Robin Miller's Mailbag for July 18, presented by Honda Racing / HPD

Robin Miller's Mailbag for July 18, presented by Honda Racing / HPD

Insights & Analysis

Robin Miller's Mailbag for July 18, presented by Honda Racing / HPD

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Sonoma, 2017. Image by Abbott/LAT

Q: I just read Marshall Pruett’s article about Laguna Seca. He mentioned that should IndyCar race at Laguna, Sonoma would not be interested in hosting IndyCar races anymore. That raises a few questions:

1) Is there some bad blood between the track owners, or what is the history between these two tracks? I’ve never heard anybody say, “Well, if you race at Pocono you can’t come to Nazareth” or, “Well, if you’re doing Milwaukee you can’t come to Road America.” Business-wise, wouldn’t a track owner try to host as many races as possible?

2) Is there at least the remote chance of having both tracks on the schedule? One in spring, close to Long Beach and the other one in fall? I’d hate to lose Sonoma, since the drivers praise it as such a challenging track, even if there’s not much passing. Laguna probably has even less passing, but it’s still great to watch and the drivers are mostly fond of it.

Bo from Germany

RM: Eddie Gossage had a clause in his contract that IndyCar couldn’t race at COTA, and Sonoma’s had the same thing about Laguna Seca. Could they both co-exist in Northern California? Probably. Will they? Doesn’t sound like it. As far as IndyCars are concerned it’s like swapping sisters, because neither track is very good for racing.

Q: If improved Sonoma racing is needed, as indicated by you, then race on the other Sonoma configuration. Would the other configuration still be called a road course? It isn’t actually oval. Furthermore, I have a hard time believing that IndyCar should not shoulder some of the blame for declining IndyCar attendance because of its refusal to do any marketing, for anything other than for IMS activities. Is IndyCar primarily a feeder series for the IMS? Try Option D this year at Sonoma and see if improved passing opportunities can garner some revived interest in the North Bay. And someone, please advertise the different configuration to stimulate some excitement!

Bill in CA

RM: I guess you’re advocating that somehow Sonoma becomes an oval, but there is no way SMI or IndyCar is going to spend any money trying to make that happen. And Sonoma will be another asterisk in the litany of former IndyCar tracks after September. But promoting the race is usually the responsibility of the track and/or series title sponsor, and Verizon has been going through the motions for two years. Diana Brennan and her staff do a good job of trying to spread the word at Sonoma, but San Francisco could care less.

Q: Instead of picking one over the other, why not have Laguna Seca and Sonoma alternate? This has happened many times in Formula 1: if you’ve got two great tracks in the same country, just rotate the location of the grand prix. It seems like this approach would strengthen both Laguna Seca and Sonoma, as they attract fans from different regions of California. Plus, we wouldn’t have to ditch a longtime partner track. Is this something IndyCar and the tracks would consider? If not, why?

Justin in Indy

RM: In today’s environment I don’t think it would work, because tracks want schedule stability to try and sell title sponsorship and tickets. I don’t know that IndyCar has broached that subject so I’ll ask Mark Miles, but can’t see it.

Q: Despite the whining about racing on ‘ice’ the Toronto race was pretty decent. But it’s a little dismaying that the IndyCar schedule just can’t catch a break: Phoenix gone. Belle Isle wavering – the contract is up and there is serious talk that the race may go away. Of course Eddie Gossage is licking his chops… or is Milwaukee a player again? And now it’s Sonoma vs Laguna Seca… who will survive? Is there a plan if Belle Isle disappears? Are there possibilities of coming back to the schedule places like Richmond, Cleveland, Fontana, or (gasp) even Milwaukee to its traditional date after the Indy 500? Inquiring minds want to know.

Jake, Pasadena, CA

RM: The schedule is at least a month away from being finalized, but no way both Laguna and Sonoma will be on it. Ditto for Fontana, Milwaukee and Cleveland. Here’s the latest from Belle Isle, and I would never bet against The Captain:

“This morning, the Detroit Grand Prix submitted a formal proposal to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to continue hosting the annual motorsports event at Belle Isle Park. The proposal includes a three-year agreement to continue the Grand Prix on Belle Isle, beginning in 2019, with an additional two-year extension option. Additional key elements of the proposal include a 50% increase in the annual fee to host the race on the island to $300,000, along with yearly contributions of $50,000 to the Michigan DNR for targeted island improvement initiatives and $35,000 for projects and programming in the paddock area on Belle Isle. The Grand Prix will also continue to minimize its overall time spent on Belle Isle, reducing its total time on the island from 65 days in 2018 to 62 days starting next year. This timeline will be 12 days faster than the event’s total time on the island in 2017. The Grand Prix looks forward to working with the public, its stakeholders and the Michigan DNR over the course of the proposal process.” – Detroit Grand Prix

Q: I’ve only become a fan of IndyCar in the past couple of years (NASCAR’s glue on the track finally tipped me over the edge), but I’ve been brushing up on my history and can’t believe I’ve missed out on this racing. Great to hear Laguna Seca’s coming back, many thanks are given to the Monterey County Board of Supervisors as well as SCRAMP for coming to an agreement with IndyCar, and I’m sure it’ll be a hell of a show.

Anything beginning to brew regarding a possible return to Cleveland? I know ovals appear to be a dying breed, and I wouldn’t want to drop one for another road/street course, but the few other New Yorkers I know who are into IndyCar would also like a return to BKL, and I think it’d draw a good Midwest crowd. If five-wide wasn’t good enough at Toronto this past weekend, let’s do 10-wide in Cleveland. I’ll finally be getting to an auto race in my lifetime – not too many options around New York City to do that, but Pocono’s pricing wasn’t too bad, and it’s one of the fastest of the season, so why would I keep saying no?

Hope to catch you in the garage sometime during the weekend, great deal on passes, and lots of access compared to NASCAR from what I’ve read. (Stewart-Haas got nailed by IndyCar and IMSA fans on Twitter about that a week ago)

Sam Blakey, Brooklyn, NY

RM: If Honda decided to throw its sponsorship behind Cleveland instead of Mid-Ohio then maybe Mike Lanigan would step up and bring back Cleveland, but Honda loves having a race close to its plant in Marysville. So it’s either incumbent on IndyCar to get a headhunter and find a sponsor for Cleveland, or for some fledging promoter to seek one out and give it a try. There is no doubt Burke Lakefront Airport produced some of the best crowds and races in the 1980s and ’90s, and it’s an IndyCar fan wheelhouse so it would be an instant winner again. And maybe a great place for the season finale, because the Browns will likely be 0-3 by then anyway.

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