Q: Who is Rene Binder? I have yet to see him qualify above the back row, and I’ve never heard of him having any achievements in Europe, where I assume he was trying to get to F1. Is he bringing a ton of money to Juncos or something? And more importantly, when can Kyle Kaiser have his seat back? He seems to be a damn good driver, certainly a lot better than Binder. Of course if he doesn’t have money, then that’s how it goes. Also, what is the plan for Juncos next year? A full-time car? Two? Who’s in the frame to drive?
Max Camposano, San Jose, CA
RM: He’s a 26-year-old Austrian who competed in GP2, German Formula 3, World Series Formula V8 and Formula Renault. Binder brings money and Ricardo needs it to stay in the game,so I’m glad they found each other. Kyle had his Lights’ title money but obviously that’s not enough to run the full season. I think Kaiser will run the last two ovals this month, but can’t forecast what will happen in 2019. Juncos is a racer and a hard worker and wants to go full-time, but needs financial support.
Q: I’m just thinking out of the box, and feel free to pass this on to Mark Miles, but IndyCar drivers are simply the most diverse drivers, so why not give them another challenge? I propose taking four MidWest races – let’s say Indy GP, Mid-Ohio, Road America and Iowa – and have a night -efore race. Picture this: IMCA mods at Sun Prairie, Eldora, Granite City and Knoxville with our heroes strapped in. The IndyCar dirt track title! It would be low-cost, fun and a chance to show their talents. All the venues are close to great tracks and would pack ‘em in! Imagine buying a TK t-shirt with a modified on it. Pretty cool. It would be open to only drivers in IndyCar and Lights that have raced one race. You would only need a dually and 28′ trailer. I bet a sponsor would love that, and it wouldn’t be hugely expensive! What do you think?
Jim Gifford, Buffalo, NY
RM: I think it would have worked 40 or 50 years ago, but no chance today. Logistically, contractually and financially, it’s just way too complicated. Trying to get drivers to those tracks would be tough enough on a race weekend, but the owners would never go for it. Hell, I’m just trying to help get six IndyCar drivers to hot lap a midget in September at the Speedway, and that’s a challenge. I love the IROC flavor of your idea but, sadly, that ship has sailed.
Q: I get it there is some variable with a championship ending in an oval where things could be unpredictable, but I don’t understand the attachment you and several other fans have to an oval finale. And now with Laguna Seca, everyone is up in arms about ending the championship there. The fact is, the owners want the championship to end at Laguna Seca so they could entertain prospective customers, sponsors and advertisers for the next year and near-term future. At the moment the series is strong in the B2B economic sector, and IndyCar has to cater to where the money is. I am sorry, but ovals have had their turn and the fans didn’t go.
If you compare the revenue stream of fans going to ovals and ending a championship anonymously on a Saturday night with empty stands, it doesn’t portray a series as being healthy. I will take a (possibly boring) race on a road course with enthusiastic fans on a Sunday afternoon to crown a new series champion any day, and if it showcases the series as healthy and moving up, that’s what we want. The last point, until IndyCar fans and the oval track owners make a real concerted effort to woo people, I think they are on the downward trend to being replaced by street and road races.
RM: Here are the facts: Laguna is a terrible place for IndyCars to actually race. Check the history. Four races in the early 90s where the pole-sitter led every lap and another one where the winner never passed a car in anger – just in pit stops. And the attendance got worse and worse in the Champ Car days. Now, I’ll admit ovals have been an albatross for IndyCar until Gateway came back, but those guys know how to promote, and if the aero kit behaves there half as good as it did at Iowa, the race could be great. And you are going to get a lot more people watching an oval than a parade at Laguna. The owners seem to have forgotten why their sponsors got involved – wasn’t it for exposure? So run Laguna the race before the finale. Our best hope is that these aero kits can even make Laguna competitive so we’ll see, because Mid-Ohio was certainly a pleasant surprise.
Q: This is a big stretch, but what if Laguna Seca provided bonkers, go-for-broke racing? As the last race of the year, on a tight track, the drivers professionally threw caution to the wind and just raced like it was the last event of the year? It has not happened in Sonoma, but Laguna is tighter and slower. Being an optimist, I would like to see aggressive moves, unusual strategy calls and competition worthy of a season-finale. I can dream, can’t I? Like you mentioned, it is only scheduled to be the final race in 2019. Let’s give it a chance. What was the feedback from the newer owners in the series? Were they against Gateway as well?
Mike, Avon, IN
RM: Like I said in the question above yours, it’s possible the new aero kits could even save Laguna, and Will Power told me the cars can get so close to each other now that overtaking is much easier to pull off. There were 188 passes at Mid-Ohio so that should give any road course hope. I didn’t ask the new owners, I was still too stunned by the attitude of the old guard towards Gateway.