Robin Miller's Mailbag for August 22, presented by Honda Racing / HPD

Robin Miller's Mailbag for August 22, presented by Honda Racing / HPD

Insights & Analysis

Robin Miller's Mailbag for August 22, presented by Honda Racing / HPD


Image by Miller/LAT

Q: Have you ever asked Michael Andretti whether he’s more proud of his driving career, or the team he’s built? I don’t believe many think of AA on the same level as Penske and Ganassi, and it may be true that it may have some catching up to do in terms of results. But in every other respect, I think AA is their equal, or more. (I don’t recall Chip ever getting into race promotion, as AA has done) I was not a big fan of Michael as a driver (I rooted for PT, and his clever T-shirts), but I’ve gotta give him a lot of credit for his accomplishments as a team owner.

John Q.

RM: I don’t think I have, but it’s a good question. Michael has given American drivers a home, and also helped keep Indy Lights afloat, and if he pulls off Alonso, he’ll give IndyCar a tremendous boost. He’s done so much more than anyone expected and is totally committed. And he was a helluva racer as well.

Q: I often read that such-and-such track isn’t interested in hosting an IndyCar race, but I don’t understand why. Wouldn’t tracks like to? 1) Have the track in use at every opportunity so they get ticket revenue and 2) Have any national series race there so it’s a well-known track and can therefore sell more tickets? The other part is, why aren’t IndyCar and (Insert Name of Racetrack Here) partners at each event? Isn’t it in both their interests to make the event successful? Many times it seems that IndyCar says, “Well, we’re not the promoter”, or the track just rents out the facility and it’s up to IndyCar to make it work. I read an article recently where Tavo Hellmund said there’s a big difference between (racetrack) operators and promoters, and it’s obvious even from watching on TV that some tracks do a better job of promotion than others. Wouldn’t IndyCar be well served by hiring a top level promoter to promote all the races instead of having each individual track do it? Sorry, that’s a lot of questions, maybe you should just write an article on how all this works!

Greg Tracy, West Milton, OH

RM: Let’s say Michigan decides it wants to host an IndyCar race again, but asks for a deal on the sanction fee. So IndyCar charges $750,000, and MIS is minus that amount before it ever sells a ticket or signs a title sponsor. If it gets a decent title sponsor for $250,000 (and that’s a stretch), it’s going to have to sell 20,000 seats at $40 just to break even (hypothetically), but that’s before one radio or TV ad is bought or one newspaper ad. Or before you pay your guards or track workers. There’s a current oval on the schedule that has a title sponsor and supposedly loses $3 million a year on its IndyCar race. Now, how long can a track do that? Gateway works because it’s got saavy people who know how to promote, and a big-time title sponsor in Jonathan Bommarito, but that’s a rarity. USAC always claimed it wasn’t the promoter when it had IndyCar racing, and we saw how well that turned out. IndyCar rents a track like Phoenix or Watkins Glen and it does become the promoter, but obviously judging by the attendance, not a very good one. My niece lives in Phoenix and had no idea there was an IndyCar race last April. And she pays attention. In the old days when Marlboro, Honda and Toyota gave away 10,000 tickets a race, being a promoter was a lot easier, but it takes work and Tavo is correct, real promoters are a dying breed. IndyCar could certainly use a good promoter (that’s we thought Verizon was going to be), but it’s not about to spend any money on one.

Q: Are the LED position indicators officially dead? (Or, if IMSA can do it why can’t INDYCAR?) Did Ferrucci bring a really, really big boat-load of money in order to get a ride, considering his toxic record? Is it just me, or does Veach look extremely impressive and competent for a 13-year old? Why does Rossi look like Superman when he’s on his game? I think it’s a given that Alonso will be in IndyCar next year (at least the Indy 500), but what are the odds of Smoke being there too? I really miss “It’s a Robin Miller night! It’s a Robin Miller night!” on WIND TUNNEL. I’ll be at Gateway in the same seat as last year, right in front of where Newgarden pulled off The Pass.

Rick in Lisle, IL

RM: DOA for this year. Yes, a boatload (I don’t know). Zach has been one of the best stories in all of American motorsports this season. And he looks at least 16 when he doesn’t shave. Rossi is the real deal. I don’t think Stewart will run Indy next May. I miss SPEED, Dave Despain’s take and WIND TUNNEL as well. Fun times. See ya Saturday night.

Q: Why would Alonso even consider IndyCar over F1? He could not afford the pay cut? It is getting late for a title sponsor for Indy Car in ’19! Where is the money going to come from to convince anyone to drive?

SG, Las Cruces, NM

RM: Oh, I don’t know, because he’s got a chance to be competitive, wins races and have fun again? Of course he can afford it. And he’ll still get $10 million over here. Yes, getting real late. Too late, probably. There are new teams coming next year, so obviously a title sponsor and good purses aren’t a prerequisite.

Q: Maybe we should move TMS on the calendar to throw Eddie a bone. Let’s move the IMS road course race to anywhere else and let Texas kick off the month of May by racing the first Saturday night. One-offs would get a chance to do a shakedown race (that most of them wouldn’t make due to budget, so overcrowding on track shouldn’t be an issue) and I’m sure TMS would love, and more importantly respect, the honor. Just my two cents.

Stitch, Gainesville, FL

RM: Eddie isn’t about to move to May, he likes June right after Indy (and I wish it was the week after Indy instead of two weeks), and Mark Miles isn’t moving the road course race.

Q: Toyota leaving Long Beach. Major concern, or bump in the road?

Kurt Ullman, Carmel

RM: There will be a replacement within the month.