Q: I’m from Brazil and I read your Mailbag every week. One thing that I can’t understand is why people are aways painting NASCAR as a rival? Motorsport is becoming more and more a niche sports, since kids nowadays are not as into cars like we used to be, so every series and its fans must help each other and appreciate racing. IndyCar will not just grow if NASCAR falls or F1 struggles. IndyCar will grow if more people follow motorsports in general. For a long time I only watched open-wheel races, and I really regret how much I lost through not following other series.
RM: It wasn’t much of a rivalry in the ’60s and ’70s because USAC was light years ahead of NASCAR in everything, but when ESPN put stock cars on the map, everything changed. CART and NASCAR were vying for the same sponsors, eyeballs and paying customers so it became a natural rivalry. And since NBC and NBCSN have both series, NASCAR has helped grow the IndyCar audience. Open-wheel fans get a little testy about all of NASCAR’s gimmicks, but I think there’s a mutual respect when talking about Harvick, Truex, Keselowski, Larson and the Busch brothers.
Q: Curious to know if IndyCar has put any thought into giving the support series broadcasts better production? I was watching the Pro Mazda races from Toronto online, but there wasn’t a ticker or anyone operating the cameras, so there was a lot missing. The commentators were decent, so at least there was that going for it. Just seems like a missed opportunity to promote the junior categories if the infrastructure is already in place during a race weekend and the races are already online to begin with.
RM: Pro Mazda and USF2000 have live streaming with timing and audio commentary from Rob Howden, and it’s available on racecontrol.indycar.com – although the cameras are locked down.
Q: Please pass these kudos along to Mark Miles and the various IndyCar support entities mentioned below. Prior to the Dallara tubs and the restriction to Honda and Chevy engines, us gearheads and devoted Speedway race fans used to get plenty of hot-poop on why on-track events weren’t turning out as planned (like, back in the day when A.J. would get out of his racer and start wrenching on it). Now we are finally getting some decent info on what isn’t (or is) working with the cars and teams. Prior to 2018, we would get (mostly) “Retired due to mechanical issues” on the leaderboard. I had assumed that the series wanted to keep the info behind closed doors, so the different teams wouldn’t be privy to the strategic information associated with their competitors. Now, through the combined efforts of the IndyCar staff, RACER, IndyCar radio, all of the pitlane staff (including team strategists), NBC, and the various contributors to Verizon app reporting, we fans are finally being brought back into the picture. A shout out also goes to Sonoma Raceway for supporting IndyCar since 2005.
Bill in CA
RM: Not sure you always get the truth, but at least there is some information out there and not just DNF next to the driver’s name.
Q: I am kind of new to the dirt stuff but I have been checking out different shows around the Midwest over the past few years. My kids, 9 and 13, love it. Losing Milwaukee made me go searching for oval racing. What are Robin Miller’s top five must-see dirt races? You have never sent me wrong. We go to Mug’n’Bun every time we go through Indy because of you.
RM: Kokomo, Lawrenceburg, Bloomington, Gas City, Putnamville, Paragon and Haubstadt are Indiana’s finest, while Knoxville (Iowa) and the Devil’s Bowl (outside Dallas) are two of the best anywhere. Wish you could have seen Ascot, Manzanita and Little Springfield in their heyday, and Eldora when it had dirt. Head for the Workingman’s Friend next time you’re in Indy.
Q: The answers are never that simple, and the problem is at myriad different tracks. This sickness comes from within. It will take an entire overhaul of the series and the principles it is built on today. Indy would be sold out if they were actually allowed to go as fast as they can possibly go. The walls used to be the determining factor regarding the speed limit. Innovation was about keeping the speed, but avoiding the walls. They didn’t use the same cars over and over for eight or nine years straight with only window-dressing changes. The engine rules were limited by boost and fuel. Physics determined the displacement versus weight. IndyCar was built slowly over the decades the old-fashioned way.
There are no simple quick fixes. No gimmicks that will change that. No wave-around or show enhancers will, either. One hundred or 500 passes in spec racing are not putting butts in the seats. It’s time to recognize that fact. It’s time for IndyCar to go back to its roots. They were going 236 mph at Indy in 1996. They should be pushing 250 mph in 2020. Necessity would spur the engineering to get it done, as it always did over 80 years. That would put people in the seats at Indy and all over this country as they used to be. Some have forgotten. Some are too young to ever know. The only limit to the speed should be the wall. The sport is dying a slow death through being strangled by public disinterest in its present form. What you are doing is not working. Stop doing more of the same.
RM: Would new track records suddenly start filling the grandstands at ovals? Or bring back the Pole Day crowds? Or make Car & Driver, Road & Track and Automobile send writers to Indy for the month of May? I think not. As much as we loved innovation and surprises and Tom Carnegie wailing on the PA system about a “new track record,” I’m afraid those days are long gone. Most of the major engine manufacturers in the world are spending millions on Formula E, so they’re obviously looking at the future and not interested in going back in time. I wish we had five engines and six chassis and two tire companies doing battle, but I just don’t see it ever happening again.