Q: After seeing some drifting and a move like Rossi pulled at Gateway, what strings do we need to pull to get Rossi in a midget for the IMS dirt races?
RM: I approached Rossi, Hinch, Marco, RHR, Wickens, Gabby, Conor and Zach about hot-lapping a midget at IMS and they were all game, although some more than others. Rossi definitely wanted to give it a go, but I doubt if Michael Andretti would let him now since he’s second in the point standings headed for the Sonoma finale. And IMS and USAC never came up with a plan, so I guess it’s not going to happen. But it would have been a great little video with Sarah Fisher and Justin Grant teaching the IndyCar boys how to handle the dirt, and based on watching Montoya and Kanaan at Eldora a few years ago, I think today’s IndyCar regulars would do just fine. If Rossi can carve his way through traffic at 225 mph at Indy, I think he’d be just fine on a quarter-mile dirt track up on the cushion. And I could tell he really wanted to try it. So maybe next May.
Q: I’ve been thinking a bit after seeing your video with Sarah Fisher from IMS and the other one where you were running around trying to talk IndyCar drivers into a midget car. What could be done to help get more USAC – or for that matter (gasp) winged midget/sprint drivers – into an IndyCar? For instance, what would it take to get USAC to go back to some pavement ovals for sprints and midgets? USAC is definitely not the same without IRP, Winchester, Anderson, Salem, Toledo, Phoenix, Milwaukee etc. on the schedule. Would you need to enforce dirt car chassis only to level the playing field? Or would it work best as a reintroduction if it was an Indiana Pavement Sprint Week (let’s say, Anderson, IRP, Mount Lawn, Salem, Winchester, Baer Field and Speedrome)?
As for the Silver Crown cars, whilst I appreciate the heritage, is it time to modify these cars to make them a little closer to their descendants? Could you maybe make them rear-engined (like a GP Midget) or (gasp) whack a small set of wings front and rear or (double-gasp) throw in a road course or two to the schedule? Just whatever happens, please don’t let them get back to the upside-down bathtub racing as I believed you once called the “new Silver Crown” cars.
Thomas Warren, Sydney, Australia
RM: It would take lots of money and a desire by those winning drivers in each series to want to make a commitment to run IndyCars. But why would they? Other than competing at Indianapolis, the good ones would be taking a pay cut by leaving sprinters and coming to IndyCar. USAC doesn’t exist with today’s IndyCar owners, and hasn’t for 35 years, and it’s not going to change. We can hope David Byrd puts something together for Chris Windom or another USAC star, but it’s always going to be Indy-only. And that was cool with Bryan Clauson. He appreciated Randy Bernard getting him to Indy, but he knew his livelihood was midgets and sprints and embraced it.
Q: It may be too late, but I have an idea of how to get some IndyCar drivers into midgets. I’m the same age as you, and back in the ’50s and ’60s when I was running quarter midgets and half midgets, we used to run “exhibition” races at places like Balboa Stadium and Cajon Speedway during the modified races in the San Diego area. What we would do was go there to promote our sport, and try to get new fans to come watch us. We would not run really hard, but we knew beforehand to keep it close and make it look good. In other words you could get a handful of IndyCar guys to pull a WWE “race” where everybody knows that you have to keep it safe, but make it look good. Nobody is going to push too hard and it’s not a real race. The drivers get to bit of fun, and the car owners/sponsors know nobody is going to get hurt.
Jim Patton, Lindale, Texas
RM: My original plan to NBC (which by the way is covering the BC39 with a one-hour special Friday night after NASCAR America) was for us to film a little match race between the IndyCar drivers and Tim Clauson, and a couple owners were going to let us use their midgets. But, as you can read in the question above yours, it’s not going to happen this time, but maybe next year.
Q: I just listened to Dinner with Racers interview with Joey Saldana. Knew of Joey, but never really heard him in a one-on-one situation. Immediately liked him. I’m going to beat the drum now for Joey to Indy in 2019. Can we get it done?
RM: Great guy from a great family, and a damn good racer. But I doubt he’s got any interest on doing a one-off at Indianapolis. Maybe 10 years ago.
Q: Let ’em race. Enough of: ‘that last move is under review by Race Control…’. Let the drivers police themselves for the most part. NBC needs to air a weekly TV show highlighting/promoting IndyCar. Think: SpeedWeek, RPM Tonight, etc. Miller, Despain, Hinch, Kanaan, Newgarden, etc. as guests/hosts. IndyCar needs to produce content for dissemination to NBC and affiliates. Local reporting (local NBC stations nationwide) should be provided a 30 second segment on recent race activities and results (make it part of contract negotiations/renewals) for broadcast on the sports segment. Out of sight – out of mind.
Get and keep IndyCar in the public eye. That means broadcast TV. Increase car count in Indy Lights with changes to MRTI – consolidation, reduced cost, and a better ladder system. I know, easier said than done. Find a pathway for both road course and dirt drivers to compete.
IndyCar to market to the non-IndyCar fan: Chili Bowl, Knoxville, etc. Cross over. Be inclusive to four-wheel fans, not exclusive. I know… I know. These things take money. Easier said than done.
RM: I like letting them race, we’ve had too much officiating in days gone by. There is talk of a special IndyCar show for NBCSN, so keep your fingers crossed. Nobody can make local affiliates cover IndyCar racing. I tried to get IndyCar to have a real presence at the Chili Bowl a long time ago and was told it “wasn’t their demographic.” Buy lottery tickets and then buy a six-pack of Lights cars when you win. It’s expensive.