Robin Miller's Mailbag for October 9, presented by Honda Racing / HPD

Robin Miller's Mailbag for October 9, presented by Honda Racing / HPD

Insights & Analysis

Robin Miller's Mailbag for October 9, presented by Honda Racing / HPD

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Q: Read your article on IndyCar TV ratings showing how much Florida watches IndyCar. Soooooo IndyCar or NBC, how about a booth, better yet a display, at the Sebring 12 Hour? More people at Sebring than at the 24 Hours of Daytona, and Sebring is darn close to all three cities you mentioned. By the way, aren’t there IndyCar drivers and team owners at IMSA events? Think of it – a special on NBC Gold at a place with thousands of race fans. Your article speaks volumes about the fans and how they follow IndyCar.

John Boltik

RM: Sebring has a huge crowd, but I think the Chili Bowl out-draws the Rolex 24 and the reason an IndyCar presence in Tulsa would be better is that it’s a week long, it’s indoors and everything is in one building. Not against IndyCar having a presence with their sports car brethren, and maybe you run a demo lap or two at Sebring.

Q: Caught your article on IndyCar’s TV numbers and found your focus on local newspaper coverage to be quite comical for a couple reasons. The reason that none of these local newspapers send anyone to cover these events is because nobody reads their papers to begin with. They are all on death’s door and either lack the staff or funds to send someone to cover local events. Consolidation to national coverage is happening across the board for all sports, not just in IndyCar.

The other comical piece which is meant to be a compliment here is your lack of self awareness. Nobody counts on their local newspapers for IndyCar news in 2019, they count on you (Robin Miller), Marshall Pruett, RACER.com and several other websites and podcasts that focus on motorsports and IndyCar. Us fans who have an appetite for NTT IndyCar Series content, regardless of location, consider RACER.com our main news source. If you want to see an uptick in interest, a local newspaper isn’t going to help anyone, you’d need focus from Barstool, Deadspin, ESPN and other larger national sources where people go for their [general] sports content. You should fully expect the local guys to continue to disappear, and more and more people will count on sites like RACER.com. Perhaps a deal with one of those websites to publish stories from RACER.com would be the biggest benefit the sport could possibly have.

Ryan Ward, Vienna, VA

RM: Thanks for your letter, Ryan. I realize newspapers are a dying breed but even a mid-week feature or advance in the Sacramento Bee might help attract a casual fan or a newbie that hasn’t made up their mind about what to do on the weekend. The fact a major newspaper, or even a local one, thinks enough of an IndyCar race to staff it – or at least preview it – still means something in my mind, but you are spot-on about costs and cutbacks. I’m glad RACER.com is a destination for many IndyCar fans, but as an old-school newspaperman it’s sad to see print dying on the vine. Our founder Paul Pfanner struck a deal with Gannett so our stories occasionally appear in USA TODAY, but even it dropped its motorsports beat so if the country’s paper has no interest, it speaks volumes.

Q: So now we’re really going to find out what McLaren is in this for. If I remember properly, Arrow McLaren SP wanted two drivers, one with experience and one as a bit of a developmental driver. They’ve officially passed on James Hinchcliffe who provides talent, experience, professionalism and charisma. I think that’s adorable. Now Conor Daly’s talent, experience, charisma, a bit of youth and possibly a higher ceiling are all a hard ‘no.’  I’m not sure which of those characteristics are the ones AMSP doesn’t want, but if there’s a better available option in the paddock I’d love to see it.

Does this mean they’re officially looking strictly outside IndyCar for their next drivers? Is Robert Wickens closer to a return than we think? Is there a contract somewhere in the paddock they’re looking to break to get the guy they want? Or are they really looking at polar opposites of experience and age by kicking the tires on guys like Oriol Servia and Oliver Askew? And if none of the above apply, can someone please give Zak Brown Tony Kanaan’s number? I’m pretty sure he’d stop in the middle of the Ironman Triathlon to take that call. Thanks Robin, and here’s to the healthiest off-season yet!

Dan W., Ft. Worth, TX

RM: Let’s understand something before we go any further. Sam Schmidt and McLaren have both said Hinch is under contract and coming back for 2020, I’m the one who keeps saying he’ll be in a Honda and not with them. Zak Brown seemed impressed that Conor beat Carlos Sainz Jr. when they raced together in Europe, but obviously opted to pass. I have no idea who they have in mind, but Robert isn’t in play and neither is T.K. or Servia. I would imagine Pato O’Ward has the best shot since Brown took him to breakfast at Long Beach to inquire about 2020, and then Red Bull came calling. It doesn’t sound like Pato has a future at Red Bull from the comments made by the RB brass lately, so IndyCar is where he belongs anyway.

If there’s a drinking game based on where in the Mailbag we’re going to put our weekly photo of Conor Daly, now’s the time for everyone who chose page three to down a shot. Image by Skibinski/IndyCar

Q: Great piece on IndyCar TV ratings! I’ve been an IndyCar fan since before I can remember, and attended the Indy 500 every year since 1974 (when I was 7 years old).  I am a huge fan of you, Marshall, and RACER as well! You might want to give a shout-out to the radio station 700 WLW in Cincinnati when discussing ratings. While you mentioned the historic coverage of the Cincinnati Enquirer (which is now junk), WLW has a weekly racing report Sunday nights at 7:00 p.m. They are always very kind to IndyCar, and often have the winner of each race on the show live for an interview. Since I live in the greater Cincinnati area I am a devoted listener to that show, and I think IndyCar benefits as well. Keep up the great work! Can’t wait for 2020 season to start!

Wil Martin

RM: Thanks for the kind words and the heads-up on WLW. Good lord, I’ve been a guest on that show and I just forgot, but good to know it’s still going.

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