Q: Is it not realistic now that IndyCar might scrap the championship this year, and run the Indy 500 in September perhaps? If this happens, how are the teams supported financially to survive into 2021?
RM: I can’t answer that. Nobody can, because who knows how long this thing is going to last? But I think midsummer is the best chance if Indy gets postponed. And I can’t tell you which sponsors will be back for 2021 without knowing how many races they’re getting in 2020.
Q: OK, Robin, you are more of an insider on IndyCar than I will ever be. However, if the Indy 500 is postponed, you said there is virtually no chance Portland would move so Indy could be run on Labor Day weekend. Really? That race is still over five months away! You’re telling me people could not change their plans given that much time? And the IndyCar race scheduled before Labor Day weekend is on August 22 at Gateway. Two weeks before Labor Day.
In 1986 the 500 was rained out Sunday and Monday. They were supposed to run Milwaukee the next Sunday. Even given that short period of time, Milwaukee moved their race back one week so the 500 could run on May 31st. And I find it hard to believe that if Roger Penske calls the Portland people and asks them to move their race back one week, they would say, “Sorry Roger, we know the 500 is the cornerstone race of your series, it is the main reason most sponsors are involved in your series, we know it would be a three-day weekend just like Memorial Day weekend, but sorry Roger, find another date for your race.” Just couldn’t see that happening. I think for at least this year you would have to be flexible.
Rick Owens, Fort Wayne, IN
RM: The promoters of Portland already lost St. Pete, and I don’t think R.P. would ask they to move. Plus all the volunteers have likely scheduled their vacations to help, and fans have already rented hotel rooms and made plane reservations. The NHRA Nationals are also on Labor Day in Indianapolis, and I think The Captain would respect that tradition. Besides, if Indy is postponed, there are some inviting weeks in the middle of the summer when NBC will definitely some sports programming.
Q: Professional motorsports is a very fragile endeavor, and a big question is who will survive and who will fall victim when we come out the other side of this. What teams, tracks, and events will survive, who will fail, especially financially? Most of our stakeholders don’t have deep pockets. What happens if the Leaders Circle dries up? We are supported by discretionary dollars, which usually disappear first. Once an event is cancelled, will it be gone forever? If a bailout comes, do we get in line behind MLB, NFL, NHL, NCAA, et al, good luck? When we come out the other side we could see a much different landscape. This a big deal. What say you?
Jim Scott, Wisconsin Rapids, WI
RM: Jim, I flunked out of Ball State, and I think I pay attention to all things racing but how in the hell can I tell you which teams or races will survive? Why would the Leaders Circle dry up? I think Long Beach can handle its cancellation better than COTA or even St. Pete, because it’s got the city behind it and 45 years of tradition. And I imagine Team Penske and Ganassi can weather this storm better than Mike Shank or Ed Carpenter, but I don’t know what their contracts all say. A bailout for pro sports? Good lord, why would NBA, NHL and NFL be entitled to a bailout when waitresses and hotel workers are starving right now? Of course this is a big deal, but relax and let’s hope things get better in the next month or so.
Q: I love your Mailbag. I have been reading the people responding to the cancellations and non-refundable tickets. First, I’m not surprised with the business world. I think COTA is making a big mistake and I was thinking about attending possibly both Indy and F1 races there. I am reconsidering that now. I think that auto racing has a smaller crowd nowadays, and pissing off the fans who work hard for their money is a very unwise decision.
Even Indy is not like it was in the ’70s. The Indy 500 this year will be my 50th, and it is very strange sitting and waiting to see where thing go. I normally have everything set at this time of year, but have put that on hold. I agree that Penske is far better than the Hulmans family for handling the unusual events taking place now. I hope to be watching my 50th Indy 500 at the Brickyard in May.
RM: Scott, obviously you submitted this before COTA changed its policy so I’m hoping you will reconsider your plans if, in fact, COTA continues with IndyCar in 2021. But I think because of all the workers that have been laid off recently that more and more promoters will rethink their policies and refund everyone’s ticket money.
Q: COTA is automatically issuing refunds to those of us who purchased tickets for the race. As you have probably already heard, they are laying off personnel as well. Praying for financial stability for all those in the racing community from vendors, hospitality, public relations, race teams and fans alike.
Bruce Richardson, Highland Village, Texas
RM: Thanks Bruce. Yes it’s always troubling when tracks or teams start laying people off, and I hope COTA can come back strong in 2021. But refunding your ticket money was the right thing to do.