Robin Miller's Mailbag for April 3, presented by Honda Racing / HPD

Robin Miller's Mailbag for April 3, presented by Honda Racing / HPD

Insights & Analysis

Robin Miller's Mailbag for April 3, presented by Honda Racing / HPD


However many people showed up at COTA, the consensus seems to be that IndyCar’s first visit to Austin was a success. Image by IndyCar

Q: I think a good nickname for Colton Herta is “Hert So Good.” You may know the Mellencamp song “Hurts So Good.” With Mellencamp being a long-time Indy fan, perhaps IndyCar could cheaply license his song for an ad about Herta.

Andrew H., Chicago

RM: Sounds like a one-hit wonder.

Q: It’s 2:45 a.m. and I’m awake with a head cold that’s giving me toothaches. Counting my blessings it’s not steroids or chemo. If Mr. Pfanner goes for the contest you suggested, here’s a short list of nicknames for Colton Herta. Because he looked a little like outlaw William Bonney in the cowboy hat, “Colton the Kid.” KC ( for “Kid Colton.” Like a lightweight boxer or an outlaw.) “Forza Bambino” (If only he drove a pinstriped No. 3 car , or the road gray…) Or, my twisted favorite, “Baby Shark” (Do, duh, Dit- dit -dit-duh dit-dit-dit…) You’re welcome, IndyCar fans! Try getting that out of your heads!

Your favorite NYC tour guide!

David P., Jersey City, NJ

RM: Pfanner hasn’t signed off on our contest, but I like Kid Colton. Now get some sleep.

Q: How about: “Joltin Colton”? Remember “Joltin” Jud Larson?

Jan Burden

RM: I do, but maybe we use pinstripes on the car and honor Joltin Joe DiMaggio.

Q: Just spitballin’ here… how about ‘Colt 45’, or ‘Mohawk Herta’?

Wright Hugus III, Highlands Ranch, CO

RM: If the Mohawk returns, a hat must be worn at all times out of the car.

Q: After reading your March 27 Mailbag, I have a nickname for Colton Herta: Boltin’ Colton. In all seriousness, what a fantastic race COTA was. I sure hope the Harding/Steinbrenner team gets a sponsor because we need Herta racing for many years to come. I’ve been telling everyone that will listen that they have to watch IndyCar. The NBC Sports Gold package is worth it. So glad to watch the whole weekend commercial-free (although I wish the on-demand for the race would just show the side-by-side instead of that “we’ll be back shortly” message).

James Liddicote

RM: I told Mike Harding if this storyline doesn’t get him a sponsor then he needs to get some new people to find him money.

Q: OK Robin, why is it when an oval race draws 25 to 35k everybody says nobody cares or shows up. But at road courses we draw 30k, and everybody says wow, what a decent crowd! So the oval crowd continues to get screwed! Well I am no mathematician, but 30k is 30k, so why can’t we get more ovals?

D. Owen

RM: I believe I wrote a column a few years ago that said we need to get realistic and that 25,000 at an oval race is a good crowd (and I think Gateway gets more) because for whatever reason, ovals are a tough draw and finding promoters willing to take a chance isn’t easy. Road and street courses are IndyCar’s bread and butter and maybe it’s because of the day-long racing and/or the camping for the weekend, but Road America, Mid-Ohio, Portland and Long Beach are big draws, and COTA was encouraging.

Q: You’ve said before oval races probably don’t make a profit. But what about the temporary street courses? Isn’t it a huge expense to shut down city streets to run these events?

Paul, Portland, OR

RM: It most certainly is, but when you can get the city to be your partner or share some expenses or help with promotion (or all three), it gives the promoter a running start. And having an annual title sponsor like Honda, Firestone, Acura and Chevrolet gives the promoter a leg up, while Bommarito Auto Group (Gateway) and ABC Supply (Pocono) have been the only constants for ovals lately. Surfers Paradise use to draw massive crowds in the CART days but lost millions of dollars, and Baltimore supposedly suffered the same fate.

Q: Unless the driver is on a fuel-saving stint, I cannot understand why they end the race with push-to-pass seconds still available? Even if it does not help with an immediate pass of someone, you never know when being 2-3 seconds closer to the leaders might come in handy?

Mike in Texas

RM: Can’t answer that one Mike, except that maybe if a driver is locked in and fighting for a spot, he simply forgets.

Q: Due to work travel, I had to record the race at COTA. When I watched it, the intense racing, bold moves, great saves, and super in-car camera shots got me out of my chair and standing up to watch the end. This is remarkable, since I had already read just about all of the post-race reports and knew exactly how events would unfold, who would win, and who would not. It was that good!

Bob Carmon, Cleveland, TN

RM: Good to hear, Bob. I seldom watch reruns but I wanted to see if COTA was as good as people were saying, and it was one of the best road races I’ve seen in 51 years.

Q: A few COTA observations from a long time IndyCar fan, displaced in the Republic of Texas. I bought three-day GA passes; a first time visitor to COTA. The facility is world-class. No wonder why F1 and MotoGP call it their U.S. home. Add elevation change and associated observation points that give a great view of much of 3.4 miles, and it’s a fans’ paradise. Austin is a one-of-a-kind town, and the track is minutes away. Thus, a great place to enjoy a world-class town during race weekend.

The $95 three-day GA ticket is an unbelievable value. Not sure if the 30k attendance numbers included the GA fans on the Turn 1 grass, but there were 5k in that turn-alone. The Muse concert on Sat PM, was worth $95 on its own, and likely 15k-20k attended. Like the Snake Pit concerts during Indy, I appreciate IndyCar’s marketing initiatives to bring in young fans. My advice: it works, keep doing it. Like myself, lots of boomer parents enjoying the concert with their adult kids.

The open pit Friday and open track Sunday sessions were a hit with we fans. Thanks COTA and IndyCar for providing the opportunity and perspective. Drivers are accessible, and for the most part, friendly and approachable. During the open track session at the end of the race, Sato hung around for pics with fans; classy on his part and appreciated by the fans. My clan and I are already planning to go back next year. I hope over time that the IndyCar Classic becomes a perennial favorite like Long Beach.

Boiler in Texas

PS: I swear I’m not employed by the Austin chamber, IndyCar, nor COTA.

RM: I’m sending your letter to the COTA folks because it’s always good to hear from satisfied fans. I had heard conflicting stories about prices ($600 for a single suite seat or $100 for the top row of a grandstand) so it’s good to know that $95 got you a three-day GA. Looked like plenty of great places to walk around and there was plenty of action. Thanks for sharing your experience.

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