Q: Let’s say you were asked this question in 1995… and maybe you were asked it. But if you were asked how many years two open-wheel series could survive in this country, what would you have said? Were you surprised the two series survived as long as they did? I’m not asking you who you thought was going to win the war.
Ron, Portland, OR
RM: Attendance at both was good at many places those first few years before people began getting disillusioned with Triple AAA at Indy and CART fans were miffed that nobody broke ranks and went to IMS until 2000. By then it was obvious that open-wheel was in a downward spiral. I didn’t think both could last five years.
Q: How will nominees for the Robin Miller Award be selected and voted for going forward?
Wally Eden, Prairie, MN
RM: I think we’re going to look for the people who have devoted their lives to Indy or open wheel racing and it could be a journalist, mechanic, driver, promoter, sponsor or maybe an official.
Q: I’m a lifelong Indycar fan (I’m 41 years old and have been to 27 Indy 500s) and am an unapologetic oval fan. On top of all the Indys I’ve been to, I live in Milwaukee and grew up in the grandstands of the great ol’ Mile, watching Mears, Foyt, the Unsers and Andrettis and so many more. For some odd reason, though, I’ve never been to Road America for a race. I was probably biased against road courses, and our family vacation happened over the weekend for the last few years. Last weekend, however, I took my whole family, and let me tell you, it was magical. I’ve got a couple of thoughts: First, it was so great to meet you. I stopped you in your golf cart and told you that you’re a treasure to IndyCar (true story) to which you said, “I’m an old man.” You are a treasure, Robin, and it was so great to meet you in the great state of Wisconsin.
Second, my family stood in line for the autograph session and I got to watch the way the drivers interacted with the fans. I give each of them credit for doing that, but the guy who stood out by a long shot was Simon Pagenaud. I’ve never been a huge Pagenaud fan, but I can tell you I am after today. While I could see a number of drivers pretty disinterested in the fans and more interested in joking and bantering among one other (I won’t mention any names), Simon was completely engaged with each person who was in front of him, he smiled and looked the fans in the eye, didn’t hesitate to jump over the table to take a photo with fans and stayed late signing autographs and broke the rules in order to accommodate fans. What a total class act. I’m guessing you already know this.
Finally, I’ve been one of those fans that hate the growth of road courses and have been dying for more ovals. I’ve said I didn’t get why fans flock to (mostly) processional road course races and stay home for amazing oval races. Today, I got it. Road America is a friggin’ gem, and every IndyCar fan needs to put it second on their list to the 500. It’s amazing. Also, the experience at a road course was completely different than that of an oval. An oval is all about the practice, qualifying and race. Today (the first day of practice), I was able to park anywhere I wanted, grill out anywhere I wanted, move around to watch the cars in different parts of the track, watch numerous kinds of cars practice and race and we got up close and personal with the cars in the garage area and even met Marco. It was a top-notch experience.
My four kids are instant lifelong fans because of the whole deal. I’ve never had an experience like that in my countless visits to races at ovals. I get it now… but, please, don’t take away more ovals! Kudos to IndyCar for having the best fan experience with the most contact with the star athletes of any type of racing, much less major sport.
RM: Glad you gave it a try, and happy it worked out so well. Road America is the treasure and it’s just non-stop racing for three days on a fantastic circuit with lots of access and a great atmosphere. Pagenaud has always been a class act, so no surprise he charmed your family.
Q: Thank you for always keeping the IndyCar nation informed and up to date. (Write that book!). I just wanted to relate to you a recent meet and greet with Simon Pagenaud at a Menards near Road America. He greeted us very warmly and couldn’t have been nicer. He signed our photos and cards and was very generous with his time. Simon was the one who suggested we take our picture with him. He even was helping me set up my camera phone. He also had a fellow attendee take the photos. I had never met Simon Pagenaud before, but had seen him at the races and thought he was perhaps standoff-ish. I couldn’t have judged him more wrong.
Also I wanted to mention an old hero of many (including me). A.J. Foyt was leaving the team transporter after qualifying Saturday and was stopped by some fans for a picture and selfie. A.J. not only stopped for this, but accommodated several others before he could get away. We could tell he was tired and wanted get to his car, but he stayed until everyone had gotten their time with him. My wife could tell he was tired and we both felt too guilty to also ask for a selfie. I’ve met a number of Indy drivers now and must say that they are the nicest bunch of guys off the track that you can meet. On the track may be a different story though!
Ron Hofslund, Wisconsin
RM: Simon has always been one of the most personable drivers in IndyCar, and the whole group is pretty damn charming when they chose to be. As for Super Tex, he acts like he hates signing autographs but deep down I think he still likes the fact so many people treasure him after all these years.