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.
Your questions for Robin should be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org. We cannot guarantee we’ll publish all your questions and answers, but Robin will reply to you.
Q: I just read the IndyCar schedule update regarding Detroit, Laguna Seca, Iowa and IMS. They’re now looking to backload the schedule into the fall, seemingly unafraid of the big bad wolf of the gridiron. Now, we know this has everything to do with trying to add as much value as possible to partners and sponsors for as many events as they can, but it seems to me the previous regime might have been content to cram as many races in before Labor Day and roll out the red carpet for the NFL. Is the willingness to venture back into October something Penske Entertainment-related, or do you think Hulman & Co. would have been so bold under the same circumstances?
Dan W., Ft. Worth, TX
RM: This has everything to do with trying to outflank this pandemic, find a suitable date for the promoters, and get slotted into NBC’s menu while battling with baseball, horse racing and golf for the same things. There are only so many weekends available, and who knows when normal life is going to resume? It’s not a strategy, it’s a scramble to survive.
Q: Detroit double smoked? As I predicted in a prior note, Robin, IndyCar will kick off late June in Wisconsin, and I’m sticking with it! America’s national park of speed, Road America, is the perfect layout if social distancing is still requested (yeah, I know, a crowd of 50k at Texas can definitely socially-distance). Possibly restricted pit/paddock access, maybe limits on camping, no congregating near concession areas, but Elkhart Lake will get the party started! Come another 60-days of COVID-19 weariness, America will need Road America! You think Mr. Penske is circling the calendar for late June in Wisconsin?
Bradley J, Sussex, WI
RM: It would appear that late June has a better shot at opening the season than earlier in the month, at least in terms of allowing spectators, and Eddie Gossage has already said he’s got no interest in staging a race at Texas without any fans, so it could be Elkhart Lake.
Q: When do you think the drop-dead date is for us to have any racing this year? I know that if the race season is canceled some of the smaller race teams in any of the series may not make it through this pandemic, but are there racetracks or venues that might not make it to next season without 2020 race revenues? Lastly, if there is going to be abbreviated race series this year, how will they decide which tracks or courses will get a race and which will not?
Rich, Keuka Village, NY
RM: I have no idea. If it didn’t start until August you could still get at least eight races run, but they key would seem to be whether or not spectators are allowed. That alone will likely determine the number of races. The IndyCar races are big tickets for Long Beach, Road America, Gateway and Mid-Ohio, but I don’t think any tracks would go away if the 2020 season was canceled.
Q: I have been watching many old races to get my fix during this time, from last season all the way back into the ’90s in the heyday when I was just a kid (I’m 28 now). It’s forcing me to make a list of races to go to in the next couple of years, and so far I have Gateway – which seems to be making itself a bucket list event – along with Road America and Mid-Ohio. I love that all those tracks have kept or regained their footprint in the series. I wish the Northeast could have kept theirs, but hey, can’t win them all.
Any tracks you would like to see return? Also, I know Nazareth has been shut down and forgotten, but what was the story behind the closing? I think it would be cool if the Andrettis bought it and got it up and running again. That’s just my fantasy, though.
RM: I think we’d all like to go back to Cleveland, and Mexico City is a great layout. ISC closed Nazareth in 2004 and moved the grandstands to Watkins Glen and Michigan. When the property was sold in 2015 there was a clause in the contract that forbids racing on it, so I guess Richmond is your best bet.
Q: Just curious if there has been any discussion about ticket renewals for the 2021 Indy 500? They are typically due a couple weeks after the normal race date, which means we would be paying for 2021 in early June before we even see 2020 – if that even happens. Not that I won’t renew, but seems like chaos if 2020 was not held for some reason and then people have paid for two 500s.
Bruce in Houston
RM: Brother, they’re still trying to sell tickets for the 2020 Indy 500. No, I haven’t heard any discussions, but I would assume that if this year’s race would not be run then ticket holders would have the option to simply use that credit towards 2021.