Q: What is it with so-called IndyCar racing fans? I refer to their idiotic idea to do away with all ovals, except Indy – and some morons are even calling for the end of the 500. We’re already down one oval (Phoenix) with no known replacement for the race date, now fans want to end Iowa, Gateway, Texas, and Pocono? That’s five races. What the hell are these so-called fans thinking? IndyCar is struggling to find more races, the loss of five races would just about kill the series. And, more importantly, where would the five replacement races come from? Oh, one more question. When will Saga Karam ever get a full-time ride in IndyCar (we know Ganassi screwed him over royally for personal reasons) – or has his chance at a full-time ride come and gone? Same question about Conor Daly.
Jake, Pasadena, CA
RM: I haven’t heard too many people clamoring for the end of ovals, just a lot of folks demanding better fencing or protection. But ovals are IndyCar’s heritage (I say that every week) and a vital part of the most diverse driving title in the world. Keeping them on the schedule is the challenge, because it’s tough to make money – or even break even. But I think going back to Saturday night will reinvigorate Iowa, and the attendance at Texas and Pocono was better this season. Sage is still pursuing sponsors, but I hope if Dennis Reinbold goes full-time that Karam is on his shortlist. Conor may have something cooking if the Air Force is on board, so stay tuned.
Q: Robin, great meeting you and Marshall at Portland, and thanks for the picture. As I mentioned when we met, I subscribe to RACER because of you and Marshall and your dedication to IndyCar. It was a great crowd and race. Even better was the willingness of everyone we met in IndyCar paddock to talk, take pictures and sign autographs. It sounds like a larger car count and Alonso could happen next year. Now we need a title sponsor and better TV ratings. Can you update anything about the likelihood of a new series sponsor? What about NBC Sports? Clearly the way for them to increase the value of their broadcast investment is to increase the audience. Can you share any plans to increase IndyCar’s reach? Can’t wait for next year in the great Northwest.
David in Seattle
RM: As the previous question indicates, IndyCar’s best chance for a new, good title sponsor could lay with NBC and all its fingers and clout. I’d love to see NBC sell the Indy 500 to a title or presenting sponsor for $10 million and throw it all in the purse, but I think it obviously gives Mark Miles an ally to find money in this tough climate. And the NBC Gold ticket should provide the diehards with more information, features and racing than ever before. Thanks for reading RACER.
Q: As a long-time fan of IndyCar and other forms of racing since I was 14 (I’m now 69), I can’t believe the small crowds at races. I remember when the Pocono 500 and Lime Rock were packed. I believe it is because of several factors: Ticket costs, (a weekend can cost a family of four several hundred dollars); lack of home-grown racers driving anything, think Gurney, Foyt, Unsers, Gordy and the rest; and almost non-existent local advertising. Mario has often said that timed races and tight fuel restrictions are another reason. What are your thoughts of how to get seats filled? One more thing: announcers incessantly yakking. C’mon fellas, leave some open air for the race sounds to come through.
PS: I know that there has been a slight uptick in attendance at some races, but look at all the empty seats and open spaces at race venues around the U.S.
Jeff Alan, CT
RM: I know Pocono had some great ticket discount packages, and most IndyCar races have offered very reasonable pit and paddock pass prices (Road America is the best) so fans can get access they never would in NASCAR. But Pocono also has three major races in a short span of time, and people only have so much income. And more and more people seem to favor staying home watching their big screen than driving to a track. But IndyCar’s attendance, while not a big percentage, has gone up this season. And I think our booth lets the race breathe when it’s a road course or a superspeedway but at places like Gateway they have to stay on top of things, and they always do.
Q: You mentioned earlier this year that one drawback to today’s cars racing at Phoenix was that the straights were too short and there was not enough time/length for a trailing car to pull even with the car ahead to make a move in the corner, even with a run. You’ve argued for returning to Richmond. Wouldn’t the same problem be true at Richmond? Second, could IndyCars run at Darlington? That’s the one tin-top race I don’t miss. Setting aside that it’s an ISC track and there’s never seemed to be interest in going there, is it too narrow or too fast for IndyCars?
Mike in Chicago
RM: The first three or four Richmond races were great because it’s banked and there were two grooves and some fabulous racing. IndyCars ran Darlington in 1950 and 1951, but it’s probably way too tight and fast for today’s cars.
Q: Having never been a fan of neither the Hanford Device nor the DW12 at Indy, I don’t see anything wrong in a fast car dominating an oval race. The problem starts when the dominating car gets stuck an entire stint behind backmarkers that are one second slower, as occurred in Phoenix, Pocono and to some extent Gateway and Indy. I love the looks of the UAK, and that it made the cars harder to drive and I understand that passing will always be difficult between two equally-matched cars, but IndyCar and Firestone really need to work to make these oval races less processional.
RM: I know IndyCar is aware of the problem and the drivers have been very vocal about what needs to change, so I anticipate better oval racing in 2019. But it’s funny, because in the good old days somebody usually ran away and hid and we didn’t care. The last few years at Indy (before last May) have really spoiled us.