Q: I truly, truly love to read all you have to say and appreciate your knowledge, stories and history of our heroes in open-wheel racing. You bring back my beloved family memories of preparing and going to the Brickyard! Get well soon, we all need you to keep feeding us the good racing food! However please can you tell me why the hell IndyCar doesn’t race at Michigan International Speedway? It’s a real damn shame, I’ve witnessed the best IndyCar racing ever there, so what is it, who is it and when will they ever come back ?
James Hileski, Kalamazoo, MI
RM: It’s all supply and demand, and right now MIS isn’t interested and neither is IndyCar. Ovals have become a very tough sell, so unless you’ve got a major title sponsor and hung-ho promoters like Gateway, it’s not going to happen.
Q: I know you like a good story every now and then, and seeing all of these Mailbag questions about the next generation of fan made me want to share my experience. My grandfather and grandmother were massive IndyCar fans and instilled the love of the sport in my father, who in turn passed that love down to me. Whether it is IndyCar, NASCAR, F1, or Friday night 410 sprint cars at Williams Grove Speedway, I live and breathe racing. My grandfather’s lifelong dream was to go to the Indianapolis 500, but he had several health issues that prevented him from doing so.
In 1989, my dad begged my grandfather to go with him to the 500 as he had purchased tickets for them, but having recently retired on disability due to his health, my grandfather felt he didn’t “deserve” to be at Indy if he couldn’t support his family by working. In 1990, my dad again purchased tickets for himself, my grandmother and my grandfather and refused to take no for an answer as my grandfather’s health started to decline. My grandfather finally got to cross the Indy 500 off his bucket list. Dad always said he never saw my grandfather cry, but that day he wept as soon as Jim Nabors started singing “Back Home Again.” My grandfather passed away two weeks after the race.
I know the secret to growing a fan base isn’t complicated. It simply is about exposure; and I am not talking about just watching on TV. It is getting to the track, experiencing the visual and auditory phenomenon that is a car race, appreciating the skill these drivers demonstrate every weekend, and being a part of something. After all, I am willing to bet this is how the vast majority of fans who read your Mailbag became fans themselves. More importantly, it is about sharing a love of something that connects generations. It is incumbent upon us as race fans to instill that love into those around us, and it starts with going to the track. I was just shy of three years old when my grandfather passed away, and most of my memories of he and I are what I see in photographs. However, I never felt closer to him than I did that day, sitting in the middle of Turns 3 and 4 at Indy.
Someday in the future, I will take my daughters to Indianapolis and share with them just what this race has meant to me, their grandfather, and their great-grandfather. I have no doubt when they see it for themselves, they too will be hooked, and the next generation of IndyCar (and racing) fans will be alive and well.
Adam Swalm, Mechanicsburg, PA
RM: I agree that there’s no substitute for seeing speed and cars in person, and families have always been the best way to build fans. My dad took me to Indy practice when I was eight, and we’d walk across the golf course to the back fence to watch the start of the race from 1958-1963 until he finally got us tickets. We went to Pole Day every year too, and it was a father-son bond that developed into a passion.
Q: Wouldn’t it be great to see Justin Wilson’s Lola at the Goodwood Revival? Now that I think of it, it would be awesome to see a race of old Indy cars at the famed circuit.
RM: Yep, and see his brother Stef drive it. J.R., Dario, Uncle Bobby and Big Al have all run Indy cars at Goodwood and Lord March would give his eye teeth to have A.J. come over, but there needs to be an age limit for any racing (smile).