Q: Racing runs on money. Fans want to support their favorite drivers. Maybe (and it would be the only way I would have anything in common with him), I have something in common with Winston Churchill, about whom it was once said, “He has 10 ideas a day, nine of which are bad.” Tracks and promoters could give fans an option when they purchase tickets to add $5.00 to the price and designate their favorite driver they want to support. The promoter or track would probably need to get a slice for the operation (maybe $1.00) and the details would need to be worked out more. The driver and the team split the “tips” they get from the fans. If a race drew 35,000 fans and 10,000 opted into something like this, there’s $40,000 up for grabs. All things considered, not a lot; but, if it caught on and half the races had that option, it might move the needle for somebody. If Indy got on board, well…
RM: Well considering the winning team of an IndyCar race (except Indianapolis) only earns $30,000 I’m sure the drivers would welcome your suggestion, but with all the ticket surcharges, gas prices, hotels, not sure it’s fair to ask the paying customers to give any more.
Q: Several years ago, we ran into Memo Gidley in the paddock at Mid-Ohio. He was great with my son and enthusiastically answered our questions, signed our program, and posed for pictures. I know he had a bad accident years ago and was wondering what he was up to these days?
Scott Smith, Dallas, Texas
RM: Read RACER.com’s recent story about Memo. He wants to race again, so good luck to one of the truly great guys in all of motorsports.
Q: Is it my imagination, or have most forms of auto racing become niche sports? All the talk of IndyCar and IMSA sharing a weekend seems to have people worked up. It’s like asking lions and lambs to lie down together. When I was a much younger race fan I liked everything, from stock cars to Indy cars to F1 and sports cars. Heck, I even liked boats. Is it just that everything is so narrowly marketed now?
Greg in Chicago
RM: No, in today’s world it’s more a case of, how do we get people to drive a few hours, spend money on hotels and come to our race? By giving the fans more, and that’s why an IndyCar/IMSA doubleheader makes perfect sense. This isn’t the days when Can-Am drew massive crowds. Other than Sebring and Road Atlanta, IMSA only has good turnouts at Long Beach and Detroit sharing the bill with IndyCars. That’s why The Glen would be a winner – let IndyCar run Saturday and the Six Hours on Sunday.
Q: Thanks for doing the Mailbag each week. As I have gotten back into IndyCar over the past two-three years, it has been a great way for me to stay informed and learn a little history as well. I have two totally unrelated questions here. A few weeks back on Marshall’s podcast, Hinch mentioned that he didn’t think Mosport would be a very good track for open-wheel cars despite its history. I have a soft spot for Mosport, as it’s where my Hoosier grandfather introduced my then-teenage dad to racing in the ‘60s (they went and watched Can-Am and F1 there). Any idea why? I simply don’t know enough to even come up with a wildly inaccurate answer.
Second, with our Hoosier roots and 20+ relatives still in central Indiana, we are very loyal 500 attendees. My dad has lost count of how many, and this year will mark either my seventh or eighth (I need to remember which ones I missed since the merger). For most years since the merger, a vendor has given us tickets to their Tower Terrace Suite. At some point, we figure we will overstay our welcome and will probably start looking for other seats this year or next. We have family seats about two-thirds of the way up the Southwest Vista we can snag, but dad is getting older and crankier, and wants to be closer to an aisle. If I remember correctly, you suggest sitting high in Turns 1 or 3. How hard is it to get two or four of these, and are there brokers you suggest working with? Thanks in advance.
Will Mohr, Roanoke, VA
RM: Mosport was fine for Indy cars in the late 60s before downforce and insane corning speeds. I’d love to go back there, but everyone says it’s too dangerous for today’s Indy cars despite all the improvements Ron Fellows has made. Go to Brickyard.com and see if there are any double-letter rows still available in any of the four vistas before you think about ticket brokers. Let me know, I might have a friend that could sell you a couple up high in Turn 4.
Q: Would IndyCar or IMS ever consider abandoning the season-ending road course race in California for a 300 or 400-mile championship-deciding race on the IMS oval? I feel like it would give IndyCar a lot more exposure, and a Saturday race in September should draw a fairly large crowd, despite college football.
Jim O., Fishers, IN
RM: It would damn sure have more fans and atmosphere, but it ain’t gonna happen. One oval race at Indianapolis is all we need.
Q: In several answers to questions you have posted recently you have made reference to an impending NASCAR TV contract renegotiation or adjustment in the near future. I am not a NASCAR fan so I am not that familiar with your reference, but I do know that those once-exorbitant dollars from that old contract that have kept a lot teams and tracks afloat will be significantly diminished. And soon. Just curious on what you think will happen here, and what will NASCAR look like in five or eight years?
RM: When you consider that teams get roughly 25 percent of the $900 million a year that NASCAR gets from TV and that next contract is going to be considerably less, then it’s going to have a dramatic impact on the number of cars, I would imagine. But no reason NASCAR can’t race with 25-28 good cars. IndyCar is making it work.