Welcome to the Robin Miller Mailbag presented by Honda Racing / HPD. You can follow the Santa Clarita, California-based company at: hpd.honda.com and on social media at @HondaRacing_HPD and https://www.facebook.com/HondaRacingHPD.
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Q: Firstly, I applaud IndyCar for preserving (at least for now) the Indy 500 and making the GP doubleheader with our NASCAR friends. They always say “when the music stops, The Captain always has a chair.” Well, he proved it once again. Unfortunately, I think we’ll be needing a lot more Penske magic very soon for this schedule. When the President mentions June 1st as a time to get things going, I fear that means things like going to work, not racetracks. Can Roger or Miles or Frye hold events in the summer/fall mid-week, or at times when NBC cannot televise? Are they willing to “rent” tracks to race without fans, a la NASCAR?
Greg from New Jersey
RM: Obviously nobody wants to host a race with no spectators or without television, but who knows what kind of hurdles all of sports might be facing by mid-July? But I’d rather see 10 normal races comprise the season instead of doing something drastic just to make it to 14. IndyCar was prepared to run St. Pete with no fans because it appeared to be the only option, and thankfully now it’s been rescheduled. But I think you can count on R.P. and NBC doing everything possible to deliver the best possible outcome.
Q: Really liked your article on RACER about the new schedule, and I love the doubleheader with NASCAR. That being said, it brings to my mind the idea of a doubleheader with F1 on October 24th in Texas, and another one in Mexico on the 30th. Chase Carey is American and R.P. in charge now; I think its win-win situation for both series in this difficult economic time. Your thoughts?
RM: Roger told me his son, Greg, has had meetings with Carey about bringing F1 back to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, so I’d say that’s his No. 1 priority. An IndyCar/F1 doubleheader always sounds cool, but it’s never got much momentum.
Q: Is IndyCar considering a super season combining 2020 and 2021 seasons? And is IndyCar prepared to possibly race without any fans? I ask because it seems the realistic outcome for the COVID-19 pandemic in the U.S. is a peak in May to June.
RM: As I said in an earlier answer, IndyCar was prepared to run St. Pete with no paying customers because that was going to be the only way to race, but certainly it’s not what a promoter or sanctioning body or NBC wants. So sure they were prepared, but only because it was the last resort. Would IndyCar do it in July if that were the only option? I doubt it. As far as combining seasons, why? If IndyCar is able to get 10-14 races run this year, that’s fine.
Q: I know that the coronavirus is wreaking havoc with the economy and so many businesses are having to make tough choices with personnel, but I didn’t think it was a great look for Penske and IMS/IndyCar to tout the new race dates at an enhanced facility and then lay off a number of staff just a few days later, as you reported. Were you surprised by that? I hope everyone is brought back when racing and the rest of the world returns to normal, but we all know that’s usually not the way it works.
RM: I think we were stunned to think one of the most successful businessmen in the world had to make some tough decisions, but it just shows the seriousness of this pandemic. The people at IndyCar and IMS were told the goal was to bring them all back in 60 days, so let’s hope that number is accurate.
Q: So the new date for the Indy 500 is August 23. Why do you think that date was picked, and how do you think the crowds and ratings will be compared to 2019?
Ron, Portland, OR
RM: I think that date was picked so IMS could have back-to-back weekends on national television, and hats off to NBC’s Jon Miller for getting IndyCar such a good slot in the middle of all this rescheduling mayhem. I imagine the crowd might be done a little because so many people plan their vacations around May, and I have no idea about ratings.
Q: I’m disappointed and mad about IMS’ decision to not offer refunds, or at least credits for the 2021 race. I’m not sure I’ll be able to attend the 500 in August. “But Kyle,” you may say, “IndyCar needs your support now.” I’ve provided more than my fair share. I have a Honda Accord and Firestone tires in my garage. Most importantly, I’ve brought large groups to the 500 since 2012. Attendees I brought to the 500 have then attended other IMS events on their own (Indy GP, 500 qualifying) and brought other friends. I’ve been to three other tracks, and was planning to take a group to Richmond this year. I’ve been responsible for 95 Indy 500 ticket purchases, 26 tickets to other IMS events, 19 tickets to non-IMS IndyCar races, and one Indianapolis 500 Festival Princess. That’s 140 tickets! I’ve been loyal to IMS and IndyCar. And they can’t give me one refund?
If IMS isn’t willing to treat customers the right way, it tells me it’s either greedy or financially unstable. Either way, I’m reconsidering my fandom. I don’t like greedy people. If IMS is so desperate for money that it treats customers this poorly, it won’t take long to drive them away. I may as well yank the band-aid off now and move on to other entertainment options, because IndyCar will die soon. I know IMS is within its legal rights to not offer refunds, but just because it’s legal to do something doesn’t mean it should be done. Barber, COTA and Long Beach chose to offer refunds. The “World’s Greatest Racetrack,” now owned by the massive Penske Corporation, should too.
Kyle in Raleigh
RM: I don’t know what to say except that I understand your frustration and any fans’ unhappiness with the no refund policy, even though it seems to be commonplace. I think COTA and Long Beach considered all the people out of work and had a change of heart, and maybe IMS will as well. I guess because the race is rescheduled it’s not the same as a cancellation, but I know a lot of people that may not make it back for August. Your support and passion is very important to IndyCar moving forward, so I sent your letter to Roger’s team and I would imagine you will hear from them.