Q: Just wanted your opinion on the fact NASCAR will take away a win from a young kid and give it to the “money teams” for going below a yellow line coming to the flag, but not take away the win when a car fails post-race inspection. I understand the safety aspect of the double-yellow line, but being illegal after the race should be cause for DQ also. I don’t agree with the BS of “but the fans want to know the winner before they leave” from NASCAR. I want to know that a legal car won instead of letting them keep the trophy, money and points. Giving them a fine and a few points along with a week’s vacation for the car chief does not cut it. I enjoy your wit and “tell it like it is” attitude, along with your live reporting.
Butch Sides, Concord, NC
RM: Let’s see. Austin Dillon intentionally crashes Aric Amirola on the last lap to win Daytona and he isn’t penalized or fined. Justin Haley did have his left-side tires on the yellow line, but it didn’t have anything to do with his sweet move to win the Xfinity race. So fine him $5,000, but don’t take away his victory.
Q: The new record by the Porsche 919 EVO at the Nurburgring was a real eye-opener on the YouTube in-car camera. Has an IndyCar ever taken laps at that track? It would be cool to see what kind of time it could do. Also, is IndyCar really returning to Homestead? It would be great to have another race in Florida.
Doug Ferguson, Debary, FL
RM: I’m not sure. Obviously USAC’s Indy cars ran Monza in 1957-58 at unimaginable speeds for those times (177mph) and Jim Hurtubise went 191mph in 1968 at Daytona in his beloved Mallard roadster to set a then closed-course record, but don’t think Spa or the Ring have ever hosted any kind of IndyCar going for broke. Homestead may or may not be in the mix for 2019.
Q: I just watched a Porsche Cup race and the Daytona NASCAR race (both with the volume on mute). NBC did a great show at Daytona yet the race was a crash fest. Demo Derbys, which Daytona and Talledaga have become, are not racing. What’s the fascination with this mayhem? Who decides what races are on TV? Makes me want to watch stick and ball sports.
RM: I have no idea. I love watching NASCAR at The Glen and Sonoma because they are driving the hell out of those cars, and Darlington, Richmond and Bristol were always favorites because it’s not wide-open mayhem like the plate shows. I tried to explain in my latest column but it’s perplexing because NASCAR is still the big dog with fans by a ratio of 5 to 1 over IndyCar, which puts on a much better show week in and week out.
Q: Dale Earnhardt Jr. joining the NASCAR broadcast team got me thinking: why doesn’t IndyCar do something similar on a race-by-race basis? Obviously they have PT in the booth, but what about a former racer in the booth for a few laps every race? If not every race, then at least several times in the season. I think it would be awesome to have recognizable drivers doing some analysis every few races, and for certain sure it would be a big hit. Its pretty unfortunate that no one has done this yet.
Max Camposano, Los Altos, CA
RM: Well they have in the past, but right now Uncle Bobby can barely walk, Parnelli and Gordy can’t hear very well, Big Al has no interest, Mario is usually busy with the two-seater, Al Unser Jr. is coaching Gabby Chaves, Rick Mears has no interest and J.R. is about the only legend with some time on his hands (and he also worked for NBC back in the 1970s-80s). We might be able to twist The Rocket’s arm to come in the booth some day at Indy, and also get Little Al some airtime. Tony Kanaan is the most popular driver in IndyCar today and he’d be a natural for something like you proposed when he retires. I’m hoping IMS is smart enough to let Little E drive the pace car at Indy next year and then come into the NBC booth for 25 laps, because his enthusiasm would be good television and good for IndyCar as well.
Q: Your disdain for Tony George is well-documented, and it is an easily-argued point that The Split irretrievably damaged the value of open-wheel racing in North America. (I, however, would point out that the arrival of tintops on the Bricks in 1994 did as much damage as The Split). The cars look more and more like the CART cars, the engine displacement and turbochargers also harken back to the days of CART. There’s the welcomed return of some famed tracks such as Road America and Portland. It could be argued though that CART died a slow death because it didn’t change its playbook to make itself stand out between the two open-wheel series.
I feel like we are seeing the resurrection of a diseased carcass. IndyCar is down to four oval races (including Indy). They have moved away from the parts of the old IRL that worked such as Saturday night racing. I would say that Texas under the lights for the IRL, along with Charlotte and Richmond, brought more attention their way than the San Jose street course or an oval race in Germany (which robbed the sport of one of the best drivers and personalities in Zanardi being around open-wheel every day). Hell, the follow-the-leader racing at Indy this year looked like a CART parade with the lone exception being the small time differences from pole to 33rd. Just when we thought open-wheel might just be on the road to recovery, the new chassis, while visually appealing, has set the racing back from a casual fan standpoint. Adding horsepower sounds great, but will that be enough as the series takes another step back to the CART days?
My hope is that additional engine partners can be found. Perhaps it’s time now for a second chassis? There needs to be more than 17 to 18 races with breaks of three to four weeks at times. While loathsome, the Chase injected some interest into tintops, if only for controversy. The series needs more ovals, a return to night racing, and adding more teams. What is the Robin Miller formula for finally putting open-wheel on a growth trajectory?
Troay Strong, Kansas City
RM: Gotta disagree the races have been boring. Indy didn’t have a slam-bang finish like RHR and Helio or JPM and will likely undergo a few tweaks for 2019, but it was better/closer than 35 of the 50 I’ve covered. And Iowa was a helluva show. The road courses and street races have featured some good racing as well. Road America was as good as you could ever hope for on a 4-mile road course with no cautions. Here’s the problem: We all love ovals but nobody goes to them anymore. CART had massive crowds at Milwaukee, Michigan and Phoenix and a good one at Loudon before The Split, and the IRL started like gangbusters at Texas, Kentucky, Iowa, Chicago and Charlotte before fading.
Unless IndyCar can be the co-promoter, it’s tough to get anyone interested in taking a flyer on an IndyCar oval, and IndyCar does not want to be the promoter. Gateway was the first bright spot to come along in more than a decade last year. I think Iowa is going to go back to Saturday night, which will help and it’s always a good show, while Richmond could be worth revisiting since it always had 25,000-30,000 spectators. But I want to see IndyCar try a mid-week, oval-track race now that NBC has everything, because it might give the promoter a chance to create a niche and give IndyCar a captive audience with no competition. Everyone clamors for Milwaukee, Kentucky, Chicago, Fontana and Michigan but it’s got to make sense, and right now it doesn’t. IndyCar needs ovals that work, and that’s a lot easier said than done.