Q: I recall seeing J.R. Hildebrand in a picture from the McLaren garage at COTA during last year’s F1 race and thought that was interesting. Since then, I have heard he was there to speak about an Indy ride for the 500. Who do you think will be in the second McLaren car – J.R. or Servia, maybe someone else? Could Servia be in a second car for Scuderia Corsa in its 500 attempt – they need someone in the team with experience don’t they? What about Juncos? Can’t see a one-car entry making the show these days, you need the data from at least two cars and you really need great feedback, the competition is so close. BTW: Just renewed my digital subscription to RACER, can’t believe its only $10 for the whole year! Hope all the “mailbaggers” know about this deal. The print version is top shelf and worth the money, too.
Sean O, Vancouver, BC
RM: I’m hearing McLaren will only field Fernando at Indianapolis, so I know J.R. spoke with him but that wasn’t necessarily why he went to the F1 race. It seems like Alonso could use a veteran alongside, and maybe there’s still a chance but he got spoiled with Andretti in 2017 and all that feedback, so I imagine he would vote for a teammate. Kyle Kaiser did a nice job for Juncos last May and he can make the show again with Tom Brown as his engineer, despite only being one car. Servia always lands somewhere because he’s valuable. Thanks for the plug for RACER.
Q: Back in December you kindly emailed me on my planned visit to this year’s Indy 500 and best places to view the race from. You also hinted that Conor Daly may have a possible big deal on for 500. When it became known that Conor has a drive with Andretti Autosport I was over the moon, and it makes my trip over for race one a very special one as I am a huge Conor fan. Enjoy all your Miller’s Mailbags, and hope you are keeping well.
RM: I managed to keep a secret for a long time, didn’t I (smile). I think a lot of fans are thrilled that Conor is finally getting a shot with a frontrunner (although I think if he stayed with Dale Coyne and Mike Cannon he would have continued to impress).
Q: How did Matty Brabham drop out of the picture? I remember when he was the rising star and now he seems to be completely out of the conversation.
Paul Fitzgerald, Indianapolis
RM: I thought he was going to go all the way to the top with Andretti, but there was a disconnect after Lights. Matty is a great kid and a good shoe who won everything in the ladder system, and now he’s making a living in Robby Gordon’s truck series but he wants to drive IndyCars – just needs money.
Q: The Indianapolis Star did an investigative piece a few years ago and said the permanent seating capacity at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway was 257,325. Even when the 500 was at its peak in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s and every ticket was sold and the infield was packed, do you believe the Indy 500 actually had over 300,000 people attending the race? I’ve been to the Speedway once, and yes it is massive, but it’s hard to believe that many people could be in the infield. The entire infield is not available to public for the 500. The Speedway has estimated the attendance as high as 350,00 to 400,000 for the race. So what’s your best guess of the highest actual capacity for the Indy 500 back when the race was in its prime?
Dan, Raleigh, NC
RM: Good questions Dan, but first off, IMS had never estimated a crowd until the last few years (Joe Cloutier refused to give out a number and loved all the speculation), and it was the Indiana State Police that always used 400,000. My old friend David Cassidy told me the Speedway once had 305,000 permanent seats (all sold) and the most people ever in the infield was estimated to be 5,000 (general admission before the golf course), so I guess the largest crowd ever was 310,000. Photos from the 1950s show a lot of cars parked in the infield so there wasn’t a lot of room for fans, but the infield throngs were largest in the ‘70s and ‘80s. The Speedway today claims 30,000 are in the Snake Pit, and I call bull$%#. There are 30,000 in the Mini Marathon every year, so do you seriously think you could put them all in Turn 3? Please. The Indy crowd is always over 200,000, but beyond that it’s a great guessing game.
Q: I’ve been going to the 500 ever since my Dad took me as an eight-year-old in 1998. Seeing IMS at capacity for the 100th running felt like an out-of-body experience. The years before and after 2016 have patches of empty grandstands that are noticeable and somewhat disheartening. I understand the difficulty of somebody purchasing a $100+ seat to sit in the sun. I also see why IMS won’t spend the money to renovate if they know it will only reduce their opportunity to sell more seats. They have already taken out the bleachers in the lower rows of the north end of Tower Terrace. My question to you is, what would cause IMS to sell out its grandstand seating? Will this ever happen again? How are ticket sales looking for 2019? I will go to this race for the rest of my life and what happens on the track is what truly matters to me. However watching past races and seeing the empty seats can be a bummer.
RM: Lower the ticket prices? Get Kyle Busch, Kyle Larson, Christopher Bell and Rico Abreu rides? Put Lewis Hamilton in a Penske car? Hell I don’t know, but there are some crappy seats at IMS so it’s obvious to me why they’re empty. Go on the IMS website and try to buy four tickets, up high anywhere, together and tell me how you fared. That’s a gauge. But I think most of the good seats are sold for 2019.