so IndyCars can race on them. So why didn’t Phoenix look into this? Answer, they don’t care. Goodbye, IndyCar and ovals!
Lenny M. Fairview, Pk, OH
RM: Phoenix is all about NASCAR and something like infield seating would require a total makeover or the track would have to be built to those specs and not sure oval-track racing has anyone that committed at the moment. [ED: And it was indeed Justin Wilson who made that suggestion – you can read his column from July, 2015 here.]
Q: IndyCar needs ovals on its schedule. Ovals are in IndyCar’s DNA. The series is going to have to help the promoters out or they will become extinct. If ovals do disappear off the schedule, it will hurt the Indy 500. How can IndyCar expect drivers who never see ovals to put on a professional show at the 500? Or, open-wheel fans that never see ovals to get excited about the 500? It scares me that you are viewing Gateway as the oval savior in IndyCar. They made a mess of last year’s event for the paying customers. I bet you lunch at Mug’n’Bun that attendance will be at least down 15,000 from last year. I hope I am wrong. I hate being negative when there is so much to be positive about in 2018.
RM: The problem right now is that ovals are losers for the promoters, and that’s why IndyCar had to lease Phoenix and basically pay for the race. It may come down to that at Texas and Iowa sooner rather than later. Gateway’s management listened to the complaints about the traffic and concessions, and they’ve already got new roads leading in and out of the track. I think with John Bommarito as the title sponsor, Gateway may continue to grow – not go the other way.