Q: I just finished reading the June, 26th Mailbag and couldn’t agree more about Road America being a fabulous place. I went twice, ’99 and ’00, and was super-impressed. I’d be remiss if I didn’t stand up for Watkins Glen also being a fabulous place that offers everything Road America does, and more. It has the quaint village with restaurants and bars, with the added bonus of being the true home of American road racing. Drive into the village and you’re immediately plunged into racing history. Whether it’s the various shops with racing-themed items for sale, or the two murals painted on the sides of buildings on the northern part of the village, it’s everywhere.
Part of Main Street itself is the old front straightaway of the original old course, and there’s a line with flags marking the start/finish line as you drive through town. The International Motor Racing Research Center is at the public library just off the main drag and definitely worth checking out. Do a self-guided tour of the old course after you visit the Research Center, too. I went to The Glen last weekend for the Sahlen’s Six Hour with the hope that someone, someday will put IndyCar on this weekend. I’m aware IMSA has their whole show there and the weekend is pretty full, but a Thursday through Sunday show is doable. I think having the Six Hour start at 4:00pm on Saturday night and race into the dark would be just brilliant. IndyCar on Sunday afternoon at 1 p.m. after a few support races in the morning.
I, depressingly, know the answer to this question but I’m going to ask anyway because I’m a masochist. Is there any movement or talks on this subject?
Eric Z, Lancaster, NY
RM: Good timing, Eric. Jay Frye went to The Glen last week and discussed the possibility of IndyCar returning some day since both parties want it to happen. It’s just a question of finding the right date and/or title sponsor.
Q: I was at Watkins Glen this weekend for the Six Hour race (as I am every year), and there was a caution during the Michelin Pilot race so I took my earplugs out and listened to the two guys next to me. Fan 1: “You hear about Josef Newgarden?” Fan 2: “No, what?” Fan 1: “He’s first overall.” (referring to the points standings) Fan 2: “Oh wow, who would’ve thought?” These were two guys who were dressed head-to-toe in sports car gear, they both had the IMSA app on their phones, and they even knew who many of the drivers in the support series were, but they clearly didn’t follow open-wheel racing at all.
At that point I realized that not every person who attends IMSA races is like me (an IndyCar fan who also enjoys other forms of motorsports). There are genuine, dedicated sports car fans that don’t follow any other series. In contrast, when I attended the Detroit GP for the first time this year, almost all of the fans seemed to be IndyCar fans that just happened to also see an IMSA race. There’s been a lot of talk recently about a NASCAR-IndyCar double-header. I know a lot of NASCAR fans, and I don’t think any of them would be interested in what IndyCar is offering. What we need is an IMSA-IndyCar twin bill with IMSA as the headliner at a marque IMSA event. I don’t see why they couldn’t fit an IndyCar race into the Six-Hour weekend at The Glen, and from what I’ve seen, it has a good chance of growing the fan base.
Tom, Newark, NY
RM: I think there’s quite a bit of crossover among IMSA and IndyCar fans, and sharing the card at The Glen makes perfect sense if you want to grow the crowd and please your TV partner. Let IndyCar run on Saturday afternoon, keep the six-hour race in its marquee spot on Sunday, and let NBC televise both of them.
Q: I just read your article about getting IndyCar back to Watkins Glen. I think part of the problem with the Labor Day date is that it may be too late in the summer. By that I mean people have already taken the family vacation and the kids are getting ready to head back to school. In some cases they may already be in school.
As for IMSA not drawing for the six-hour event, unless you’re a hardcore sports car fan a six-hour race is too long. IMSA is a niche sport. Most people don’t know many of the drivers, and don’t understand the different classes. I do like the idea of a double-header with IndyCar and IMSA, but unless you’re camping, leaving the track and returning the next day might not appeal to the masses. I do hope something can be worked out. Watkins Glen needs to be on the schedule. What are the odds?
John Fulton, Akron, Ohio
RM: Labor Day worked at Portland last year, and in the old days at Ontario when it drew 175,000. The key for The Glen would be a package of IndyCar and IMSA and late June or early July is perfect. But I imagine it’s 50/50 at best.
Q: Thanks for your brief article regarding IndyCar returning to the Glen. I travel to races four or five races a year, a combination of sports car and IndyCar. There are plenty of races and venues from which I can choose my events. Lately, sports cars have been winning out for me. If IndyCar does add more joint events with either IMSA or SRO, these weekends will definitely be frontrunners for my travel plans. Especially if The Glen or Road America holds such an event.
Also, regarding IndyCar potentially returning to Richmond, if the series does come back I’ll take another shot and attend. But I have some doubts. I went to the 2003 race and unless you were Scott Dixon, it was an awful show. Very little passing, and the caution laps are run so quickly at the 0.75-mile track. A car pitting to do any type of service during a caution could easily go two laps down and be out of contention. I would love to see IndyCar have a go at North Carolina Speedway in Rockingham. It’s a quirky mile-long old school oval that could provide some great action. Any chance?
Rich G, Fairfax, VA
RM: The first three Richmond races were damn good as I recall, with two grooves, but then the tire changed and it was single file and boring. The crowds were good, so if IndyCar could go back and draw 25,000, that would be a success. As for Rockingham, Randy Bernard explored the possibility in 2011 but there wasn’t any money back then, so I’m not sure there is any interest.