Q: Take a deep breath, because when Mid-Ohio hits I don’t think there will be time to catch your breath before the season ends. For me, the title fight is down to Newgarden versus Dixon. I think Power is too inconsistent, Pagenaud just hasn’t shown the outright speed, and Rossi isn’t likely to be given any room by many of the others competing up front. What are you most looking forward to down the stretch? [My answer is seeing if Wickens can get his first win].
Ryan in West Michigan
P.S. I’ll give a shout if I see you at Mid Ohio. I’m taking my five-year old because he didn’t get to go to the Indy Grand Prix this year, and he keeps asking when he gets to go to another race.
RM: I want to see if Wickens, Marco and Graham can make it into victory lane, but I’m afraid Dixie could sit out a couple races and still win the championship. He owns Mid-Ohio, and a bad race for him at Sonoma would be fourth. Look me up this weekend and we’ll get your son a souvenir.
Q: I saw an article in which Ric Peterson said he was working with Green-Savoree to get a street race going on the grounds of the famed Calgary Stampede. I know you have mentioned Calgary in the past and thought you were just spit-balling. It is great to hear that there is a plan in the works, provided city council can agree. However, as I understand it, the mayor and council currently in place are somewhat disinterested in funding sporting events with any public funds. Thus, I imagine this race would need to have a well-funded title sponsor. If a title sponsor were required, Calgary, which is Canada’s oil hub and therefore hub of business and industry (Sorry TO and Vancouver, it’s not you) would be the best bet for a successful event.
As a former account manager for a consultant’s business with an oil giant, I know that Calgary is probably the only place left in Canada where business runs on hospitality between vendor and clients, trickling down to the very blue-collar roots of the oil field workers themselves. That’s where you’ll get the numbers, hospitality suite sales and ticket packages purchased by vendors wishing to comp their clients. The casual fan is just gravy, but there are enough fans who miss Vancouver that would make the trip to Calgary or Portland to get their IndyCar fix. Hope to bump in to you in Portland.
Trevor Bohay, Kamloops, BC Canada
RM: Last time I asked Savoree about Calgary he said it’s still got a heartbeat but nothing imminent, and I’m sure he and Kim want to see how Portland turns out before moving further northwest. It was a hot topic a couple years ago, and then I think the oil business went south and cooled everything off. But it’s still a potential place for IndyCar to try down the road.
Q: Does the current state of auto racing offer IndyCar some potential opportunities as far as potential permanent venues? Fully aware of the current state of all motorsports. Sponsor dollars drying up. Attendance and TV viewership declining. Aging fan base. As an example, a rain delay in New Hampshire for the NASCAR race, still run on the same day, and still in daylight, and the attendance was a joke. Even without rain, attendance would have been dismal. Nobody wants to lose money. So I’m wondering what is going on in the minds of big-time track ownership these days, where every year they are experiencing declines.
Hypothetically, if IndyCar would forego sanctioning fees, and operational costs can be negotiated, why wouldn’t a track owner have interest? I get it’s all about money and what makes sense. The only reason I ask is because I would think track owners may be more willing to get creative and negotiate since their main attractions are not as profitable as they once were. I have zero illusion that IndyCar would get more involved in “promotion” (even though Gateway has proven a racing event works if done right, and after the IndyCar failure at Phoenix), because it isn’t going to happen. I am more curious about the economics and future of these big-time tracks and their ownership now and in the future, based on current state of affairs. Is it simply more sensible to do nothing and live off the tax depreciation rather than to do a race?
RM: If you rent Watkins Glen or Phoenix like IndyCar did, of course the tracks are going to be interested because their risk is minimal and they might even make a little profit. But IndyCar supposedly bleeds money every year, so doing away with sanction fees at tracks that actually draw people is not going to fly. But that’s why I wrote a couple years ago (before Gateway) that IndyCar could be down to a couple of ovals, because nobody is willing to take that risk without a big-time title sponsor. I don’t see IndyCar or IMS wanting to be partners with anyone if at all possible.
Q: Have we seen all Marco Andretti has to offer, or might he bloom in a few years? Could he lose his seat if someone with sponsor dollars appeared?
RM: Two numbers jump out. This is Marco’s 13 season in IndyCar racing and he’s still only 31 years old. He drove like we all expected at Toronto, charging to the front and making some nifty passes on a tight track. He won the pole at Detroit with a magnificent lap. He’s always good at Indy. Two wins in 212 starts is hard to fathom, and of course, without his father’s team he would likely be in sportscars by now. But I still think he’s going to break out, put together a few wins and contend for a title some day.
To your question, well, Zach Veach has a three-year deal for good money and has been a pleasant surprise in 2018, RHR is the team leader with loyal DHL as a sponsor, Rossi is the future and Colton Herta is in the on-deck circle. What if Alonso comes over for a few races and Dixie jumps ship and goes to Andretti? How many cars could Mikey field? And all these scenarios could put Marco in jeopardy, but I don’t think it will.