Q: Your TV numbers article reminds me that I wanted to tell you how much I enjoyed this year’s NBC Gold package coverage of IndyCar. I like the way the various personalities bounce off each other in the booth. As a viewer, I feel like I’m sitting in the booth with Paul, T Bell, and Leigh, listening in to their conversation. Informative, and even more importantly, fun. It’s business for the racing participants, but it’s entertainment for the fans. I’ve come to appreciate that the best part of the race weekend is often qualifying on the street and road courses. At times, it is literally an edge of the seat experience. You know it’s great when you hear yourself say, “Wow!”
NBC has a good formula going for their coverage, I hope it keeps going this direction in 2020. Gold package cost? I felt I had gotten my money’s worth in April. Will it be back in 2020?
RM: Sometimes I wish our Gold shows were on television because it’s got that relaxed, off-the-cuff vibe and I love PT and T Bell in the pits. But I think NBC was happy with the first season of Gold and it will return. Thanks for subscribing.
Q: I was overjoyed to see the RACER statistics that they published a week or so ago. As I have mentioned before, I believe that RACER magazine and its companion RACER.com are the best buy ever in a racing publication. This goes all the way back to the National Speed Sport News, which I read cover to cover as a teenager, and then Car & Driver, Motor Trend, Road & Track etc. The quality of the writing and graphics are unparalleled. The articles by you, Marshall and others are excellent. I consider this to be an archival publication and I save every issue. Also, I find myself spending more and more time reading the RACER Bulletin. Please pass my comments along to the powers-that-be and encourage them to continue to set the standard in racing publications.
Dick & Sue Hildebrand, Ormond Beach, FL
RM: Paul Pfanner and Rob Dyson have kept RACER and RACER.com going and recently purchased Vintage Motorsport, so without them we’d be starved for content (and some of us would just be starving). They both have a passion for motorsports and they’ve invested in their passion, and we’re all glad fans like you acknowledge that.
Q: I just wanted to clarify the pricing at Laguna Seca. The ticket price for the three day weekend was $190 There was a $20 discount if you purchased early. There was also a discount if you purchased IMSA tickets for the previous weekend. Pit access was not included. Paddock, grandstands and general parking were included. At Long Beach, a paddock pass is a extra $60+ for the weekend. Grandstand seats are at least $50 more than GA. I pay at least $20 per day for parking. So Laguna Seca wasn’t too hard on the wallet, looking at the big picture.
I noticed a lot of credentialed fans had access to the pits on race day. I wasn’t able to get in, but I was heading to the Turn 4 grandstands. I’m a Gold Pass subscriber. I’m going to re-watch some races during the off-season. I have seats in the SW Vista at Indianapolis. I attend Long Beach every year. Laguna Seca was a yearly pilgrimage in the ’90s. I’m happy it’s back on the schedule. Thank you for saying hello at the Firestone GP.
RM: Thanks for that report Ian, I said last week that paddock, grandstand and parking for $100 was pretty reasonable compared to other tracks, and you confirmed it. See you in May, and thanks for buying Gold.
Q: The series management started with this trend of ending the season early in 2014. Mark Miles promised 2014 was going to be a transition year, and the schedule was going to expand again for 2015. We gained a couple of weeks since then (the season finale went from Labor Day weekend on 2014 to middle September on these last years) but the season still ends too early, and it’s a long wait until middle March, when we get IndyCar racing back in our lives.
I bet during most of these weeks, your Mailbag will be the only IndyCar-related content we will get. I get that they want to avoid competing with the NFL, but they even failed to deliver the promise of starting the season after the Super Bowl. If they kept racing until October during IndyCar’s darkest years and the first bunch of seasons after reunification until 2013, why not do it now that the future is looking brighter than it did in 2010? What made them so afraid of football? They didn’t bring any international races, like they said they would, to kick off the season early. We lost some good tracks because disagreements about the date (I’m looking at you, Fontana). On the other hand, we did go back Road America, Laguna Seca and Gateway, and I do have to give them credit when it’s due.
I feel the management is being too conservative and short-sighted, which is preventing the series to grow as much as it could. Now that NASCAR and F1 are not what they used to be 15 years ago, IndyCar could really take advantage of that to regain popularity. Am I overreacting? Or maybe I’m the one who’s short-sighted, and I couldn’t manage a racing series if my life depended on it?
Lucas from Mar del Plata, Argentina
RM: I wouldn’t want Stephen Starks’ job, because putting a schedule together today is a bitch. Tracks and promoters have to juggle weather and competing events in the same city, and that’s why everything usually gets jammed into a three- or four-month window. Places like Long Beach are locked into their date for good reason (no rain on race day in 40 years) and Road America knows June is it’s best opportunity and St. Pete always wants to open the season. COTA was kind enough to move back in 2020 so as not to compete with Sebring, but the real reason there are only 15 venues is that it’s damn tough to make an IndyCar race work financially. I think Connie Montoya looked at bringing an IndyCar race to Colombia a few years ago but instantly found out the numbers didn’t add up. And Ricardo Juncos was exploring a race in your country, but that quickly went away.
Q: Formula E has made it past its first five seasons. They are now able to run a race without switching cars. One way to re-energize oval racing could be to write the rule book to allow alternative power plants (electrics) to compete on ovals. It would be a way to add cars, create excitement around technology and add back the durability and reliability drama to what used to be endurance racing. The Indy 500 would go back to being the ultimate test. IndyCar would not have to “guess” at what the future will look like, rather it would have the creativity and innovation of the participants to look to and focus on the business of regulating and facilitating.
Road and street courses would be off-limits and the championship, then, would remain with the series and full-time teams and allow the “alternative” cars to be developed around a more simplified mission. For that matter, the additional cars run on ovals or at least for the Triple Crown (Michigan, Pocono, Indy) by the big teams could be alternative powertrain. Andretti, Ganassi, Penske could have two traditional and two alternative cars, for instance.
Yeah, there’s the car and safety question. The Formula E cars look a lot like regular cars, so it seems like that part could be figured out using the current or next-spec car, or at least most of it. Would this sort of change begin to bring back manufacturers who are participating in Formula E, or at least those who sell in North America? Would this sort of change bring interest from the “72% of Formula E followers on social channels who are under 35?”
Eric Gackenbach, Dearborn, MI
RM: I realize the manufacturers stormed to Formula E and that innovative technology left the building a long time ago, but I cannot imagine the Indianapolis 500 being muted. It wouldn’t work and people wouldn’t go. That’s my opinion, and I pray we never have to find out if I was right.