Q: Holy crap! Two young stars in the same year, the likes we haven’t seen since Michael and Al Jr. Herta’s spot is secure, but Pato is a bit in limbo. I know you felt IndyCar didn’t really do enough to hold on to Danica when she was a presence; could the same thing happen with Pato? I watched the NBC pre-race, and the kid even seems to be charismatic. Who can step up and make sure we have a great future rivalry stay intact?
Brian Henris, Fort Mill, SC
RM: I wouldn’t worry about Pato’s future. I think Trevor Carlin is a smart guy who knows talent and his track record speaks for itself, so I think he’ll do everything possible to keep IndyCar’s other teenage sensation under contract. If Trevor can’t, then there will be a long line behind him ready to snap up this talented kid.
Q: I am curious to know your observations about the attendance at COTA. I watched qualifying Saturday on NBCSN and thought the crowd was pretty sparse. Sunday’s attendance looked markedly better, but still way down from a F1 or MotoGP crowd. Any feedback from the powers-that-be regarding the inaugural race? From my spot on the couch, I thought the racing was excellent – certainly better than anything F1 has put on there. I would’ve liked to see Power and Rossi duke it out for the win at the end, but Will’s mechanical during the last stop made that moot. A nice win for Harding-Steinbrenner and Colin Herta.
RM: They said they were expecting 30,000 on race day and I think they got it, but it’s difficult to judge because COTA is so big and people are so spread out. Leigh Diffey heard 80,000 for F1 on race day, and I heard 50,000 for MotoGP. No feedback from COTA yet, but we went downtown for dinner every night and nobody knew there was a race, so a dedicated marketing program would be nice for 2020. But they had to be thrilled with the race.
Q: First, kudos to COTA for offering the $100,000 bonus. The purses are still pathetic, however it is at least a step in the right direction. Second, it seemed really hard to gauge the crowd. What is your estimate, and do you think organizers will be happy?
RM: How COTA’s bottom line came out likely depends on what the sanction fee was and if there was any kind of sponsorship to help. I know some suite tickets were $600 and grandstands were $100 to $160 (cheap compared to F1), so if they had 30,000 paid, I imagine it could have flirted with the black.
Q: Was at the race over the weekend. For the inaugural event, it was generally very good. Do you have any estimate of the attendance?
Emmett M. Murphy, Mesquite, TX
RM: All I know if that 30,000 seats were reportedly sold, so that’s the number I’d use.
Q: First off, congrats to Colton Herta for scoring a historic first win in Austin, Texas. Second, I really enjoyed the IndyCar race on a world class F1 track. I really hope to see the series race on these type of F1 tracks even though they’re 15 seconds slower, because it’s not about the performance of the race car, it’s about the race product and how well the drivers entertains the fans at the track. I think more people will start attending the IndyCar race in Austin in the future.
RM: Talking to first-timers after the race, I’d say it went over quite well and they said they were going to tell their friends. It’s cheaper than F1, and obviously a helluva lot better show in terms of raw racing.
Q: What a great way to end the inaugural race at COTA. I’ve always been a fan of Bryan Herta, and can’t wait to see what is in Colton’s future. The track is beautiful, but I thought it was strange that the pit exit is almost right at the apex of the first corner. Did any of the drivers mention this as a problem?
Mark Suska, Lexington, OH
RM: Nope, not to my knowledge. It made it interesting when someone on cold tires rejoined the race and blended into traffic going into Turn 1. But everyone got through, even though there were some close calls.
Q: What a great race at COTA, action everywhere. IndyCar has all the ingredients to be successful this year, so my hats off to the leadership. My question is, does IndyCar need to change qualifying, or do teams need to get their drivers out there and put in a good lap in the beginning of the session? Waiting for optimal conditions has put some good cars in the back of the grid.
RM: They added 10 minutes because of COTA’s length and some guys still got caught out, but that’s not IndyCar’s fault so I don’t think anything needs to change other than ensuring everyone gets at least one flying lap on the clock.