Welcome to the Robin Miller Mailbag presented by Honda Racing / HPD. You can follow the Santa Clarita, California-based company at: hpd.honda.com and on social media at @HondaRacing_HPD and https://www.facebook.com/HondaRacingHPD.
Your questions for Robin should continue to be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org We cannot guarantee we’ll publish all your questions and answers, but Robin will reply to you. And if you have a question about the technology side of racing, Robin will pass these on to Marshall Pruett and he will also answer here.
Q: Just finished your “Right Place, Wrong Time” article. Your frustration (as well as A.J.’s) with IndyCar overlooking a great opportunity to transition back to an oval to finish the season is shared by many of us old-timers. The season-ending oval-track races were consistently great, drama-filled events, and Gateway held some promise to replicate the experience for sure. But your article was also properly balanced. The true fuel for our beloved sport is sponsor dollars. The owners apparently lobbied IndyCar about how the wallets of prospective sponsors could best be opened in Monterey, arguably one of the most exquisite and opportunity-packed “wooing” venues in the U.S.
If I read the press correctly, Laguna Seca has a three-year deal, but only has the finale guaranteed for 2019. The jury’s currently out on whether the new aero package will make the race exciting there, and we won’t know about that until it happens. The prudent thing would be for IndyCar to evaluate the key growth factors (sponsorship increases, attendance, quality of racing) at Laguna Seca in 2019 and make an advised decision for 2020 and beyond on where the series should be concluded. As fans, we need to be positive and see how this plays out. Thanks as always for your insights and candor.
Ed Koenig, San Diego
RM: I should point out that the owners didn’t make the final call on the season finale, and there wasn’t even a vote. The ones I talked to were just opposed to finishing at Gateway, and that’s why I wrote what I did. I totally understand trying to keep your sponsors happy, but wouldn’t they be happier if a million or two viewers watched the season finale on national television at an oval in the Midwest that has a chance to pack the house and provide some drama? Evidently, after talking to owners and drivers, the atmosphere in the restaurant is more important than the one at the track.
Q: Countdown to Robin bashing Laguna Seca: 3… 2…1. Come on Robin, it’s 2019! Oh wait… Me and my racing buds are super excited to have IndyCar back at our (second) home track (LBGP being numero uno). We all know that you want to go to Gateway. You and Tex keep saying IndyCar was born on ovals. Needs to be on ovals. And I get it, I like them. I was California Speedway when Gil hit 245mph. I was also there when RHR won his championship in front of (maybe) 20k people. Texas used to be fun race to watch on TV until IndyCar took away all the downforce. Try and move the Gateway race to Sunday at the end of the season, and I don’t think it sells out. And that what IndyCar wants, a Sunday Championship race. Hope to see you at Long Beach in April, and Laguna Seca in September!
Tom Ross, San Luis Obispo, CA
RM: I’m not bashing Laguna, I’m merely pointing out the facts. The last few “crowds” at Laguna for Champ Car were as poor as the racing. I hope there’s a big crowd next year and the aero kits work their magic and turn Laguna into a racy place, but read a little further (two questions down) to see why that’s very unlikely. And I’m not saying Gateway was the greatest race of the year, but it did have a pivotal pass for the win, and imagine if that had been the season finale. I think there will be more people at Gateway this year than Laguna will draw in 2019. But I’m glad you and your pals are going and are big IndyCar fans, and I thank you for supporting both races on the west coast.
Q: You are right about IndyCar not having the last race of the season at Gateway. What the hell is Mark Miles thinking? Jay F wanted to end on an oval, and look all what he has done to improve IndyCar. The Rams are not there anymore. The Cardinals could be on the road in September. Just think of the crowd it could bring! This is what us die-hard fans wanted! Also, why does the Captain have so much pull with having Detroit after Indy?
Believe me, I have a lot of respect for Mr. Penske, but he is not on the board of IndyCar and he should not have a say. I understand that he has a lot of pull, being in Detroit, but I truly believe that if Milwaukee ran right after Indy, it would start getting people back to the race and improve the attendance. I think IndyCar should have an open forum for us die-hard IndyCar fans at the Speedway. Have car owners, the sponsors and track promoters there to hear what we have to say and help IndyCar move forward in the future. I truly believe it would make a difference.
Terry Gobble, Urbana, IL
RM: Mark Miles was in favor of an oval finale and got pushback from some owners, but that’s not why it didn’t happen. There’s more to the story, but I was miffed because the owners I talked to were dead-set against ending the season at Gateway. R.P. and Chevrolet are joined at the hip so I understand the Detroit doubleheader with GM sponsorship, but it simply kills the momentum from Indy to go to a street race. The only way Milwaukee could ever have a shot at returning to its glory days would be to run the Sunday after Indy at 1 p.m., or maybe during the State Fair in August like the old days. If you could get those people to read The Mailbag every week it would be a victory, but an open forum could be productive.
Q: While I’m happy the series is returning to Laguna Seca, I’m wondering if it will be any racier than Sonoma, which is usually a parade. The new aero package has been great on road courses, but any chance there will be track enhancements to make more passing possible?
Vincent Martinez, South Pasadena, CA
RM: Here’s a stat I didn’t use in my commentary last week that’s a great argument for not ending the season at Laguna. From 1990 to 1994, four of those CART races only had one leader – the polesitter – and he led flag-to-flag. There were two passes in 1993 – both in the pits. There are no enhancements that I’m aware of that could be in place by 2019.