Q: Since we have an off week with the IndyCar Series, I thought I would ask your opinion about a racetrack. Looking back to the construction of Auto Club/California Speedway, do you think if Roger Penske had a crystal ball, he would have designed and built a kick-ass road course instead of the big oval? I understand that the design of the oval was built for the CART/Champ Car-era race cars, however those days are long gone and looks like the oval is dying a quick death. If there was an amazing road course, we would have an IndyCar race (including Long Beach), a NASCAR race, probably a six-hour endurance race, and maybe even an F1 race, not to mention all the year round club events. All these races would be festivals with 100,000 plus attending each one.
Denny Z., Huntsville
RM: It’s easy to say that now because road racing has undergone a renaissance in the past 20 years, and ovals were going great in the ’90s for CART and NASCAR when Fontana was built. I do recall R.P. saying he wishes he could have purchased the old Ontario Motor Speedway before it was torn down because it would have saved him millions. The irony is that Fontana is about four miles from the site of OMS.
Q: My father-in-law gave me a two-seater ride for Christmas this year. I was just at IMS taking the ride this past weekend. All I can say is it was by far the scariest thing I’ve ever done in my life! I have no idea how the drivers do that for 3+ hours on a full track at 45+ mph faster, and I really, really have no idea how the drivers did that in decades past at similar speeds and G-forces with much less safety built into the car.
Charlie Kimball happened to be there and hopped in one of the cars to give a ride to a guy who had won a charity auction. My wife flagged him for a photo and he was extremely nice to my 5-year-old son. Great guy – he made a new fan Saturday. Kudos to everyone involved with the IndyCar Experience – they run a great operation.
Relatedly, is the two-seater more of a novelty for people who can pay the freight and sponsors, or have guys like Mark Miles, Jay Frye, and others who have the power and position to make decisions and spread the brand taken that ride as well?
RM: Glad you got to experience Indy, and I wish all mechanics and engineers could ride in the two-seater at a road course to feel the acceleration, braking, etc. and relate to what their driver is telling them. The two-seater is usually purchased and I believe you can also drive it but that costs more, but obviously it’s used for celebrities and IndyCar sponsors as well. Charlie is one of the best.
Q: Robin, if half the drivers had a quarter of your personality, racing would be twice as popular. As a 40-year racing fan, here are a few of my thoughts. Despite all the whining, we are so lucky to have so much TV coverage. IndyCar has never had so many good and great drivers and unpredictable races. Juan Pablo Montoya was as good as anyone I ever saw. Michael Andretti was an oval magician, and an even better owner – thanks.
Despite all his success, Gil de Ferran is still the most underrated. Greg Moore should never have been allowed to race with that large wrist cast, and only one day after his injury. Josef Newgarden does everything right but looks like the guy Stallone fought in “Rocky 4” – and with the same personality. I have great respect for Danica Patrick but her win in Japan was fixed and by none other than Roger Penske (a great man). Rossi will not leave Andretti. Mario is still pissed off at Danny Sullivan’s spin and win. If Marco was only as good as Dale Jr., it would have been huge for IndyCar.
Paul Tracy was robbed at Indy, but was due bad karma for his career-long “aggressive “ driving. But sure could use his personality in today’s overly restrained drivers. The Indy 500 is the most exciting event in sports. I don’t get all the NASCAR hostility. Those guys race their hearts out in a very strenuous and competitive environment. Stage racing is interesting and doesn’t seem to affect the finish. NASCAR races are too long, so maybe just watch final stage. Best driver ever has to be David Pearson, but Kyle Busch does things that look like an optical illusion. How can you not love Ryan Newman?
F1? Great drivers, great cars, but technological processions. Most boring race series. F1’s biggest race at Monaco is the worst, with virtually no passing even possible. The Daytona 500 is mostly a fluky crapashoot. But the Indy 500 rewards only the best. Could go on and on because I just love racing.
RM: Wow, you covered so much ground I didn’t realize you didn’t ask a question. But there are lots of great personalities in IndyCar, including Newgarden, and the field is very deep but not sure the talent rivals some of the ’60s and ’70s line-ups. If The Captain fixed Japan for Danica then it simply confirms the fact he’s the smartest man in motorsports. OK, next time please send in a question.