Welcome to this week’s installment of Robin Miller’s Mailbag! Questions for Robin can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org. Due to the high volume of questions received, we can’t always guarantee that your letter will be printed, but Robin will get to as many as he can. Published questions have been edited for clarity.
Q: The idea of these non-spectator races is insane. I have not worn a mask yet, mostly because every time I ask about them they are sold out. I will be 65 this year, I’m diabetic, high blood pressure, and I would go to a race, and I would wear a mask if necessary. It would be a great sales item, right next to the earplugs. We cannot go the rest of our lives wearing face masks and standing six feet apart. There have been much worse viruses than this, and we never reacted so radically. This has been a crazy year like no one still living probably has ever seen. I don’t want to see our whole way of living to change, but there are people out there who want that to happen. Let’s go racing!
RM: It is insane, but if that’s what it takes once or twice to get the season going and trying to keep sponsors engaged, it needs to happen. Obviously, it’s the last thing an IndyCar promoter wants to hear, and other than Texas and IMS, not sure it could fly anywhere else.
Q: I had plans to go to Gateway this year but due to the unforeseen circumstances and the date change, I can no longer go. I was debating going to the Indy 500 instead. But, I have some concerns about buying tickets for an event that we can’t say with 100% certainty will allow the fans in. What you realistically think the chances are of fans being allowed into the Speedway in August, because either way the race is going to happen come mud, blood or flood?
M from Michigan
RM: I have no idea, but no need to buy your tickets until we see what’s in the forecast for July and August in terms of spectators and sporting events.
Q: I was just watching the 1993 Indy 500, not necessarily because it was a great race (although it probably created the greatest controversy in orange juice history) but it was the first, and so far only, 500 I have seen in person. And quite frankly, there isn’t much else to do right now. I found an interesting nugget around Lap 40 from (pit reporter) Jack Arute, who was talking about a conversation he had with Emerson Fittipaldi earlier in the month. He asked Emmo what sort of innovations he would like to see at the Speedway in the future (for context, this was the year the apron had been replaced with grass). Emmo said he would like to see the cockpit fully enclosed in a “plastic bubble” so that there would be a full survival system inside the car. Arute speculated that was something we might see in the next few years.
I guess that would be true, as long as you define “few” as 27. I am sure that wasn’t a new idea even in 1993. Can you recall when you first heard of the idea of a closed-canopy Indy car? Was there any serious development of a system prior to the last couple of years?
BTW, the following year included one of my all-time favorite lines of yours. You wrote that the first yellow during a practice session for the 1994 500 was caused because “the sandbags had fallen off Roger Penske’s cars.” (The year of the famous Ilmor pushrod engine). Thank you for the decades of great stories, insights and humor.
David Hansen, Mission Viejo, CA
RM: A.J. Foyt suggested some kind of cockpit protection back in 1973 after the first-lap crash, but I never heard anything again until after Dan Wheldon’s accident in Las Vegas in 2011. It obviously ramped up again following Justin Wilson’s tragedy at Pocono, and IndyCar did its due diligence before pulling the trigger this year.
Q: When will Indy Harvest Grand Prix Tickets go on sale? The website said April 17th, but still no access to purchase tickets. Will there be pit/paddock access?
Alan, St. Henry, Ohio
RM: From Doug Boles: “You are right, we had planned on putting them on sale on April 17, However, we delayed the on-sale date to wait until our governor made more definitive statements about his phases for reopening Indiana. Our hope is that the tickets will go on sale this week or next. In the meantime, if you haven’t already, you can let our ticketing team know of your interest and they will contact you directly. Our plan is to offer paddock passes for the weekend. More details for those should be announced when we go on-sale with the tickets. Thanks for your interest.”
Q: Just read your column on starting the season. Imagine IndyCar and IMSA sharing that weekend. Road America is about a days drive away for me. I’d crawl over broken glass to see that doubleheader. And bring my grill.
Brian Bristo, London, Canada
RM: It would be a success, but not sure it’s necessary since both draw pretty well on their own at Elkhart Lake.
Q: Hope you continue to be well. Here in Texas, construction has not stopped because of the virus. I was wondering if R.P. had all of the changes/improvements he wanted to do before the race as an ongoing project are still progressing? I guess one of the few positive things that have come from people staying home is construction is going at a rapid pace, especially on the roads and interstates. I work from home and still get paid; I sure hope all of us can get back to work soon, but not too soon.
Tom in Waco
RM: Spoke with The Captain over the weekend and he said Georgetown Road was being repaved along with several parking lots, so he’s back full bore getting IMS more fan-friendly.