Robin Miller's Mailbag for September 12, presented by Honda Racing /HPD

Robin Miller's Mailbag for September 12, presented by Honda Racing /HPD

Insights & Analysis

Robin Miller's Mailbag for September 12, presented by Honda Racing /HPD

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The Portland fan experience got the thumbs-up. Image by IndyCar

Q: Made the return trek to Portland for the return of IndyCar, and it was wonderful. Anyone complaining either did not attend or has expectations that simply cannot be met. Was everything perfect every day? No. Is it ever at any multi-day event? Any big event, be it a concert, major league sports event or auto race, is going to have traffic and long lines. Deal with it. Was it worth the traffic and lines? Hell yes.  If you are bored, it is on you. There was non-stop track activity every day. The drivers were accessible and friendly. Before any gasbag that never leaves their couch comments, see some highlights below from my IndyCar weekend.

Also, from the time I inquired about tickets back when the date was announced to race day, I received constant emails keeping me up to date on my ticket status to what to expect each day at the track.  On Friday I approached Mario with an item I’d had since I was 11, and he could not have been more engaging and polite. I had similar experiences with Power, Pagenaud and RHR. Graham Rahal was equally as accommodating in the autograph session. Met Paul Tracy and he was great, as was Servia, Vasser and SeaBass. After three days we were dirty, tired and ready for home, but had not one regret about attending. Just because something looks dull on TV does not mean it is for the attending crowd. Now get off your asses and see it in person.

Aaron, Medford, Oregon

RM: Glad to hear from a fan that resides in the hometown of my old pal Art Pollard, and glad you had a great experience. The traffic jams at 8 a.m. were the first I’ve seen since CART’s heydays in the ‘90s.

Q: Seems something’s screwy with the IndyCar schedule for 2019. Ending with a three-week gap from Portland to Laguna seems unnecessary until you see that IMSA has already announced its presence at Laguna on Sept. 13-15. I can’t imagine the promoters doing two big events back-to-back. So, who gives and when? Isn’t it likely that the egos that be will just say OK, IMSA on Saturday and the IndyCar finale on Sunday, Oct. 15? NBC is already there.

Rick Moris

RM: No, IMSA wants its own weekend and regular date, and IndyCar will finish Sept. 20-22. The smart thing for IMSA to do would be run a doubleheader with IndyCar at Laguna, Watkins Glen and COTA since it doesn’t draw flies by itself (except for Sebring and Road Atlanta), and I don’t think either series cares who runs on Saturday and Sunday. But I do know a lot of IMSA teams enjoy the doubleheaders at Long Beach and Detroit because there are lots of fans. And, to your point, NBC is covering both series in 2019, so it makes that much more sense.

Q: I drove seven hours from Boise, Idaho to Portland for the race weekend and will be very glad to do it again next year. The access to the past and present drivers was unbelievable!  This was a good start to something that will no doubt grow into what it once was at PIR.

However, there are a few things that no doubt will be considered next year for the even larger crowd that will be there. The biggest need is for the PA system to be extended to the backstretch so the thousands of fans there will know what is happening around the track. I found the IndyCar radio feed on my phone, so while I listened to that, we tried to keep the fans around us updated. Did anyone mention this to you? There are a few other items that will no doubt be addressed during the promoter’s/track’s debriefing, but I hope the larger crowds next year do not impede on the fantastic access the fans had this year to the personnel and product that IndyCar brings to the table. Great weekend, IndyCar. Let’s do it again next year!

Robert Strawser

RM: I heard a few complaints about the dust and lack of a PA system in the area where you watched, so I sent them on to promoters Kim Green and Kevin Savoree. But most of the many letters I received raved about access and how accommodating the drivers were during the weekend. But those are two of IndyCar’s strengths compared to most series.

Q: You often shoot down the idea of IndyCar promoting its own races on the basis that local promoters are required. But in addition to their home event at Mid-Ohio, Green/Savoree seems to be able to successfully promote events in St. Pete, Toronto, and now Portland. Given its success, I wonder if IndyCar could more quickly achieve its optimal schedule by identifying tracks/markets where it (and its sponsors) want to be, and promoting its own races.  Whether it creates its own promotions department or contracts the promotion out to Green/Savoree or other promoters (Randy Bernard?), this could enable it to have a better chance of racing in appealing or underserved markets. It might also allow it to better control the race dates and flow of the overall schedule. If other track owners and/or promoters are reluctant to bet on IndyCar, then IndyCar should consider betting on itself.

Kirby, Indianapolis, IN

RM: Kevin and Kim did a great job at Portland with no title sponsor, but Honda is their bread and butter at Mid-Ohio and Toronto and Firestone is the sponsor at St. Pete, so that’s key to making things work. IndyCar isn’t going to spend the money necessary to promote a race, so it’s a matter of leasing a track like it did at Phoenix and Watkins Glen (and you saw how those turned out). It’s not a good deal for anybody. You want a track that’s vested in the event and has to make people aware and buy tickets and try to make money. Randy is promoting Garth Brooks so he’s quite content not to be in racing, but misses a lot of the people.

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