Robin Miller's Mailbag for December 26, presented by Honda Racing/HPD

Robin Miller's Mailbag for December 26, presented by Honda Racing/HPD

Insights & Analysis

Robin Miller's Mailbag for December 26, presented by Honda Racing/HPD

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ABC Supply backing + Pocono = an oval keeping its place on the schedule. Image by Abbott/LAT

Q: I’m Canadian and have never seen an ABC Supply Company outlet here. I’ve never seen one in my travels through the U.S., for that matter. How big are they, and why do they stick with Foyt? I understand ‘Foyt’ is an iconic name, but the team itself is pretty hopeless and rarely features in races or television coverage. And aren’t eyes on your logos on television and in the stands the reason sponsors pony up the bucks?

Emmett Swink, Mono, Ontario

RM: ABC Supply Co., Inc. is a major private American roofing supply company based in Beloit, Wisconsin that also sells windows, gutters, and siding for residential and commercial buildings, and is the largest roofing and vinyl siding wholesale distributor in the United States. It has 600 locations in the USA and is a $7 billion business. Owner Diane Hendricks likes A.J. and does lots of business-to-business at the racetrack, which outweighs results in all likelihood, and their title sponsorship likely keeps Pocono on the schedule. ABC is the longest-running sponsor in IndyCar and Mr. Foyt still garners plenty of media attention every season.

Q: I’m obligated and happy to point out to your Mailbag writer Erik S. of Oswego, Illinois, that IUPUI’s School of Engineering and Technology has a terrific Motorsports Engineering program that is one of the few (and was the first) in the U.S. to offer motorsports engineering degrees. Plenty of students have taken those degrees straight to IndyCar tech and race teams. Please let Erik know so he can have his son take a look!

John Schwarb, Senior Communications Specialist/Content Strategist
Indiana University Communications

RM: Thanks John, I’ve actually spoken to that class a couple times and can’t believe I forgot to list it last week.

Q: I thought that response to the young man that wants a career in race engineering was very well presented and could help the teenager to get off to a great start. Way back in the day, GM set up an excellent program at the General Motors Institute which has now become the Kettering Institute. I wonder, if this might be a good college for the young man? They may have an attractive program. Also, Embry-Riddle Research University here in Daytona, while known for its aeronautics program, also has a state of the art automotive curriculum. One problem here is that it is very expensive.

Dick and Sue Hildebrand, Ormond Beach, FL

RM: Appreciate the heads-up on Kettering and Emery.

Q: I read last week’s Mailbag where a guy named Erik from Oswego, IL was talking about his son wanting to be an engineer for IndyCar; doesn’t IUPUI offer a motorsports degree? Also, what are the updates on John Andretti and Robert Wickens?

Brian Lancaster, West Lafayette

RM: Yes sir, IUPUI has a great program that has produced a lot of mechanics and engineers. Talked with John a couple days ago and he’s facing some new surgery in early January that sounds optimistic. Haven’t spoken to Robert since September but from everything I see that he posts on Twitter or Facebook, he’s making good progress. Will he walk again? I wouldn’t bet against him.

Q: Robin, in your opinion, what were the top five things IndyCar got right this past season, and what were the top five things IndyCar missed the mark on?

D. Krueger, West Allis, WI

RM: The road race aero kits were a winner, the rousing return to Portland was a pleasant surprise, replacing Phoenix with COTA made sense, moving Iowa back to Saturday night for 2019 was smart and picking NBC over ABC was smarter. The oval aero kits weren’t real racy, everyone tried but Phoenix just didn’t work, switching the season finale from Sonoma to Laguna Seca won’t generate an atmosphere or a crowd, and the purses have to get an upgrade.

Q: I hope that there is some way to make the next generation engine sound better. The ‘classic rewind’ videos always remind the long-term fans how much better the turbo V8s sounded. I love the competitiveness we see these days in IndyCar, the talent level and the new bodywork, but the engines do not sound great. Thoughts?

Doug Loeffler, Lakeville, MN

RM: I’ve been told more power and more noise are the catch phrases for the next gen engine, so I’m optimistic it’s going to happen because the guys making the rules want both.

Q: ‘Mike in Avon’ hit on something, and it got me thinking, so therefore here’s an IndyCar marketing suggestion — sign some sort of alliance agreement with the karting world and venues around the country promoting IndyCar at those sites.

It doesn’t have to be much, or even that expensive — e.g., some IndyCar posters to post in the venue, schedules on display and for distribution, a flag or two hanging, etc. I know K-1 Karting is pretty big and in big markets around the country, and there is even an independent karting facility here in the Raleigh/Durham area — Rush Hour Karting (they have a few posters of old IndyCar stuff (Cheever/Red Bull), but mostly NASCAR stuff), and it is packed every weekend. They also market fairly heavily to companies in the area for corporate events. Also, nearby VIR has an outdoor karting track (it’s sweet, too), but no IndyCar references at all.

Such an alliance would provide additional exposure to both young and old alike, and would help get the word out to both audiences about IndyCar. Heck, the Carolina Hurricanes hockey team has miniature season schedules in about every business you go in around here. It just feels like unless you are near Indianapolis or in the Midwest (and maybe Pacific Northwest), IndyCar is a non-entity. If we continue to limit the exposure of IndyCar to those areas, we will continue to struggle with fan base and building fans. Reference the definition of insanity: doing the same things but expecting different results.

And I take it by your comments about Richmond over the last few months, it will be coming back on the schedule. I’m cautiously optimistic — without Marlboro (which was nearby), it could struggle because no free tickets. Sun Trust Bank was the sponsor, but they are a small player and not sure they would be involved without all of those Marlboro “comp tickets” attendees.

Randy Mizelle, NC

RM: Some kind of national karting promotion and scholarship involving IndyCar would probably be a great idea, and you are correct in that IndyCar is pretty much unknown outside the Midwest. At least maybe an IndyCar presence at the big events might be a start. I’m hoping IndyCar goes back to Richmond because the attendance (I know there were a lot of freebies) was good as was the racing the first few years. Be a great place for an IndyCar/NASCAR doubleheader.

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