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: I have a question that comes from my sheer annoyance with IndyCar’s scheduling. Why on earth are they taking the same weeks in August off as Formula 1? Unlike many sports fans who simply worry about the ‘game’, IndyCar fans are often concerned with their sport’s popularity and business health (as it’s often directly tied to where races occur and how they can be seen). So with such importance being put on IndyCar’s visibility and exposure to new fans, aren’t they missing a huge opportunity of giving Formula 1 fans racing to watch while F1 takes its three-week break?
My 18-year-old son is obsessed with racing, and his friends are all ‘elitist-F1-or-nothing’ race fans. I often point out how much more competitive and entertaining IndyCar is compared to F1, but like most parents, I’m rarely heard. So here we are, with these kids complaining that there aren’t any races on until the end of the month…. and Scott Dixon is off managing a BBQ somewhere for three weeks. What’s your take on this seemingly gross oversight on viewer growth opportunities?
Gary Vail, Sherman Oaks, CA
RM: I think the gap at the start of the season is worse than August, but IndyCar is working on shoring things up and I’m hearing the schedule will be a lot more compact in 2019. True, IndyCar is wasting an opportunity to get the hardcore F1 types to check things out, but I’m not really sure how much crossover exists. And the gap wasn’t by design, just circumstances of races coming and going.
Q: I love IndyCar racing. However, for its credibility and future, I believe a total cleanout of everyone is needed. It needs to have people in place with common sense. Following Indy with a road race, finishing the season in California on a road course away from its base of fans, ending their season so early it becomes irrelevant, finishes under yellow, double points for last race, etc. It seems every time IndyCar has golden opportunity to do something good they fail miserably. Who has the power to replace everyone? You could show someone who has no interest in auto racing these issues, and they could tell you they don’t make sense. Can it, or will it ever change?
RM: We finally have some people in place with racing roots and common sense that listen to teams, drivers and fans, so let’s not do anything rash. Yes, IndyCar needs to end the season in the Midwest, but Laguna only has a contract for the finale in 2019 so I still think there’s hope for a good closer. Detroit isn’t going to change as long as GM and RP are in play, and finishing under the yellow is simply one of the few traditions that remain intact and I’ve got no problem with it. Double points suck, but they can always be vetoed. Jay Frye has given IndyCar a five-year plan and some needed direction, Mark Miles signed up NBC and is working on all kinds of sponsorships, car count is up and the racing has been excellent, so no reason to clean house.
Q: I read an article saying that Jay Frye and Michael Printup from Watkins Glen are talking about getting a possible slot on the 2021 schedule. What’s more encouraging is that Printup was quoted saying “I’m open to anything to talk to Jay about this. They belong here.” It’s great to know that management at WGI wants IndyCar back. I hope it will happen,but June is IMSA’s Six Hours at The Glen, July and September failed in the past and August is for NASCAR. Would the NBC TV deal be what helps promote the race? It’s a ways off, but I was wondering if you heard about this and if other tracks of IndyCar past are actuality reaching back out to IndyCar?
Rob Peterson, Rochester, NY
RM: Michael and Jay said several months ago they were both open to IndyCar running The Glen again if the right date could be acquired. The weekend that makes sense would be that sports car enduro, since NBC and NBCSN are covering IMSA in 2019 and IndyCar could easily run on Saturday with IMSA’s six hour event on Sunday. But I’m not sure IMSA wants to share, which is crazy, because it gets a nice boost at Long Beach and Detroit and struggles to draw a crowd on its own.
Q: I’m looking forward to Pocono, and speaking of ovals, I was lucky enough to attend the IndyCar MavTV500 at Fontana in 2015, which had 80 lead changes and was easily the best IndyCar race I have ever seen in person. But I believe you when you say that Fontana, Milwaukee, Phoenix and Homestead are not coming back to the schedule. If you were the IndyCar CEO for a day, what oval track would you put on the schedule, and when would you schedule it?
William, Los Angeles, CA
RM: I said three years ago I’d go back after Richmond, and I think IndyCar is making a big push to either get it for 2019 or 2020. I’d also restore Milwaukee (with George Bruggenthies promoting) and move it to the Sunday afternoon (1 p.m. green flag) after Indianapolis, like it was for 85 years. And I’d figure out a way to run Fontana at night when it’s not 100 degrees.
Q: I’d like to get your thoughts on an idea I’ve had for the championship series. The Indy 500 becomes the kickoff race for the season. Series points are accumulated through summer racing, just as they are now. It may become necessary to tighten the schedule so you don’t have as many empty weekends. The season finale is the road course at IMS held over Labor Day weekend. The race is early enough in the day that the remainder can be a huge celebration at the Speedway to honor the new champion (think Carb Day atmosphere with bands). Some may argue the season would be too short, however you would still have ‘exhibition’ races outside those dates that just don’t contribute to points. Maybe those are new tracks that would like to compete to be a part of the championship schedule some day. During the so-called offseason, teams could shuffle drivers, fine-tune setups, etc. an anticipation of the upcoming season; most importantly, it would build the excitement leading up to the next season’s start at Indy.
RM: The IRL tried Indy as the season finale and that didn’t work, and you can’t ask other tracks to be exhibitions that don’t figure into the championship. I just can’t see how having Indy as the first race or last race does anything positive for the series, and this year you’d be lopping off four races from the real schedule – including Long Beach. And ending the season on the IMS road course might be a better option than Laguna Seca, but not by much – unless you really made the tickets cheap in hopes of drawing a decent crowd. Hopefully with NBC on board for all the races, IndyCar will have a presence for seven months. I saw several ads yesterday during NBC’s NASCAR Cup race at The Glen for the ABC 500 at Pocono.