Q: Seems that every year I email you about the IndyCar race at Pocono and defending this event’s merits. It’s a classic Indy car track with three turns patterned after three classic Indy car tracks, attendance has been on the upswing the past few years (I continue to be amazed at the number of people that are at that track at 9:30 Saturday a.m. for first practice – more than you see at many oval tracks for qualifying), and the crowd’s energy during the race reminds me of what it was like in the stands at events in the ’80s or ’90s. (Zanardi’s comeback at Cleveland comes to mind).
So, my thought/question: Over the last several years, we have everyone scratching their heads and fretting over the decline in popularity and attendance at oval tracks and trying to figure out how to fix it. Now, here we have a classic oval track hosting a 500-mile event that has demonstrated an increase in attendance over the last several years, with ownership that (from what we can tell) appears to want this event to continue. So, considering all of that, what kind of message does IndyCar send if they just let such an event fall by the wayside? One other thing: could you provide an address where fans can send snail mail to Robert Wickens? Gotta love that kid! Keep up the great work Robin, and thank you for your passion for this sport and its participants!
Alan, Harrisburg, PA
RM: I think the people who show up every year at Pocono are some of IndyCar’s best and most loyal, but it’s tough to say the attendance is good enough for Pocono to make money or for IndyCar to want to stay. I think ABC Supply’s sponsorship has kept it alive, but I’m not sure either side wants to continue after next month. I wish it were a pair of twin 125s instead of 500 miles with 22-23 cars, because I think it would be a much better show and attract a larger audience. But as I wrote a couple weeks back, the reality is that 20,000-30,000 at any oval needs to be considered a good crowd nowadays – I’m just not sure it’s ever been 20,000 since IndyCar returned to Pocono. I have no idea what snail mail is, but you could send a card to Robert at Arrow SPM Racing, 6803 Coffman Road, Indy, 46268.
Q: I’m from the UK and have traveled to the U.S. for the past three years for IndyCar races (twice to the Indy 500 and this year to Detroit). I also attend F1 races, DTM, WEC each year, plus others ,and have to say IndyCar is a breath of fresh air. It’s so fan-focused; I’m just not used to that in Europe. With the ongoing growth of IndyCar racing and its emerging popularity in Europe (with F1 drivers heading over to drive in it) can you see a European IndyCar round happening in the near future? If so, where? My preference would be the Brands Hatch GP circuit, 30 minutes from my house!
Gareth Holt, London, UK
RM: Well USAC ran Brands Hatch and Silverstone in 1978, and Champ Car ran Brands Hatch in 2003 so there’s some history, just not sure there’s enough interest. The oval in Germany (Lausitzring) drew very good crowds in 2001 and 2003 and is still in operation, but would it want open-wheel to return? The best reason for IndyCar to go to Europe, Asia or South America is to get a big sanction fee that could be split among the teams, but I think those days may be gone.
Q: Let me start off by saying that I always enjoy the Mailbag, and watching you on TV. I am old enough to remember saving my pennies so I could subscribe to the Indianapolis Star for the month of May for coverage of the Indy 500. My question is, I saw Jay Frye and Roger Penske talking during the rain delay at Iowa. I always thought of Mr. Penske as being of average size and build. On TV it looked like Frye was standing up, and Penske was sitting down, but I don’t think that was the case. How big is that guy? And it certainly didn’t look like he would have any problem standing up to any of the drivers or car owners!
Ken Smith, Fremont, Ohio
RM: Jay is 6’5” and played football at Missouri, so I don’t think anyone in the IndyCar paddock is ever going to challenge him physically. It’s safer to send an email if you disagree.
Q: Why does IndyCar not race at Lime Rock? Baltimore was a big hit, and I thought I had heard at one time IndyCar was looking at that track. I see IMSA is racing there and I would think an IndyCar is smaller then an IMSA car. Keep up the good work on NBCSN, doing a great job.
Arnold Edgar, Danville, IN
RM: Let’s ask Marshall Pruett: “Because Indy cars would fly into outer space. IMSA’s GT cars show them with two, three, four wheels off the ground flying over fastest crests – imagine that with 300 more HP and 50 mph faster, and they would still be looking for Marco Andretti on the Connecticut countryside. IMSA won’t send the prototypes any longer because they’re too fast.”
Q: Your column on NASCAR/IndyCar double header got me thinking. Of course, back in the late ’90s, Chip Ganassi was part of the oval at Sportsman’s Park in Cicero. Then ISC built Chicagoland out in Joliet in 2001. NASCAR was just here the other weekend. Chicago had a marquee role in IndyCar up until, geez, almost a decade ago now, then it was over. We are surrounded by races in Indiana Wisconsin, Iowa, Michigan, St. Louis and Ohio. What would it take to get a race back in the Chicago area? A street course by the lake would be kick-butt, of course. But any updates or predictions on a Chicagoland NASCAR/IndyCar double-header? You mentioned it as a potential option.
Evan Townes in the Windy City
RM: All I know is that Jay Frye wants a place like Chicagoland or Kentucky or Gateway or Richmond to try the double-header but, drum roll, it takes two to tango, so would NASCAR want to share its Chicago weekend with IndyCar? Is IndyCar open to Chicago? I think so.