Q: I know that I’m rehashing the IndyCar at Watkins Glen storyline, but here I go anyway. I have a lake house on Keuka Lake and am about 18 miles from the track. The problem that The Glen had with attendance for the IndyCar race on Labor Day weekend had as much to do with the fact that on the weekend after Labor Day you have the Grand Prix Festival in the village and the SVRA’s Vintage Grand Prix and Trans Am races at the track. I know a bunch of people will discount this, but the Corning N.Y. paper has said in the past that these events draw almost 40,000 fans.
This has been going on for the past 20 years, and for a lot of us it is a tradition to attend. A lot of us will buy their tickets in November for the following year. I know personally that dedicating two weekends in a row at the track is tough. Too bad they couldn’t move the Texas race between Long Beach and the Indy GP, and slot the Glen in the end of June. I think that having the drivers race on an oval before the Indy 500 would make that race better, give The Glen a better shot with attendance, and there would be five or six weeks between COTA and Texas. When you talk about IndyCar doubling with IMSA, the question becomes what IMSA classes do you not run? Right now at The Glen IMSA runs four classes with a four-hour race on Saturday and the 6 Hour on Sunday.
Rich, Wayne, NY
RM: I don’t doubt that annual GP Festival the week after Labor Day affected the IndyCar crowd, and I had heard that a few times before your letter. Labor Day worked OK at Portland, and long before that, at Ontario, but back-to-back events would be a tough sell – especially going against one with a long history. And I’m not sure the last couple got much in the way of promotion either, because IndyCar basically rented the track. A double-header with IMSA could work, just qualify the IndyCars on Friday, do the four-hour race Saturday at 10 a.m. and run IndyCar after that – with the 6 Hour race going Sunday. My contention is that if NBC wants it to happen, then IMSA and IndyCar need to figure it out.
Q: Just read your thoughts on IndyCar returning to The Glen. What about joint IndyCar/ IMSA weekends (WGI July 1 and RA August 1). Sahlen’s Six Hours on Saturday with IndyCar with a decent start time on Sunday? That is two possible long haul weekends for a lot of us here in the Northeast and Midwest, but it’s also two great series under the same weekends at two of the world’s best road courses.
Brian Bristo, London, Ontario
RM: It would definitely benefit IMSA, IndyCar and The Glen to do it, and even though Road America is one of IndyCar’s biggest weekends of the season, there’s always room for more people. For sure they need to double up at Laguna Seca because neither are going to draw much of a crowd, but together they might have a shot.
Q: If this Glen double-header ever does happen, I will definitely drive there and tent camp for the weekend. Oh, by the way, from my driveway to The Glen is 1,404.8 miles each way. This would be a bucket list two-fer that I just couldn’t pass up. Please cajole, bribe, etc., the powers that be into making this happen!
David Lind, Alexandria, LA
RM: I like your spirit, and I’ll buy you an IndyCar hat and a tank of gas.
Q: I’ve followed IndyCar for six decades, so I’m an old guy I guess. I ponder the idea that in order to make Indy racing more driver-centric and less car-centric, maybe the tires should be changed, since there is only one supplier and everyone gets the same. My thought is that instead of tires with great grip and fast degradation to supposedly increase strategy and driver skill requirements (and consequently throw debris all over the tracks, thereby limiting the racing line), IndyCar could dictate harder compounds with less grip and minimal tire debris. Might this increase the value of a driver as driving difficulty increases, and open up more of the track since it won’t be covered with marbles?
RM: Between the blacks and reds tires we have plenty of good strategy and racing on road and street courses, and oval track tires vary, but Firestone doesn’t mind if the degradation comes early and forces drivers to take care of their tires. But here’s how Firestone’s chief design engineer, Cara Adams, explains it: “Firestone engineers and compounders work to develop the best tires for IndyCar racing. Primarily, we develop a fast, durable tire and work very closely with the series to provide tires that makes for good racing. Tire management, especially on the alternate red sidewall tires, can separate the drivers and teams that are better at taking care of their tires from the rest of the field.”
Q: I’ve been an auto racing fan since the mid ’60s, weaned on the race reports in my father’s Road & Track subscription (which he only read for the street car road tests) and later other publications. Since most were Eurocentric, I was first educated about motorsport through F1, and other road racing series, later expanding to the American scene and oval racing by following those North Americans who made names for themselves “over there” such as my then-and-now all-time fave, Dan Gurney. As a result, I have the old-timers’ perspective on that amorphous quality, “driver respect.”
Most of the websites I currently haunt since my move from the printed page to the internet are more Eurocentric again (especially since I follow F1 most closely, followed by IndyCar) and, amid all the complaints about the flaws of the current formula of Grand Prix, have gone into high dudgeon over the officiating of this year’s Canadian and Austrian Grand Prix. In your trips around the IndyCar paddock, have you had the opportunity to talk to drivers current and past and others in the community about those events in their cousin-series, and can you reveal their perspectives on 1) the driving, 2) the regulations and 3) how those regulations have been applied in F1? I’m sure I’m not the only one of your dedicated readers who’d love to know!
Earl Carter, Danbury, CT
RM: I haven’t really sat down and talked to today’s IndyCar drivers about respect or etiquette unless they’ve been involved in some kind of altercation. But obviously a lot has changed in the past 50-60 years. I do think they try and take care of each other at a place like Texas, but it’s more hand-to-hand combat at a street race, and the Dallara has allowed more contact without dire consequences plus damn good racing just about everywhere. I go to a midget or sprint race and watch these hellacious slide jobs in every corner, but it appears to be the way kids drive today and it’s accepted. (Plus the cars are much safer than when A.J. and Rufus drove them).
NASCAR has developed an ugly habit of blocking almost like F1, and I noticed Brad Keselowski spoke out about it last week. There was an interview with Jackie Stewart and Ayrton Senna after Senna deliberately took Alain Prost out in the first corner to win the championship. Stewart was appalled, and Senna was mad the three-time world champ called him out. I guess that’s the biggest difference between how you and I look at racing, and how it’s viewed today.