Robin Miller's Mailbag for May 8, presented by Honda Racing / HPD

Robin Miller's Mailbag for May 8, presented by Honda Racing / HPD

Insights & Analysis

Robin Miller's Mailbag for May 8, presented by Honda Racing / HPD

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It wasn’t just Paul Newman who was impressed by Bourdais’ first-to-last-to-first heroics in Denver, 2004. Image by LAT

Q: Having grown up in a sports car racing family (my father raced a Healy 100-4, with an uncle in a speedster) I’m drawn to a good, “get knocked down and pick yourself back up” battle, so often seen at Le Mans, Daytona, Sebring, etc. Jackie Ickx, coming back from gearbox issues at Le Mans, the Penske RS Spyder winning Sebring overall, etc., etc., etc…

But my favorite – and close to our family’s heart – is still the Sebastien Bourdais / Newman-Haas win at Denver in 2004! Knocked out at Turn 1, then climbing back through the field, the McDonald’s car kept getting bigger in the background without the TV commentators ever really noticing..Then, seemingly out of nowhere, he was there at the front! Our son was part of that team then, and the whole package showed great driving, pit work, strategy, and a “don’t give up – stay focused” attitude! It’s races like that, that I think are the best! There’s more to the whole story, but you asked us not to write a book, so I’ll leave it at that!

Bill Vincent IV

Q: My perspective as a fan roughly between 1975 and now: Drivers who are characters. The drivers now are great, the new TV coverage is really showing them off. They’ve come into their own over the last 10 years, and now there is a great group of new ones who drive fast and challenge. Owners and team members who are characters. Hull, Ganassi, Cindric, Penske, Rahal, Coyne are interesting to follow, they really care about racing, and put their all into it.

Sponsors who activate around the racing. People used to cheer for the Target car or the Valvoline car, even if they didn’t know the driver or race series. The sponsors make the race exciting when they pack the grandstands and fire people up. Coupons, discounts and giveaways get everyone involved, not just the gearheads. Ford. Send Roger Penske to get Edsel B. back into the IndyCar fold. Ford was one of the greatest casualties of the split. Mazda has been mostly cut loose from Ford, and they are now gone as well. I follow Ford, it’s not fun watching Ford drivers racing Hondas and Chevys. The GT is cool, but it’s always been a European thing. IndyCar and Cosworth with Ford bridged the gap for U.S. and European fans.

Cosworth would be fun to have back as well, I’d hate to see them in Indycar with a different brand.  While they’re at it, bring a few Ford drivers from other top tier formulas to race at the 500 or in IndyCar like they did with the GT program.

Eric Gackenbach, Dearborn, MI

Q: I’m just here to not bitch! I’ve been an IndyCar fan since Uncle Bobby sloshed to victory in the 1975 Indy 500. I’m enjoying racing now as much as ever! You can argue there have been better days, but the racing is still great. IMSA/WEC too for that matter. Information for the rabid fan has never been more accessible or in-depth. NASCAR and F1 have lost their luster with the gimmicks (NASCAR) and private team strangling budgets and tech (F1). But I’m having a blast as always! You’re right, name the book “Bitch, Bitch, Bitch”.

Daniel Tripp, Boaz Alabama

Q: What makes for exciting racing? First, being able to see it. But you told us Canadians we are not allowed to complain about our dismal access to IndyCar broadcasts because we don’t matter, so I’ll move on. I have never found pack racing like old IRL or restrictor plate NASCAR appealing. To me that’s not racing, it’s just a lottery. Stage racing is an even bigger abomination. For your question about why NASCAR is so popular, I have no idea. Waiting for wrecks? I don’t mind at all the odd dominant race like Rossi in Long Beach. In the context of a contested championship, there’s nothing wrong with a good runaway once in a while.

When it’s Lewis Hamilton doing it for the 12th time in 20 races for the fifth straight year though, it gets very, very old. You can say that F1 is prone to domination, but we are now in a period of unprecedented dominance by one team, and into the sixth year of this. Even Schumacher had a couple of close-run championships that went to the wire during his four in a row. (Let’s forget Rosberg even happened in 2016).

No Netflix documentary over-dramatizing the “intense battle” for ninth between McLaren and Renault can compensate for more than one car/team being able to win regularly. They need to fix it, and Liberty would be wise to take a sweeping brush. IndyCar has the best on-track package right now, but it is restricted to a single chassis/two engines, so you lose out on the technical side. IMSA has the best variance in machinery, but BoP takes away the ability to make that machinery count. (For my money the IMSA ‘three races in one’ is the best value and entertainment if you’re attending a race in person, while it doesn’t always make great TV).

I think the problem is that as racing has become more professional the costs have skyrocketed, but the revenues have also decreased, meaning each series has had to double down on what it considers its “core strength”, leaving behind the secondary things that provided additional interest. So when IndyCar has a snoozer, there’s nothing else to fall back on and everyone complains. When IMSA messes up BoP and a manufacturer gets unfairly punished, that is an affront because that variance is their “value proposition.” And when F1 lost the screaming V8s in favor of the faster but pedestrian sounding turbo hybrids, it very much lost its wow factor.

This has resulted in a decreasing pool of fans factionalizing themselves into camps of the type of racing they want that offers them what they think is important, rather than fans accepting motor racing as a whole and the uniqueness of each series as a plus. The side effect has been intense complaining when a particular series doesn’t deliver on that single thing that the fans are following it for. Keep on doing what you do, and I’ll see you on TV when the races are on NBC network up here in Canada.

Marshall in Toronto

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