Q: I saw a quote elsewhere from Bobby Rahal about Pocono dropping off the schedule. He said, “Pocono was probably my favorite oval, but it costs us between $400,000 to $500,000 a race. If I’m going to spend that kind of money, I want to spend it in front of somebody.”
Well I’m not quite the “crowd counter” that you are sir, but I find this attitude to be incredibly shallow for two reasons. First, I don’t think I’m nuts to guestimate that there were more people on race day at Pocono than quite a few of the other IndyCar events, which rarely get chastised for weak attendance. How about Toronto, Detroit, Iowa, or most recently Portland? Can’t tell me they drew more people. I’d even go so far to compare the crowd to Texas, Barber, COTA, etc. In other words, it’s about on par with most of the series’ stops.
As for the cost incurred, well, again I will cite Portland’s similar melee, and blame the drivers, who cannot seem to run a start or restart without causing a pileup. This has to be some of the most foolish and sadly dangerous driving this sport has seen in recent memory. Who thinks this gaggle will actually make it through the hairpin at Laguna Seca unscathed? Look, I’m a diehard so I’ll likely find an event to fly out to next year (probably St. Pete), but IndyCar has turned its back on a massive area of the country, and the social media response has been full of anger. Heck, NTT Data themselves have main offices in NJ!
Greg from NJ
RM: Other than Detroit and maybe Barber, I think you’re crowd assessment is spot-on, but the previous years at Pocono were pretty slim. I’ve said it several times recently, but neither Pocono nor IndyCar had any interest in continuing past the end of this year’s contract. But when NASCAR informed Pocono it was cutting it back to one weekend, suddenly Pocono needed another major event and IndyCar was back on the radar. Except IndyCar was already down the road with Richmond. Nobody is the bad guy in this deal, its just business, but I feel for the die-hards who always showed up at Pocono.
Q: I liked your suggestion for an IMSA and IndyCar double at The Glen. However, while I share that dream, the IMSA weekend is already so full that the support races would probably have to be eliminated from the schedule to accommodate IndyCar. As a lifelong race fan, I love watching the support series while at the track. By the way, I attend or have attended most racing series at The Glen (IndyCar, IMSA, NASCAR) and camp at the track and purchase extras to support the track and series. Heck, I used to drive the 2.5 hours just to watch IndyCar tire testing.
I cannot understand why the premier road racing course in the U.S. is not on the IndyCar schedule anymore. If you moved IndyCar from Labor Day, I believe that you would get better attendance (I always had to tear down my camp to drive back Sunday nights so my kids could be ready for school on the Tuesday after Labor Day). I know this has been rehashed by yourself and others at length, but The Glen is a premier place to watch racing, period. (This past June, I dragged my daughters around the entire track during the IMSA weekend so they could view different perspectives. They loved it, and I always do).
On a separate issue, I want to personally thank you for your lifelong service to racing, your expertise, and for always finding time for the fans! Some of my earliest/fondest memories of racing are listening to the Indy 500 in the 1960s then watching on ABC that night. I used to make my father take me to the Erie County Fair in Hamburg, NY to watch the URC sprint car races each year. Awesome stuff on a dirt horse track! For some reason, I remember a driver named Buck Buckley. Before I digress any further, I again want to thank you for your service. Yourself and Jon Beekhuis have added to my racing enjoyment and knowledge for many years. Thank you!
Christopher Hull, Hamburg, NY
RM: IndyCar tried Labor Day at The Glen as well as July 4th and neither worked, and I don’t remember CART getting much of a crowd in the early ‘80s so I’m not sure what the answer is. NASCAR packs ‘em in, so it’s head-scratcher. My God, as good as these cars race on the streets and at Mid-Ohio and Road America, they would be great at The Glen, but it’s going to take the right date and a big title sponsor. I do think IndyCar and IMSA sharing the weekend on NBC would work, but to your point, their six-hour show is full of preliminaries of all its classes and I’m told there wouldn’t be enough time or room for IndyCar. But my point is that if NBC wants it to happen, then just run the big boys of sports cars on Sunday and let IndyCar race on Saturday. Appreciate the kind words, I’ll pass them on to Jon.
Q: I was wondering what you thought of IndyCars on the Pocono road course? And the sports cars series running a short race on the same day? It would give the fans another race and maybe draw interest to sports cars. If it rains both can race. Maybe do a package deal on tickets. Just an idea since IndyCar starts later anyway. I was just a kid at the time but I remember when Pocono ran USAC stock cars on Saturday and Indy cars on Sunday. Always enjoy reading the Mailbag and your work on TV!
RM: Thanks, David. If you couldn’t draw much of a crowd on the oval until this year, I don’t see how Pocono’s flat, nondescript road course could hold any attraction for either series. It’s just not much of a road course, but an IndyCar/IMSA doubleheader at Laguna or The Glen would wet my whistle.