Robin Miller's Mailbag for August 7, presented by Honda Racing / HPD

Robin Miller's Mailbag for August 7, presented by Honda Racing / HPD

Insights & Analysis

Robin Miller's Mailbag for August 7, presented by Honda Racing / HPD

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Q: Here’s my silly season prediction: McLaren will take over Carlin Racing and make it the Team USA squad for them over the off-season. Trevor will run it on behalf of McLaren, as well get development driver deal (McLaren) for RTI and FIA. HSR folds which both Leader Circle payouts and Herta goes to Team USA McLaren/Carlin. When the next engine debut they will partner with Cosworth. Try to win Indy in “McLaren powered” with Alonso. In meantime it be Herta, Chilton, Kimball full-time; possibly Ericsson joining. Alonso Indy only.

Kevin, Long Beach, CA

RM: OK, Kevin your predictions have been duly noted and filed away, but I don’t think Trevor Carlin has any plans to merge with Zak Brown. And depending on what happens with Mike Harding’s team, there will be a bidding war for little Hertamania – but don’t count out Michael Andretti.

Q: I have been going to IndyCar races since 1974. Been to Indy 24 times, and have been to Michigan, Pocono, Mid-Ohio, Cleveland and Chicago. I had on my bucket list to see a night race either at Iowa or Texas. Well, this was the year. In all the years of going to open-wheel races, nothing could have prepared me for a night race at Iowa. It was sensory overload. The sights, the constant sound, the smell of the cars, everything.

I thought that the racing at Michigan was crazy during the Hanford Device races, but there was so much action going on at Iowa I could not believe it. It was hard just to keep an eye on the leaders without watching the racing in the rest of the pack. IndyCar really needs to have more of these during the night. OK granted, this one was a bit late due to the thunderstorm, but I would go back in a heartbeat. Even though Newgarden was not going to be beat that night, the race was very entertaining. Hats off to the Iowa organization during the delay. They kept the fans informed.

Now to the question. Why on earth do the Indy Lights not run on this track?  I would think they would put on one heck of a show. Thanks for your great coverage of IndyCar.

Jim Petro, Massillion, Ohio

RM: Once it got going it was a helluva race from second to 15th, agreed, and glad you were entertained and hung in there. Tony Cotman, the chief steward for Lights, said that with Road America then Toronto, Iowa and Mid-Ohio back to back-to-back something had to be left out, and Iowa was the most logical in this situation. But Lights loves racing at Iowa!

Q: Last night I watched the truck race from Eldora. I enjoy the short track qualifying format. I was wondering if something similar would be possible for IndyCar at Iowa? I suppose the smaller field for IndyCar might be an issue, but wouldn’t it be fun? Is such a thing feasible?

Tim Adams

RM: IndyCar tried qualifying races at Iowa back in 2015, but because there are only 22-23 cars and those races didn’t pay anything, the risk isn’t worth the reward. Find a nice sponsor and hell yes, let’s have a couple qualifying heats, but just finding a title sponsor for the race is tough enough.

Q: I see a lot of people complaining about the cost of attending IndyCar races, and have the solution. Become a course marshal. I have been a race marshal at Mid-Ohio for 20 years, the Indy Grand Prix for five years, and the Cleveland Grand Prix for three years. I have not paid to get into a race in 20 years, get fed lunch and dinner every day, free camping at the track, and the second-best view of the race, next to the drivers.

At Mid-Ohio the course marshals get rotated to different corners every day, so we get to see different parts of the track. As course marshals, we have the ability to travel to different tracks and different race series, IMSA, SCCA, vintage, motorcycles, etc. This year I had the opportunity to work with marshals from Texas, Florida, Michigan, Indiana, Canada, and have known some for years, and met others for the first time this year. We are always looking for more marshals, so look up your local SCCA region and volunteer to become a Flagging and Communications member. My only cost is getting to/from the track. So if you really want to attend IndyCar races, there’s always a place for you. Thanks for your passion for IndyCar.

Doug Imhoff

RM: No Doug, thanks for your passion and dedication, because without corner workers, guards, volunteers and all the ancillary folks that make up a race weekend, we wouldn’t be able to function. But I appreciate your suggestion and the information you provided in case anyone wants to follow in your footsteps.

Being a marshal is win-win – you get to watch racing from the best seats in the house for free, and make an important contribution to the entire race weekend. Image by LePage/LAT.

Q: If it was ever allowed, would an IndyCar be able to compete a 12- or 24-hour endurance race? What tweaks would they need to do to make it last that long? If they could hold up long enough, that would be awesome to see.

Eric, London, Ohio

RM: I imagine with today’s dependable engines it would be possible, but I don’t know of anybody that wants to watch an IndyCar race that lasts that long. I’m for cutting down ovals to a couple of twin 150s or 125s, because we want to see fast, hard racing. Let the sports cars go the enduros.

Q: No question, just a comment.  In last week’s Mailbag, Rob Peterson asked about a possible NASCAR/IndyCar double-header, and asked whether a night race on a road/street course had ever been considered. You responded that it had not been considered to your knowledge.

Not in IndyCar (if one wants to get technical), but Champ Car ran under the lights at Cleveland in 2003.  As I recall (I was there), the series brought in the same portable lighting that ABC used to do a night football game at Notre Dame the previous fall. Problem was, there wasn’t nearly enough of it. The neat thing about night racing on ovals is the way the cars’ paint jobs “pop” out under the lights, and that really didn’t happen at Cleveland – there was enough light to see, but not enough to really make a show, as it was.

Also, in the build-up to the race, there was a lot of talk about how difficult it was going to be for race strategy as the race started in the daytime and ended at night, and all the talk was about changing track temps, tire wear, etc. But as I recall it stayed pretty warm even into the evening, and the track temp changes never were really much of an issue. Seb won it going away, PT finished second. They had a concert by the Romantics after the event, but I left due to the late hour by the time the race ended. At Charlotte, given the smaller venue and permanent lighting, it would probably work much better than it did in Cleveland.

Paul, Streetsboro, OH

RM: I was at that race and it was a big waste of money on those lights because it didn’t get dark until a half hour after the checkered flag. But Jay Frye is open to suggestions for his proposed double-header and an IndyCar/NASCAR twin bill on a road course or street circuit might be tougher logistically than an oval but it also might be a big hit. There’s been talk about Charlotte’s Roval but I think trying an oval first would be preferred because the object is to get people back at ovals. But NASCAR would put on a good show at Burke Lakefront Airport just like CART always did, and a title sponsor would be easier to find with a double-header in Cleveland.

Q: In response to Gareth’s letter from last week’s edition of Mailbag: IndyCar oval race in Europe? In short: no way. The two places CART went to in the 2000s: Rockingham Motor Speedway in the UK and EuroSpeedway Lausitz, are out of the question. Two similar cases: the oval layouts were not used since CART left, and fell into disrepair. (Rockingham even had no SAFER Wall installed!) The road courses were still used by BTCC and DTM. Rockingham was closed in 2018, and currently is being torn down to be turned into a logistics site. Lausitz was bought by DEKRA, which is a German car development and safety company, and is going to be used to develop self-driving cars, with one DTM weekend a year (at least this year in August, no idea about the future).

Other that that, there is only one permament oval track in Europe I could find – Raceway Venray in the Netherlands – half-mile, 25 degrees of banking, with noise-related legal problems, used in very niche local European late model and Silver Crown-ish pavement sprint cars, and NASCAR Euro Series. Not much of an IndyCar track, more like a local oval, I think. I live in the Netherlands at the moment, and I found out about it Googling before writing this letter, so I guess that’s that in terms of publicity. Lausitz and Rockingham happened only because CART found popularity in Europe because of Eurosport (basically European ESPN) aired the races all around the continent – including places where IndyCar has nothing in terms of coverage nowadays (such as my wonderful homeland).

How about now? Pagenaud winning the 500 barely made the front pages of French sports papers, and not as a main item, more like a curiosity. By the way, whom should I send a strongly-worded letter in order for NBC to allow us Europeans to buy Gold? Or maybe allow the foreign providers to sell the access to Gold coverage – many of them have their own means to provide streaming. I couldn’t watch most of the practice and quals for Indy – it was very hard to find a dodgy stream, and I genuinely want to give IndyCar my money. Why make it hard for me?

Filip G., Poland/the Netherlands

RM: Thanks for the update on those two tracks. They drew good crowds, really good in Germany, but it’s kinda sad to hear about the lack of coverage in France for Pagenaud’s victory. I guess the reality is that we need to try and cultivate more fans in North America before worrying about going to Europe or Asia or South America, unless a track would pay a big fee to IndyCar and the teams could all make money. Give me a month or so to try and find out about your Gold question, but thanks for being a loyal fan.

Q: I’ve just finished watching GOTS Eldora Derby and I am wondering should IndyCar consider also comeback to its roots? New chassis for one-off dirt track in 2022? Might be cool.

Kuba Dradrach, Wroclaw, Poland

RM: No chance, not with a new car and engine coming in 2022. But maybe rent some late models and have a made-for-TV race at Kokomo or Bloomington or Terre Haute for the IndyCar guys during the off-season.

 

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