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: Recently saw that Eddie Gossage saying that as a promoter, you get no IndyCar TV money. Is this true? My God, how do they make any money, and what is the incentive for any promoter to run an IndyCar race? It’s no wonder the majority of races are promoted by Penske, and Green/Savoree. I mean, NASCAR promoters get 65 percent. Throw out the ISC tracks. How could any promoter sign a deal like this? What’s the business model, and how is it sustainable?
RM: As I wrote on Monday, IndyCar promoters rely on paying customers, sponsors, suites, camping and a title sponsor to make it work, because there is no TV money (except for the Indy 500). If executed properly like at Long Beach, Road America, Gateway and Mid-Ohio, it can sustain its success. The FOX/NBC contracts keep NASCAR going, but we all imagine a big change coming when the next ones are negotiated. And R.P. promotes the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the rest of the series, but Green/Savoree has four races.
Q: Well, this just seems typical. I moved to Richmond for work in late 2009, just in time to miss the last IndyCar race here. Now, after all this time, they come back, I scoop up some tickets, get a bunch of NASCAR-fan friends of mine pumped up to check out the better series, and the pandemic is threatening to extend that break by another year. (I really don’t think racing is coming back in June, for what it’s worth.)
I really was surprised to see the level of excitement from the NASCAR crowd, and these were generally guys under 30, so hopefully that keeps up whenever we do get back to it. Now, I did take that 2009 frustration and turned it into my first Indianapolis trip in 2011 to see Dan Wheldon win. I got hooked, and if we’re racing in August, it will be No. 8 for me. I’ve read some mentions here about the radio network filling time with old broadcasts. I’m a Sirius XM subscriber, and I’m a little surprised that their IndyCar Racing channel basically goes unused except for actual live race weekends. As I listen to it now, it’s just running its generic canned sports news that plays on all the team-specific channels when they’re not playing. Do you know of any reason IMS is just leaving that channel lifeless?
Henry, Richmond, VA
RM: Not sure, but I sent your letter to IndyCar – lots of old Sid Collins tapes could be played throughout the week. As for Richmond, fingers crossed things have returned to semi-normal by late June so all your recruiting efforts don’t go in vain. Thanks for going above and beyond for IndyCar.
Q: Has Mr. Penske given any consideration to mid-week races during this fluid situation? For example, if a race like Texas, and others like it in the foreseeable future, is going to be run without fans, I don’t see the need to run the event on Saturday night or Sunday afternoon. Push it forward or back a few days, and do it Wednesday night in front a country thirsting for sports and entertainment. I’d be inclined to think ratings would be higher mid-week if run in the late afternoon or prime time, assuming auto racing is the only sport operating in the nation for some period of time.
RM: I think if you know anything about Mr. Penske you’ll realize he’s always thinking down the road and outside the box, so I would assume a televised, mid-week race is a distinct possibility if a promoter wants to take a chance. Obviously, NBC would play a large part in the decision as well.
Q: I have just heard that the French GP has been canceled and the UK will almost certainly impose a mandatory 14-day quarantine rule for anyone entering through at least the summer. This not only means no British GP, but almost certainly no F1 championship season this year. We have Penske working on deals to begin an IndyCar season sometime in July. Maybe an abbreviated 12 race-season, but still a season. It behooves the tracks, NBC and IndyCar (Penske) to work together to keep IndyCar in the public eye and giving sponsors and manufacturers maximum exposure. While this means creative thinking re: live crowds, I believe it is possible to fashion a 2020 season.
We should also realize that without significant competition in open-wheel racing on TV there is real potential here for IndyCar to fill a racing void on TV overseas. We will have Fred in for a few races and the 500, but how about Landon Norris coming over for some road courses as well? Difficult to arrange, but go for it. COVID-19 is creating quite some havoc and pain so it would be good to see some real racing ASAP.
Ian (Jardine), Charlotte, NC
RM: I think it’s obvious that R.P. will exhaust every avenue to get IndyCar as much exposure as possible, but he can only do so much. And The Captain wants to start the season in June if possible but, again, he’s at the mercy of the virus and the government’s edicts.
Q: I understand the governor of Texas is pushing for TMS to have a NASCAR race without spectators, I also understand Silverstone is wanting to hold two F1 events without spectators. Any chance we could get some IndyCar races on pay-per-view or whatever medium without spectators? This should be feasible on permanent road courses or ovals. Ask Roger to figure out break-even plus some profit and start selling refundable presales, or at least do a poll to gauge interest. If he hits his profit number, it’s a go.
If Indy, for example, sells 250k tickets plus concessions, parking and whatever other revenue, just add it all up and that’s the price pay-per-view. I would be shocked if we did not get well over a million willing viewers. I would pay an amount equal to an average race ticket for a live streaming broadcast, pay per view, whatever works! How much? I know it’s a crazy idea, but I am desperate for real IndyCar action. If they can do it for boxing, which can be over in five minutes or less, an IndyCar event is great value.
Sean, Vancouver, BC
RM: Any race IndyCar holds in 2020, with or without spectators, will be covered by NBC or NBCSN, and I realize that might limit Canadians that can’t buy or don’t want the proper cable package, but doubt there’s any kind of provision in place for any pay-for-view. I’ll be happy to ask IndyCar, though.