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: With the first race scheduled for an Indy day event, on June 6, I can’t believe IndyCar will do a one-day event without a test day. So I will ask once again: why not do a test day at IMS? Are there any plans to do this? I still think Memorial Day weekend would be a good time: a week before the first race. Is the series planning a test day?
RM: No test planned, and here’s a response from Jay Frye: “As we have the past few years, IndyCar has conducted numerous tests in late summer/fall for the upcoming season. Chevy/Honda/ Firestone [were] included/involved and they distribute the data to all their teams. IMS, Texas, Richmond and Sebring were all part of mix toward the end of last year. We also did the COTA Open Test in February. The main issue with testing going forward and prior to Texas event is there are different restrictions and regulations in each state we race in, and all are very fluid/changing.”
Q: Really excited to see IndyCar confirmed for a return for Texas, and I believe no fans was the correct and only call to make. While still concerned about COVID-19 for the teams, my biggest worry is the plan to do everything in one day. Being a high-speed oval, first oval and race with new drivers, the cockpit, practice in the day versus racing at night, etc., I fear dangerous accidents are a bigger threat than the pandemic. I have complete faith in Roger Penske and the series, but do you have similar concerns, or any insights on why they think one day isn’t a safety issue? Thanks, and I appreciate all you do.
Eric Schmoll, San Francisco transplant from Indy
RM: Texas is always edgy for everyone and the rookies got to test there earlier this year, so I don’t think it’s going to be any more challenging than usual. That’s part of stepping into the big leagues – learning your craft and the tracks – and back in the ’60s every oval was a one-day show. Texas usually features close racing and big crashes, so let’s just hope there is more of the former.
Q: So has NASCAR beat IndyCar to it again? I know Penske is way capable, but they need to be racing even if no fans are watching in the stands. It’s the perfect opportunity when F1 and NASCAR are not racing. Any chance of The Glen being a fill in race again?
Tony, New York
RM: NASCAR’s season always starts before IndyCar’s, and they have three times as many races and own a lot of the tracks, so not exactly sure what you expect when May is postponed. NASCAR can run without fans and still make money because of its TV contract, but IndyCar doesn’t have that luxury and I’m sure it took some creative bookwork to make Texas an option on June 6. No talk of The Glen right now.
Q: Our governor (who doesn’t care one bit about sports) ruled today that there would be no large crowds allowed at sporting events in the state of Oregon through at least late September. Have you heard any news about how this affects the Portland race? I know Texas is proceeding without crowds and other races may be in the same situation. Given that promoters only make their money from attendance, are more races in danger?
Scott in Portland
RM: I hadn’t heard about this until your letter, but I guess we’re all hoping that Sept. 13 will be late enough to allow spectators. But of course all the IndyCar tracks following Texas are in a state of limbo at the moment as we wait and see if this pandemic slows and there is a return to normalcy..
Q: I know that there is a lot of effort going on right now to get the IndyCar series going, but if they are going to run the road course again in October, why didn’t they make that the 500? The weather would be great and surely better then late August.
Brian Lancaster, West Lafayette
RM: First off, there is no guarantee the weather in October is going to be great, and secondly there are a whole bunch of major sports vying for television time and Indy got a good shake from NBC with back-to-back weekends in August. The bigger concern is whether fans will be allowed at attend Indianapolis, and Mark Miles said last week that October could be an option if that’s what it takes.
Q: Went to Indy for the first time in 1956. I’ve been probably another 20 times, love the place and the race. It gives me the shivers every time I drive through the tunnel. I do not think they should run the Indy 500 without spectators – I would rather see them wait until next year, or Labor Day or something, but an Indy 500 with no fans would be disrespectful to the Speedway, the event, and the thousands of people who have made it a family tradition for 100 years.
RM: I think The Captain will do whatever it takes to insure there are spectators at the 2020 Indianapolis 500 – whenever it runs. But I also know he understands the ramifications of sponsorships if there is no Indy 500 so hopefully he won’t have to make that choice.
Q: So great to hear that IndyCar will return to the track at Texas. I read on RACER.com that NASCAR will drop their spring Richmond, Chicago, and Sonoma races for 2020. I understand that Mark Miles would prefer to work with their current track partners (double races and whatnot), but I also question his quote that they wouldn’t consider any “extra” NASCAR tracks for events. My point is that there’s no telling how many more IndyCar events will not take place (Richmond and Toronto seem iffy). So why not consider nearby (to Indiana) venues (without fans) like Chicagoland, Kentucky, or Milwaukee, where teams can drive up run it in a single day, and be home overnight?
Greg from N.J.
RM: Most promoters aren’t wild about IndyCar races on ovals when they have a year to promote, let alone playing before an empty house. There is no reason to think any of those tracks you mentioned have any interest in hosting IndyCar unless they were going to get paid handsomely, and that’s not going to happen.