Q: I was at the ARCA race at Chicagoland this past Thursday, and besides only have 20 cars start (about 14 actually racing), and the weather not cooperating, it was a good time and there was a decent race up front. If I had to estimate the attendance I’d say it was maybe 1,000… total. The thing I noticed was how many different fans were wearing IndyCar gear. There was the new Marco Andretti jersey, a RLL team shirt, a really sweet Mario Andretti throwback shirt, and probably eight or so people wearing IMS or Indy 500 hats. The weather certainly didn’t cooperate with the Cup race on Sunday, but it definitely wasn’t a sellout crowd and seemed down from years past. How about Chicagoland for a Saturday night IndyCar race and a Sunday Cup race? Besides for having the all-important Chicago market, the track is really racy with the progressive banking and continuous curving backstretch. Bonus question: is Chicagoland still an approved track for testing/rookie oval testing?
Tall-Bill in Lockport
RM: I know it’s one of the tracks Jay Frye has mentioned as a possibility, and I imagine Chicagoland would be interested judging by recent attendance. The IRL staged some good races there and had nice crowds the first few years, so a NASCAR/IndyCar doubleheader might bring them back. Chicago is approved as a test track.
Q: Robin, First off, great to talk to you at Road America the other week. After we were done it dawned on me that I completely forgot to tell you about the “reopening” of the Milwaukee Mile on Father’s Day. Bob Sargent and his Track Enterprises group put on a great show with the ARCA Midwest tour Late Model series as the headliner. An estimated 8,200 fans came out in absolutely miserable conditions (50 degrees with a stiff breeze off of cold Lake Michigan with morning rain).
With that said, in your opinion, do you think there is any chance IndyCar could return to the Milwaukee Mile? Do you think that Track Enterprises would/could be up to the challenge of promoting such an event? Do you think Detroit could be moved to allow Milwaukee back in its traditional “week after Indy” date? I will tell you, the buzz around the grounds on Fathers’ Day while watching the vintage Indy cars make laps was people hoping for IndyCar to return.
RM: Bob Sargent has been a godsend to USAC and it didn’t surprise me he tried Milwaukee, and I heard good things about the turnout on a bad weather weekend. Detroit won’t be moving any time soon, but if IndyCar ever tries the Milwaukee Mile again I can’t think of a better promoter.
Q: My daughter, now 21, and despite my best efforts is just not an auto racing fan. On the other hand, her boyfriend, through hanging around with me and recently attending the race at R.A., has become a huge IndyCar fan. My question to you is, if they would break up, should I keep him instead of my daughter?
RM: Man, that’s a tough question. I think I would adopt him but keep visiting rights to your daughter and give her six months to come to her senses.
Q: While watching the race at Road America, and seeing the amount of rubber debris left on the track, I started wondering about next year’s aeroscreen. The helmet tearoffs allow a driver to clean his visor in the event it becomes covered with rubber, oil, dirt, etc. There is no way for the driver to clean the aeroscreen, no wiper/blower, and unless it has some super coating on it, seems to present more of a hazard than it allegedly prevents. Also, in the event of fire, it forces the rescuer to stick their face and arms into a burning hole to extricate the driver, again presenting more of a hazard than currently exists. Now this is all devil’s advocate stuff, but what is the opinion of the drivers? I’m enjoying the regular hint of Richmond being added to next year’s schedule. Any idea what time of year they are looking at? Have they ever thought of running a double heat race, similar to the Twin 200 format at Ontario?
Napalm Nick, Locust Grove, VA
RM: IndyCar has tested numerous options to keep the screen clean, and there will be a way to replicate the tear-offs. I haven’t asked the drivers yet. I imagine if Richmond is added it would be in August. I think Jay Frye is open to discussing any format that would be different, exciting and draw more people.
Q: Do you think IndyCar will ever make the halo a part of the chassis in the near future? It’s overdue. In all of the years that you’ve been covering auto racing, who was the most interesting person that you’ve interviewed? Who was the person that you had the most fun interviewing? Who were the person or persons that you would have liked to have interviewed, but never got the opportunity?
RM: No the new aeroscreen will debut in 2020 – no need for a halo. A.J., Mario and Uncle Bobby are the three most entertaining and fascinating, and I would have liked to interview Eddie Sachs, Bill Vukovich and Bobby Marshman.
Q: I’ve been to every Pocono 500 since the IndyCars returned. The attendance appeared to increase each year. Why are people saying this might be the last year?
Wayne Smitreski, Allentown, PA
RM: Probably because of the Richmond situation since it’s assumed that it would replace Pocono if it returns, but that’s not necessarily set in stone. They might both exist on the IndyCar schedule in 2020. The crowd did seem better last year, and one thing is for certain, the folks who do show up are die-hard IndyCar fans that know their stuff.