Q: I have been a supporter of IndyCar for over 30 years and I have attended two-to-five races per year for almost the past two decades, but it is becoming tough to support a series that no longer puts fans first. Leaving Sonoma, I figured finally we would get a track better-suited for the finale – a track like Gateway, Iowa, even a second round at Road America. Or, I would settle for the Indy road course. But we get Laguna Seca? I’m fine with it being on the schedule because they are paying decent money, but I’m tired of the series putting corporate big-shots ahead of the fans and the quality of the event.
The car owners still have too much power, and that’s where I miss Randy Bernard – he actually put the fans first. BTW, they can have Laguna Seca towards the end of September, but the series refused to accommodate Fontana with a similar date? This entire finale situation finally convinced me enough is enough, and after Gateway this year, because the tickets are purchased, my family and I will no longer give IndyCar our hard earned money and will end a 16-year streak of attending the 500. Enough is enough.
Brian, Joliet, IL
RM: Fontana actually wanted a night race in October, so there was never a chance of that happening under the current regime. I’m sorry you won’t be attending Indy, but don’t give up yet. This year’s schedule may not look anything like 2020 so stayed tuned, but thanks for being a loyal IndyCar fan for three decades.
Q: In regards to Laguna Seca, I went for 10 years. Was sitting on the hill when we heard a huge roar and saw Zanardi going into Turn 10 in front of Herta. Saw Servia flip at Andretti, even went to spring training. How can they make the track better without breaking the bank? Well, make Turn 4 a lot tighter, which would push Turn 5 down towards the “infield”, which would then open up a huge back straight if you cut into the hillside in Turn 6 and make it like a Long Beach Seaside straight (other side of 6 is a cliff), which would create the greatest passing zone in the world, the Corkscrew.
P.S. A lot of us SoCal people attended back in the day, probably more than the NoCal-ers.
Jeff in CA
RM: Laguna needs a straightaway (obviously lengthen the short one it has now) and that would likely cost a fortune, but I don’t see any other places to make the racing better. We use to get up at 7 a.m. and try and beat the crowd into Laguna during CART’s heyday so, yes, it was very well-attended at one time.
Q: Your comment in your last Mailbag about ovals being an endangered species got me thinking. Last weekend, I decided to go to Eldora to watch the World of Outlaws run the Kings Royal. I have not been at the Big E in over 15 years, but I just decided to make the 400-mile round trip from SE Michigan because I wanted to see some dirt car racing. Absolutely worth it. I have never seen a larger crowd at a race at Eldora. The stands were full, and actually, it was really difficult to move around on the grounds.
My point is, oval racing is not an endangered species. I just think folks are returning to the roots of oval track racing, which just so happens to be in the Midwest. (Maybe explains why St. Louis was a success.) Everywhere else, it’s just a novelty. I left there looking for the next big show to attend, which I believe will be the USAC 4-Crown Nationals for me. Maybe some of the readers of the Mailbag should get out to their local dirt track to satisfied their itch for some oval racing and let IndyCar do what it does best, which, right now, is great road and street racing. Enjoy it all while you can!
Andy, Brighton, MI
RM: There are more short track race fans (total) in this country than all the NFL attendance added together, so I guess the proper phrase is that ovals for IndyCar have become an endangered species, with NASCAR not too far behind. Gateway and Iowa (moving back to Saturday night) can be the exceptions, while Texas and Pocono struggle to regain their old form.
Q: All this negative talk about attendance at ovals. As we saw last year at Gateway it “worked because it’s got some smart people and a home run for a title sponsor with Bommarito,” to quote RM last week. So we know the solution, and surely it’s not beyond the expertise of the promoters to not only use Gateway as an example, but to actually do what they presumably profess they are good at. Also, as is often mentioned on your letters page, it must be in the series’ interest to up their marketing budget a tad. Confused.
RM: Let’s put it this way: Gateway was the first oval since Iowa opened back in 2006 that has hosted a winner at the box office. They had to bring in extra grandstands at Iowa but now it’s barely half-full, so the hope is that a return to Saturday night will bring the crowd figures back to 30,000-plus. The key to having success is a good group that knows how to promote coupled with a big-time title sponsor, and both of those seem to be rarities nowadays. Ovals are a tougher sell because they don’t offer the non-stop action of street and road courses, but Gateway has something going on from mid-afternoon to the green flag next month so, again, Curtis Francois, Chris Blair and John Bisci truly get it.
Q: Well Miller, we are swapping a track owned by people in the business of staging races for a track owned by fickle, NIMBY voters, many of who are hostile to auto racing. WTF could go wrong?
RM: It should be a bonanza, drinks on me at the Hog’s Breath Inn.
Q: Do you see any benefit to moving the Indianapolis Grand Prix to an early/mid August weekend? I understand the past benefits of having the event in May, but just wonder if you think attendance would improve? It fills a scheduling gap and doesn’t interfere with college or NFL football. I live in Indy and attend the 500 every year, but have not attended the Grand Prix. I would likely go if it were held in August.
RM: I really don’t think so Tony, people come to IMS to watch speeds on the oval, not road racing, and I don’t think it matters when it runs because it’s going to have the same turnout.