Q: Robin, plenty of Mailbag letters recently concerning the possibility of an IndyCar/NASCAR double-header, virtually all of them positive. But I will be the Nattering Nabob of Negativity. Such a double-header will be a fruitless enterprise. NASCAR fans will watch the NASCAR race, and IndyCar fans will watch the IndyCar race. The number of fans of each who will “cross over” will be insignificant, and the number of potential new fans lured in by the concept will be close to zero if not exactly zero. If “moving the needle” is the goal, such a double-header will not move it. If IndyCar wants to find new fans, the best idea ever floated was that of a midweek night race during the baseball All Star break. A double-bill with Cup ain’t gonna do it.
Bob in New Jersey
RM: Well that’s why The Mailbag is a great sounding board, because we can all voice our opinions. It might not work, but why in the hell wouldn’t you try with all those empty seats at ovals these days? And if you could get a big name driver swap, it could create the kind of publicity that auto racing no longer receives.
Q: I’ve been an IndyCar fan since I was eight years old when Al Unser won Indy in the Johnny Lightning Special in 1970. I like the idea of a NASCAR/IndyCar double-header. It makes sense to me to have Kentucky Speedway in the conversation as the venue. NASCAR seems to do well there on Saturday night, and IndyCar always had good racing and attendance. Kentucky is in the middle as far as fan base to both series. I think it’s a no-brainer. I never understood why Kentucky doesn’t have the IndyCar race anymore. Was it deemed too dangerous after the Dan Weldon tragedy at Las Vegas?
Joe S, Shelbyville, IN
RM: I think it’s simply a matter of desire – does Kentucky want IndyCar back? I think Chicago, Charlotte and Kentucky would be desirable for a double-header, and the latter is right in IndyCar’s Midwest wheelhouse.
Q: I don’t share the view that a IndyCar and NASCAR race has any real advantages for either series. Why? Because the fan bases are drastically different. Always have been. Always will be. Yes, it might happen, but what would be the long term upside for either series as people that follow racing are in declining numbers as evidenced by attendance photos of the venues and the TV ratings. Notice the vast number of empty seats at the Texas IndyCar race. Not a good look, and NASCAR has the same problem. OK, lets say it’s on. What’s the venue? Texas? I don’t think it would produce the racing that would excite both fan bases. Me, I’d say do it at Watkins Glen.
RM: The desired format would be a Saturday night IndyCar race followed by NASCAR on Sunday afternoon, so that eliminates any road course, although I imagine you could run IndyCars on Saturday afternoon and pull it off. But you made my argument. If nobody is going to ovals anymore, why continue to do the same thing year after year? Try something outside the box.
Q: I am watching Dale JR Download. Some shows are very good (when NASCAR is not overdone). Several of his shows are devoted to IndyCar and non-NASCAR. Simon Pagenaud was on the last show, and mentioned he spends four weeks in France a year. I know a lot of the foreign drivers live here full-time. Have any become American citizens?
Lew from NJ
RM: Tony Kanaan became a citizen back in 2013, and Will Power just claimed America a few weeks ago.
Q: How about a report card for mid-year on all the big news in IndyCar that did or didn’t happen? I’m always reading about some huge announcement that will occur in coming weeks, but I’m never sure if it happened or not.
RM: It was going to be the third engine manufacturer.
Q: When you speak of your Mount Rushmore, Parnelli Jones is included. I have been following auto racing for about 50 years, so Parnelli retired before my time. I know he won Indy and some other IndyCar races, in USAC stock cars and a few in NASCAR, the Baja 1000 and a Trans-Am championship for Ford. But what else does he have on his resume that puts him on the mountain ahead of others, like Mark Donohue? Thanks for the education, I’m sure you’ll provide.
Bruce K, Philadelphia
RM: This is the identical question I had last week, are you guys in a club? With a little luck Rufus could have won Indy in 1961-62-64-67 and AJ Watson said the three greatest Indy drivers he ever saw were Troy Ruttman, Bill Vukovich and Parnelli. He was as good in a midget and sprinter as anyone that ever sat in one. He was a great road racer as well (Colin Chapman offered him a ride with Lotus), and won in sports cars besides putting Trans Am on the map. Then he conquered Baja. Donohue was damn good, but no Parnelli Jones.
Q: First of all, I hope you are feeling well. You are a treasure to us old guys and I can’t imagine IndyCar without you. IndyCar racing is much better, isn’t it? While I miss Gary B. Uncle Bobby, Al, Sr., Gordy, Wally, Mel, Mike Mosley and Mario, it’s been great. So much admiration for Dixon and what he does and the way he does it. So, yes IndyCar has many things that could be better, but I’m going to be happy with what it is. So many people bitch, but the world is different and it ain’t 1973 anymore so get over it. Keep the faith, Robin. The true IndyCar fans count on you for the truth and you’ve never let us down.
RM: Thanks Mark, I feel fine. Today’s racing and close competition is probably the best ever, and the depth of the teams is partly responsible along with a racy spec car and two engines that are very close. We don’t have the characters and mega stars of the 1960s and 1970s, but thankfully we’ve got our memories, photos and YouTube videos along with Dick Wallen.