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: We took three first-timers to Gateway. Here are the thoughts of the group, Positive: Track was very fan-friendly. From the shuttle golf karts, to the people directing, to the vendors we dealt with, we did not feel rushed. My wife is the biggest critic. She wants to go back! The city was behind the event. People knew about the race. The track looked great. The free K&N race made going over on Friday worth it. Negatives: Wickens support – where were the T-shirts and decals? We arrived at 2:30 and walked the entire place twice. Found two Get Well banners. We were ready to support, but no-one to take our money. Big-time fail on IndyCar’s side. Don’t give me the timing excuse, either, I am a small event promoter, and I have the ability to pull this off in four days. IndyCar has far more resources than I have. First two-thirds of the race was bad. Man, IndyCar has to do something. After the track was swept and people were changing strategies, the last third was great.
RM: First off, thanks for recruiting new fans and I’m glad your wife enjoyed it as well. Owner Curtis Francois, promoter Chris Blair and publicist John Bisci are a dynamic team that understands racing, marketing, promotion and the paying customers like few people in their business, and that’s why Gateway is a winner. They begin working on this race in the winter and never back off. I met a couple guys from Birmingham, Ala. that heard the race advertised on the radio and decided to give it a shot. As for supporting Robert, IndyCar did sell hats but sold out quickly. However, here is how you can help. Click here to buy stickers and shirts for Robbie through Toronto Motorsports.
There are also plans for IndyCar to sell these on-site in Portland (beginning on Saturday morning) and Sonoma. Robert’s family has requested donations be made to Sam Schmidt’s foundation Conquer Paralysis Now to benefit spinal cord injury research.
Q: I attended the Bommarito 500 and absolutely loved the race, the atmosphere, and everything Gateway and Bommarito have done to make this such a great event. I will be renewing my tickets and will attend as long as they keep running the event. I also read this past week that IndyCar finalized its deal with Texas Motor Speedway for the June double-header with the NASCAR Truck Series. While my interest in NASCAR Cup has waned considerably over the years, I really love the competition and parity of the Truck series. For instance, while attending the NASCAR weekend at Michigan a few weeks ago, the Trucks were able to draft off each other and produced a photo finish, while the Cup race was a parade that was won by 3+ seconds. I have been wanting to see the IndyCar Series at TMS for a long time, and will finally make plans to get a flight and hotel to TMS in June 2019 to see the IndyCar/Truck weekend for the first time ever.
It was a nice addition to the Bommarito 500 weekend to have the K&N East/West race Friday, but it’d be even better if Gateway could pair a Friday Truck race with the Saturday IndyCar race. While the Trucks have been racing at Gateway for a few seasons, it’s my understanding that the race struggles to draw a consistent crowd (I was offered comp tickets at the last minute through Gateway since I already had my IndyCar tickets purchased, but was unable to attend). Perhaps it’d be a win-win for everyone involved to pair the Trucks with IndyCar at Gateway for future iterations of the Bommarito 500. I’ll definitely be at the 2019 Bommarito 500 no matter what, even if the Friday night feature is kids’ bike races.
Andrew McNaughton, Chicago
RM: The goal of any promoter should be to put on a show that makes the paying customer want to return and, clearly, the boys at Gateway get it because there was something going on from 2 p.m. until the green flag waved at 7:40. But I don’t think you’ll see the NASCAR Trucks because they draw decent as a standalone event, and Gateway likes having four or five big events during the season. But thanks for your ringing endorsement.
Q: The Gateway event is great. Normally tracks say they are going to improve, and you might see one or two things, We saw improvements everywhere this year. Roads were not backed up at the start of the race. The majority of parking was in grass, not a dirt field like last year. The fan area behind grandstand was full of food booths and merchandise. Hospitality golf cats everywhere – my dad is handicapped; he walked less than a football field total at the track. We did not seek these guys out. Maybe right time, right place, but my odds are not that good. Kudos to the staff at Gateway.
Now, it’s a bit hard to swallow that the seven-car Indy Lights race was the best event of the weekend. The IndyCar race was not very good until the last caution. Where was all of the Wickens support stuff? I wanted to get a hat or shirt to wear to the local dirt tracks that I attend. I settled for this odd-looking hat, but I think it was just a regular Wickens hat. Last thing – we sure take the Indy traffic control for granted. It takes me just as long to get out of Gateway as it does to leave the 500, and at Indy we are dealing with 200,000 plus. I’m guessing Gateway is about 30,000. They were better this year, but they’ve got some room for improving. Great track, great event, and I can’t wait to see what they improve upon next year.
Short Track Rat
RM: After last year’s race, I sent Chris Blair every letter I got from you fans – negative or positive – and he vowed to improve parking, concessions and getting in and out of the track. Curtis spent big money on all of those things, and it showed. Not sure where you parked, but I’m told everyone was out in 90 minutes and I never touched the brakes an hour after the checkered flag. The race was pretty processional and boring until the last 50 laps when thankfully, a race broke out. The Wickens’ information is answered in the question above.