Q: Robin, I’m a long-time Indy fan, going back into the mid-‘60s. I have been to the Indy 500 22 times in the last 32 years, am a little bit old-school and I don’t deal with Facebook. I would like you to answer why Simon Pagenaud was allowed to zigzag going down the straightaways and basically block Rossi from passing him to win Indy? I remember Marco Andretti in the 2006 Indy 500, how he could’ve moved over to block but he wouldn’t do it. He even made the comment after the race that it would have been blocking. Is blocking ruled differently today? Thanks from one true IndyCar fan to another.
RM: What Simon did isn’t blocking, he was just weaving to break the draft and make sure Rossi didn’t get a run on him or make it more difficult. It worked sometimes, and sometimes it didn’t matter. It’s been a tactic for many Mays now, and the drivers accept it as part of the show. But they both passed each other cleanly for the lead near the end.
Q: Love the Q&A each week. First, there are only so many OEMs out there and it seems to me that IndyCar is probably running out of ones to talk to. Going back three months, how sure were you that there was going to be an announcement at Indy concerning a third OEM? Second, what do you hear about NAPA returning with Rossi?
Chris F., Charleston, SC
RM: Marshall Pruett sat on the story that Porsche was going to join IndyCar because it was agreed on but nothing signed before it went south at Long Beach. And IndyCar wanted to hold a press conference in May to announce it. Andretti is awaiting NAPA’s decision.
Q: I’m kind of getting the feeling there will not be a third engine manufacturer any time soon. It seems like it’s been months since anything has even been mentioned, and one starts to think what interest there was, is gone. Have you heard any information you can share?
Brian, Plainfield, IL
RM: All quiet, and there may not be a lot of candidates since Formula E and IMSA have pretty much cornered the market. But Jay Frye keeps all the possible manufacturers up to speed on IndyCar’s plans, and checks with them on a regular basis so if one is out there he’ll likely find it.
Q: So here’s an idea. It might be totally crazy, but… run on the Gateway oval on Friday night, then have a Sunday race on the road course. Two races on one weekend, with enough time between races for the crews to reconfigure the cars from oval set up to road course set-up. Practice and oval qualifying during the day on Friday. Saturday for the chassis changes, and support races. Then qualifying Sunday morning and race in the afternoon. The road course race could be a 75-lap sprint race. Two IndyCar races for the price of one! Am I crazy?
RM: No, it’s a cool concept that was once discussed for Cleveland, and I know Francois and Chris at Gateway would be gung-ho for it along with sponsor John Bommarito. Just not sure the road course there would be that racy, whereas if they can get a Cup race, then hosting an IndyCar/NASCAR twin bill would be right down their alley. But it’s that kind of thinking that most ovals need to pump some life into their show.
Q: Thanks for all you do to make IndyCar clearer and more understandable to someone like me, who watched as a kid in the ’70s but then lost track of it for a long while. I picked it back up about three years ago and my daughter and I absolutely love it. My question: I see many fans saying that “oval tracks are dying.” We have attended both races at Gateway – just a few miles from our town in Illinois – and attendance has supposedly even been better than they had hoped. We attended our first Indianapolis 500 this year, and from everything we saw and heard, it seemed attendance there was as good as it’s been in a long time. So, based on our admittedly limited and anecdotal evidence, oval racing seems to be doing well for IndyCar. What makes folks say the opposite so often?
Van Plexico, Smithton, IL
RM: Gateway is an anomaly, because it’s an oval that’s come along in the last decade that actually draws a good crowd. Texas and Iowa used to have packed houses but have dropped off drastically (although Iowa going back to Saturday night should help), and Pocono never regained its ’70s and ’80s interest. Ovals are a tough sell for NASCAR and IndyCar right now, and that’s why a double-header experiment makes sense.
Q: I know people have written in and complained about the number of commercials during the NBC IndyCar broadcast. Apparently, no one has bothered to do a little math. So here is some quick math that might help explain things a bit. Quick note, I am not in television, so my numbers are all stuff I pulled out of an orifice that shall not be named
First, it costs money to broadcast a race. From salaries and travel expenses for the on-air people as well as the crew behind the scenes (cameras, techs, set-up staff, etc) to renting the mobile satellite uplink trucks, the portable broadcast center and equipment, etc., it’s not cheap to do an IndyCar broadcast. So let’s say it costs $350,000 to broadcast and IndyCar race (remember, number I made up). Say, NBC wants a 15% profit so that means advertising needs to bring in $402,500. Now, the cost of running a 30s TV ad is based on the number of people watching the broadcast, ie: the size of the viewing audience. The facts are the viewership has not been good for years beyond the Indy 500. So lets say a 30s spot brings in $20,000 (again, I have no idea what it really costs). You need 20.13 minutes of advertising to bring in the $402,500. Assuming ad breaks at 1.5 minutes long, you need 13.4 breaks per two-hour race or you need a 1.5 minute ad break every 7.44 minutes of broadcast time (race 7.44 minutes, 1.5 min ads, race 7.44 min, etc). It’s basic math.
Now, getting a larger viewing audience means you can charge more for each ad spot. So if you can increase that to $25,000 per 30s spot, now you only need an ad break every 9.68 minutes. Grow the viewership so you can charge $30,000 per 30s spot and now you only need 1.5 minutes of ads every 11.91 minutes. Getting the much better NBC broadcast costs money. That is covered by ad revenue. I applaud NBC for the coverage they are doing, and I appreciate the number of times they run ads as a split screen so I can still see the action. Good people cost money, as not everyone works for cheeseburgers and beer like Robin Miller does.
Second: I thought of this as I ate my home smoked beef brisket sandwich on Sunday watching the RA race. Which team(s) provide their crew with the best food, and do you get to partake?
RM: Thanks for your commercial mathematics (I have no clue what an ad costs on NBC or NBCSN or how many breaks are necessary to appease all the sponsors), but I put a moratorium on all the bitchers because there is nothing I can do about it and it’s also part of the landscape and always will be. As for hospitality, Andretti, Ganassi, Honda, RLL, Carlin, SPM and Penske take care of their teams, sponsors, guests and even the unwashed media. All of them have good chefs that prepare great meals, but I usually end up buying hot dogs or hamburgers because that’s my diet, and Honda is kind enough to provide Pepsi (thanks Pete).