Q: When I was first getting into IndyCar in the early 90s I remember the buzz around Robby Gordon. It seemed he was destined for greatness, he was fast, aggressive, drove for A.J., young American, etc. I watched an old race of him at Phoenix (I think) and he was impressive. Why did he never make it to the upper echelon? I know he ticked off Ford with some comments, but it seems with all that potential, someone else would have scooped him up. Too bad he didn’t stick in IndyCar – the battles between he and Tracy could have been epic.
RM: Good question. He won races with A.J. and Derrick Walker but then opted to start his own team, and that was a mistake. As you mentioned, Robby had everything to be a star in IndyCar, and I loved his aggressiveness and frankness in answering any question. He truly was perfect for Foyt’s team. But he wanted to try NASCAR, and now his Stadium Super Truck series is doing quite well, and I think we’re all happy for him. And keep your eye on his 9-year-old son.
Q: I read in the local newspaper that the IndyCar draw at Long Beach was the largest in 18 years. I think the new chassis is a big part of it – old dudes like me think it looks like a Champ Car. Given the uptick in IndyCar viewership, can you imagine how popular a race at Laguna Seca would be? I’ve read that noise is an issue, but my gut tells me it involves long-term contracts, sponsorship, spreading the wealth, etc. I watched some CART videos from the 90s at Laguna Seca and it was packed. So, why don’t we race there?
Jonathan and Cleide Morris, Ventura, CA
RM: I think as long as Sonoma is on the schedule, one road race in northern Californian will be enough. If Sonoma went away, Laguna could possibly step in but in the last few years of Champ Car the attendance plummeted. And the racing wasn’t very good. However, with this new aero kit, the road and street course racing has been excellent.
Q: You have seen a lot of Indy 500s. Can you name your top five and briefly state why?
Kevin in Cincinnati
RM: Johncock edging Mears in 1982, Herk leading the first lap in 1963 in the Novi and Parnelli winning, Rathmann and Ward dueling back and forth in 1960, Emmo and Little Al going for it in 1989 and Hunter-Reay driving through the grass to beat Helio in 2014.
Q: Only eight cars started last weekend’s Indy Lights Race. Will it increase its numbers to at least 12 more cars, or is the series on its death bed?
RM: Might have 10-12 for Freedom 100 next month at IMS, but full-timers not likely to grow until 2019 is what I’m told.
Q: I’m a long time IndyCar fan and I finally got the opportunity to take my whole family (four college aged sons and my wife) to an IndyCar race – the Long Beach GP. A great time was had by all, and I think I just may have added some more IndyCar fans to the fan base. My crew might not really know much about racing yet, but they know a good party when they see one. Long Beach was going off! Everywhere we went on Saturday, Saturday night, Sunday and Sunday night, there was something going on. Nothing draws a crowd like a crowd, and everywhere in and around the circuit was packed.
My point: I keep reading the various perspectives of the Phoenix race and what’s needed to make the racing better, etc.. That’s all well and good, but I think the Phoenix race promoters need to do a little bit of a rethink on how the race is presented to the general public, and promote it more like the Phoenix Open golf tournament. That is a giant party that masquerades as a golf tournament. Safe to say those promoters know what they’re doing when they can get hundreds of thousands of people to show up to watch something as boring as golf.
It looks like the same deal at the Monaco Grand Prix. That race is decided in qualifying, but it’s still packed every year. Why? Because it’s a giant party! After all the fun this year, everyone in my family wants to go to the Long Beach GP again next year, as well as a bunch of our friends that saw all the fun from my son’s posts on social media. The older, true race like myself are important, but the younger fans are the future of the sport. Throw them a great party at an affordable price, and they’ll be back with their friends the following year.
Spike, Santa Barbara, Ca.
RM: Thanks for sharing your story and recruiting new IndyCar fans. You have illustrated why it’s easier to get crowds at a street race than an oval – it’s the continuous action, and people gravitate towards other people if the perception is that’s it’s a good time. Long Beach is non-stop action from 8 a.m. until dark, and then there’s the concert. I don’t see how Phoenix could pull off anything approaching the golf tourney there – just not logistically possible. And golf is a different animal, where people can wander around from hole-to-hole instead of sitting in a seat for hours.
Q: Alright, Robin, here is my million dollar idea. I wish Humpy Wheeler was able to work on it. I need a maverick promoter to take a chance on this. NASCAR has gotten stale. Here’s what it needs. Take out the windshields. Weld a piece of sheet metal over where the windshield was. Thru a tiny hole in the sheet metal “windshield” there will be a tiny camera, like an iPhone camera, and a nine-inch tablet screen. The race will be like usual, only drivers will see the track through the tablet. Virtual reality racing on a real track, with other cars. This will be the future. You want to start a Kickstarter or GoFundMe program with me?
RM: Intriguing, but I think I’d rather see this: when NASCAR has a green-white-checker all the drivers have to unbuckle their seat belts. I stole that from Gary Bettenhausen, but I like it.