Q: With all the talk of the fastest 33, the battle once again comes between the 500 and IndyCar itself. The 500 would still exist if IndyCar folded. Period. We’ve seen it before. We’ve been here before. IndyCar wouldn’t exist without the 500, not the other way around. There’s enough interest in the race itself for it to continue; even if it wouldn’t be in the same form (same cars, etc.). I do understand the position of Penske, Ganassi, and Andretti. The 500 is part of the IndyCar calendar and it sucks to have one-offs that don’t bother with any of the other races and come in to crash the party; potentially knocking out a series regular. Those three teams put more into the series than anyone else.
But if IndyCar is a legitimate series with top talent, then they should be ready to compete against anyone that wants to jump in and run with them. For a series longing to see more interest and more entries, why shut out the possibility for growth? I get it; you want your top stars to be in the biggest race on the calendar. But at the end of the day, you want the best driver/team/car to be in the race. Otherwise it just isn’t right. I know times have changed, but at a moment where you have more interest in the race… you want to squash it?
RM: There is no battle — one needs the other. Where, pray tell, are the cars and engines going to come from if IndyCar goes away? And you made a pretty good argument for the owners who will comprise a third of the field. You think F1 would run Monaco without Lewis Hamilton? Or Daytona would go green without Kyle Busch? Of course not — it’s a business nowadays, kids, and has been for a long time. Nobody is building a car in their garage or engine out of a school bus, and a serious effort at Indy isn’t going to be stifled whether there are 33 or 11 spots.
Q: Robin, I’m 68 years old, been a sprint, midget, IndyCar fan all my life and my dad was as well as my son. What I’m writing about is the 25/8 rule. I think because you are around the Big 3 all year, you’re not thinking about the little guy that doesn’t have the mega bucks, but brings the new ideas to racing. Or the short-track drivers that will never get a chance to prove their worth. I bet you could tell me tons of stories about great drivers that never got the chance at Indy. Please reconsider your stand on this rule that is for the big owners and not the fans. We love racing, and love it when a no-name makes the big show.
William F. Cody
RM: With all due respect Mr. Cody, there hasn’t been a little guy with a new idea at IMS since Ken Hamilton, John Buttera and some of the cowboys in the ’80s. And a midget and sprint car driver isn’t going to get a chance at Indy unless he’s got money. It has nothing to do with talent or getting an opportunity or whether spots are guaranteed. And, again, this is not the 25/8 rule – that was TG’s leverage in The Split, and this is about protecting the longtime owners that keep IndyCar going.
Q: Wow Robin, I never thought you would be in favor of guaranteed spots for the 500! Why don’t we just give every driver in the race a Baby Borg for participating in The Greatest Spectacle in Racing? If this goes through, all the progress that’s been made over the last 11 years since the merger will be gone, along with the fans.
Steve Hunt, Chino Hills, CA
RM: Really, so those 50,000 who show up every May for Bump Day will be gone? What if they couldn’t have fielded 33 cars a few years ago? Padlock the place? There has been progress in the past decade, but mostly in the past few years with Jay Frye’s plan and some new car owners. Every major sport tries to protect its owners’ investments, so why is IndyCar wrong to consider it?
Q: So like a lot of us old-timers, I wish qualifying at the 500 would go back to what it was, and I am not a fan of the convoluted procedures of the last decade. But the realist in me understands that we can’t go back to the past, so I will do my best to embrace the current format. I’ve got two ideas about how I’d modify things: 1) Change the Last Row Shootout to the Last Nine Shootout. See, it rhymes with Fast Nine and it gets more cars involved in bumping. 2) I am definitely not in favor of guaranteed starting spots, but I could see throwing the owners a bone. Any full-time entrant (meaning car, not driver) earns a second extra qualifying attempt to get into the 10-30 qualifying spots on Sunday before the Last Row Shootout, should they want to take it. That would give the full-timers an entire night to get their act together for one last attempt. Let’s call it the Lost And Middling Entitled 23, or the LAME 23 Shootout for short. Think it’ll catch on?
RM: It’s never coming back like the ’60s-’70s-’80s-early ’90s, so what’s wrong with this year’s format? NBC will televise the battle for the last row and front row, and Jay Frye did away with that ridiculous Saturday/Sunday running. We don’t need any more bells and whistles.
Q: So the full-time owners want guaranteed spots at Indy? Fine, here’s a solution. If you’re full-time but not one of the 33 qualifiers, you can still race, but you have to watch the first two laps from your pit box. It’s a win-win: tradition is preserved with only the fastest 33 taking the green flag, but the full-time teams and sponsors can still participate (albeit with a two-lap penalty – not to mention added publicity), and the drama of bumping is retained. Is this enough of a compromise to make everyone happy?
Kevin, Fishers, IN
RM: Of course not, race fans are never happy, but the caveat would be if you start in the pits and come back to win and earn a $5 million bonus. Dream on.