Q: I just read your piece on attendance figures, and your analysis seems sensible to me. My only question is your attendance number for Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta. I go almost every year (I confess to missing last year), but the last several years it has been as crowded as I have experienced, and I had read attendance figures of around 100,000 (give or take). I’ve been at the track for races when there were 10-20,000 in attendance and 40,000 seems low for the past few years. Where did you get those numbers?
Paul Lewis, Macon, GA
P.S. I am one of those who would love to see IndyCar come to Road Atlanta. Any idea how much it would cost for safety upgrades? Hopefully I’ll make it to Barber one of these years for the race there. My only live IndyCar race was Mid-Ohio in 1994 – an amazing experience. And Road America is on my bucket list. If they’d just schedule races better around my work calendar (or I could schedule my work calendar around the races…)
RM: I talked to Marshall Pruett and a couple of sports car guys, and they all thought 40,000 a fair number for race day. Like I wrote, a road race crowd is the toughest to judge so we’re all guessing, but no way it’s anything close to 100,000. Not sure what would need to be upgraded since I haven’t been there in 20 years, but it’s a beautiful track and I’d love to see an IndyCar race there.
Q: I brought two rookies with me to my fifth Indy 500 in May, and it was my daughter’s third. Her boyfriend and his friend were all in their 20s. My eight-hour drive from Toronto was basically spent educating them on why IndyCar is the best racing on the planet. They loved the 500 and can’t wait for next year. They are hooked, but not interested in any other race on the calendar. How can IndyCar get more of the younger generation interested? The Toronto race is this weekend; they have no interest. Do you think IndyCar can do a better job marketing to the under 30s? I will look around this weekend at the average age of the spectator and get back to you next week.
RM: It’s tough to top Indy for atmosphere, speed and drama, so that was a good place to indoctrinate them, but I do think IndyCar has a new marketing plan that includes a younger demographic. If you can get kids to the track (as you saw) you can usually hook them, but it’s not easy because this new generation doesn’t seem motivated by cars or speed. But thanks for introducing them to Indy.
Q: Saturday morning in the RA paddock the Honda motor home had all its blinds drawn, and a sign on the door that said, “keep out, private meeting.” Sitting by the door was only Alexander Rossi’s scooter. No doubt Honda wants to keep him. Now on to my theory.
If NAPA were willing to pay Penske 75% of the cost of a full season for Rossi, I have no doubt that The Captain could easily find the remaining 25%. And since Team Penske ran four cars for many seasons, I don’t see him being afraid to do it again, for one or two seasons. And how could Rossi say no? The Chevy engine that he chased at Indy. Penske’s legendary strategy calls. And considering Rossi’s age, perhaps staying there for the next decade? I don’t want it to happen from a competition standpoint, but it doesn’t look impossible.
Mike Talarico, Charlotte, NC
RM: Oh it’s definitely not impossible, and I don’t think R.P. needs NAPA money to offer Rossi a full-time ride. But let’s think about this. He obviously has something special with his engineer, Jeremy Milless, who wouldn’t be following him to Team Penske because he got fired from there once for insubordination. Michael Andretti and Bryan Herta gave Rossi a job when nobody else knew who he was over here, and then Honda instantly embraced him. I’ve said all along that I’m not sure Alex is motivated by money as much as he is performance, security and loyalty. No doubt The Captain could probably pay him more than anyone else, but Andretti is now his team, whereas he’d be one of the four spokes at Penske. He’d also have a chance to win Indy six years in a row, so there’s that. Stay tuned maybe we’ll find out some things this weekend in Toronto.
Q: Glad to see that Dixon has given an initial thumbs-up to testing for the aeroscreen. (BTW, contrary to some statements, the latest iteration actually is a Halo, it’s just also wrapped in composite plastic). It’s time has come and is long overdue, and with the Red Bull collaboration I am betting we see it in F1 soon after. I’m convinced in 10 years people will look back at open-wheel racing and say “what were they thinking before then?” Seriously, what person of sound mind today would even consider for a microsecond running a sprint car or midget without a roll cage? My technical question is, what is the solution for rain races? Wipers? Hydrophobic repellent (i.e. RainEx)? Has this scenario been tested?
Scott B., Gainesville, FL
RM: IndyCar is testing a big tear-off for oil, and dealing with rain is also an on-going priority that the drivers will weigh in on as they get closer to the first on-track test in September. IndyCar has been very deliberate in developing the Aeroscreen/Halo, and it understands all the hurdles that go with it.