Q: I am at a loss, Robin. I thought maybe after watching that fantastic race on Sunday that the tables would turn for pessimistic IndyCar fans, but oh no, they found a way. I’ve read this Mailbag for years, and only written in once. I am 33 years old now and was probably 27 when I wrote, but my letter was about reminding everyone why they fell in love with this great sport and to take that to the race track or television with them. I got a fist bump from JoNew at RA this year for wearing a shirt from his website, and I felt like I was 9 years old all over again. Can’t imagine the feeling the actual 9-year-old next to me got after taking a picture with him. Other than 2009 when there was no IndyCar race in my home state (Wisconsin, went to Chicagoland that year) I have attended every single one since 1994, and will never miss one going forward. Iowa gets that night race next year, and you can sign me up for that as well, especially if we get the racing we had Sunday.
For years I have read this Mailbag and listened to fans clamor for the good ol’ days. Well guess what, that was it at Iowa, and people weren’t entertained? Why, because they didn’t cross the line five-wide for the checkers, or mindlessly swap the lead every corner, which means nothing when the overall goal of every race for every team is to be the car leading to the line when that checkered flag falls? I am not saying that that type of finish isn’t entertaining either, but it’s not something we should expect. Two drivers/teams nailed the setup on Sunday and carved that field up, and that in my eyes was absolutely wonderful to watch (Rossi at Phoenix also). Oh by the way, it was IndyCar’s two most marketable drivers, too!
We have heard we need a great-looking car – the thing looks even better in person than on TV, and it races damn well. We have heard we need American drivers – Newgarden/Rossi/Rahal/RHR/give Pigot another full season/Colton Herta/hopefully Telitz. We need more owners – has there been more interest in IndyCar? We need more manufacturers – yes from a money standpoint that’d be nice, but you increase the chance of ruining the racing. You could BOP them like sportscars, but that’s the same thing you have now.
The point is, this series finally has some great leadership and put it in its best position since 2000, and that people are complaining that a race that went yellow with six laps to go and a pace lap that takes maybe 45 seconds didn’t get back to green boggles my mind. There were two cars that should have won at Iowa and one of them did, period. Going back to green is a contrived way of manufacturing drama for what was a bad race, and that was not the case Sunday, certainly not because it ended under yellow. If you are not pleased with IndyCar in 2018 then what were you like in it’s dark days when we didn’t think open-wheel racing would survive. I will finish this by saying to all IndyCar fans: please, let’s ride this ascending ship to wherever it takes us, but more importantly enjoy the racing along the way!
IndyCar until I die Jeff, Milwaukee
RM: I’m not on Twitter and don’t read racing chat rooms or forums, but the majority of the mail I received for RACER was super-positive about what they witnessed at Iowa. Sure, a few were crabby about the checkered/caution finish but allow me to point out that 10 of the last 30 Indy 500s have ended under the yellow flag – two for rain and eight for late accidents that couldn’t be cleaned up in time – and I don’t recall many complaints about Emmo and Little Al in 1989 or Dario and Sato in 2012. The only real bitching came in 2002, when Helio got the controversial nod over P.T., but it wasn’t about the yellow light – it was about who was ahead when it came on.
Q: I was thrilled to see a great crowd on TV this year for the Iowa race and the Texas race earlier in the summer. Both seemed to be much stronger than the crowds of years past. Have you come across any numbers that agree with that? I became an IndyCar fan in the all-oval days, so I hate whenever the discussion comes up of more ovals going away. I’d love to see some like Chicagoland or Kentucky back.
Sam W., New York City
RM: Nobody gives official numbers, but Texas was expecting 15,000 and maybe had 18,000 so it was the best in the past few years, and Iowa looked about half full in the grandstands and had a good motorhome crowd, so maybe 20,000?
Q: I was a little embarrassed by the Iowa crowd turnout. I thought it was rather sparse. Perhaps if all the people were sat together, it might have been half-full. I have no idea where my fellow Iowans were, but if things don’t change, I fear Iowa could go the way of Phoenix. It seems there are two camps currently in IndyCar – those that want to keep ovals, and those that want them to go away. I like Kevin Lee’s idea of a night race the week of the MLB All-Star game. If this were put on NBC at prime time, it might work. I would like to see the Iowa race shuffled to this week. The track already has permanent lighting, and if it were held on that Friday night, the crowds could show up. Iowa has always done well with crowds for Friday night dirt track races, so hopefully they would come out on a Friday. Barring this, I foresee the race being taken off the schedule due to dwindling support. What are your thoughts on this race, Robin?
RM: I think moving Iowa back to Saturday night will resurrect the crowd, and I’d really love to see it on Wednesday night of the All-Star break (tonight) like Kevin has touted for the past few years. NASCAR is talking about mid-week races and whoever strikes first will likely win, but it would be great for TV ratings. Just not sure how many promoters would take a flyer on a Wednesday night show.