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: I just bought my weekend pass for Road America. I’ve always camped at Plymouth Rock from way back in the days of going up there with Pops and his posse for the June Sprints in the late ’70s and early ’80s. I was holding off on buying the pass, but since Wisconsin just shot down the Stay in Place orders, I feel more confident that the event will be held, so I will try primitive camping at the track instead. It’s the least I could do to on my part to keep interest up so it doesn’t get canceled.
Is there a chance that the paddock will be closed to the general admission or require face masks? One of the greatest ways that IndyCar gets new fans (and interests the better half immensely) is the upfront availability of its product’s inner workings to the fans. I can’t see myself walking around outside in the paddock with a mask in the hot June sun. Besides, corn butter and masks don’t get along well together.
Ken P., Naperville, IL
RM: Way too early to know what the protocol will be at Road America, but they are planning on having fans so that’s the good news. It’s possible masks could be mandatory, or that only a certain number of paddock passes might be available but the word of the moment is “fluid,” because things change every day. Obviously IndyCar will do whatever is necessary to let people enjoy the experience and stay safe.
Q: Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds announced plans to re-open the state on May 15. This will include racetrack events. According to the Iowa Speedway website, tickets for the IndyCar doubleheader are now on sale.
RM: That’s good news, thanks for the information.
Q: Finally, the IndyCar schedule for 2020 season is finalized. However I’m bit unhappy with there being too many doubleheader races (Iowa and Laguna Seca), and the Indy GP [road course] having two races. So what are your thoughts about next year’s racing schedule, as this year is the chance to get rid of doubleheader races and show all the fans “This is not NASCAR! We won’t do the same thing as they have done!”
RM: Well it’s not really finalized because Toronto is looking for a new date, but doubleheaders have been around since USAC in the 1960s, and considering the chaos caused by the pandemic, I think it’s a good way to help the teams save a little money and still in get as many races as possible. And I know a lot of fans who like the concept of two races in one weekend, but other than Detroit I don’t think there are any others planned – except maybe an IndyCar/NASCAR weekend – and we’ll get a preview of that in July at IMS.
Q: Not sure how seriously everyone is taking it, but Ferrari evaluating IndyCar sounds like just about the coolest thing ever, especially when it comes in the wake of Mario Andretti calling for them to join IndyCar. I can’t think of a combination of the names “Andretti Autosport” and “Scuderia Ferrari” that doesn’t sound awesome. This really seems like the best thing Ferrari could do with the downsizing they’re going through in F1. Do you see this being a serious possibility? Ferrari has talked about IndyCar in the past (and even built a whole car in the ’80s) but never done it. I would love to see it happen, but I have no idea if it’s realistic.
Max Camposano, Menlo Park, CA
RM: It made headlines everywhere, but the way I read it was that Ferrari was exploring its options in several different series, so I’d contain my enthusiasm until I see some real proof the Prancing Horse is serious.
Q: Come on Robin, give us your odds of Ferrari coming to IndyCar. My odds are less than zero for supplying an engine, and the same to start a team.
RM: Twenty percent at best. For both.
Q: I know you work for NBC Sports and I love the channel, but I’m very skeptical about Ferrari coming to IndyCar racing because while TV ratings in the series have gone up domestically, they haven’t translated well internationally. Ferrari sees itself at an international brand. I don’t see Ferrari as the third engine manufacturer, but I do see Dodge coming to the series since Ferrari is connected to Chrysler, and the only racing program for Dodge is in the NHRA Series. I think Dodge would help a lot if it were to badge the Cosworth engine and promote IndyCar Series.
Alistair, Springfield, MO
RM: Ferrari is the most political creature in all of motorsports, so who knows if this is just an idle threat to keep F1’s attention. I agree with your logic in that I’m not really sure what providing an IndyCar engine or starting a team would do for the brand, but it would be great for IndyCar. And the Andretti Ferrari has a nice ring to it, but haven’t heard Dodge mentioned.
Q: Have loved reading Heroes of Bump Day and hope that you are staying well during the pandemic. What monetary damage has the pandemic cost IndyCar so far? Have any major sponsors backed away, and have any of the teams lost major sponsors? Are any of the teams in danger of shutting their doors at this point? Also, and I am not trying to be a smart aleck here, given the low attendance at some of the ovals during the past few years, allowing fans to attend and maintaining social distancing would not seem to be a problem if they were spread all over the stands. Has IndyCar or the track managements considered this? Looking forward to June 6.
Joe in Turlock
RM: I’ve not heard of any sponsors leaving and all of the teams are still standing, but it’s 2021 that concerns me. If you’re a corporation that gave an IndyCar team $3-4 million in sponsorship for this year but then you lose 40-50 percent of your business because of this pandemic and have to lay off employees, it’s going to be very difficult to justify staying in racing. I think all of motorsports is in the same boat in this regard, and I fear the fallout could be devastating. Nobody knows the oval tracks’ plans except Texas, because it’s still too early to know the rules and protocols.