Q: Good thing the IndyCar opener at Texas is this weekend and not the past weekend. Last Saturday evening all programming on TV channels in SoCal was preempted by coverage of the protests and riots, including the local Los Angeles NBC affiliate KNBC Channel 4. I’m sure it was the same way everywhere else. The race we have all been waiting all of these months for would be relinquished to reruns on YouTube or NBC Sports Gold. As if things are not bad enough, that would have been a huge downer. Think about it: An IndyCar with no fans in the stands and no TV audience. What kind of business model is that?
Bob Gray, Woodland Hills, CA
RM: I imagine it could have been shifted to NBCSN unless there was already a live event scheduled, but losing network in prime time would certainly hurt. And it wouldn’t have been anyone’s fault – you can’t prepare for riots coast-to-coast in major cities.
Q: I know I might be Debbie Downer again. But if Texas TV ratings are still awful in this time of sports-starved people, could that be a huge setback to IndyCar’s chances of getting prime time TV in the future?
RM: First off all, Saturday night traditionally isn’t good for television ratings so if IndyCar gets its usual one million on network, is that awful? No, but I think we’re all hoping there won’t be anything else for a sports fan to watch Saturday night, and if Texas is its usual Wild West show then maybe two or three million check it out. NBC isn’t in the habit of showing sports in prime time (unless it’s the Olympics or NFL), so this was an effort to try and take advantage of the situation.
Q: This is not a position on whether or not we should open during the quarantine. Texas has allowed events to take place with people now. To be fair, Texas has only been 25% filled any race in the past few years. Why don’t they allow all these customers in who have tickets? Just space them out through all the grandstands. This would give box office receipts to the promoter down there. I’m damn excited to see IndyCar back. They have the best Captain to run the ship. Been a fan since Mark Donohue won in 1972.
RM: We have no idea how many tickets were sold before the country closed down, but a lot of people don’t make up their mind until a few days before a race or when they see the weather forecast. Just be happy it’s going to be on NBC and we can finally start racing.
Q: With the 2020 Indy Lights season being canceled, I started wondering what caused the series to fall to only having 7-10 cars a race? In 2008 Lights still averaged 20-23 car grids a race, and 2009 grids were still respectable – between 16-24 car grids a race. By the 2013 Indy Lights season the average field size had fallen to only nine cars, and the 2019 grid was the same size. What would you say are contributing factors behind Indy Lights field sizes falling to under 10 cars a race?
Jymy Ojanen, Finland
RM: Lack of participation by the IndyCar owners (only Andretti Autosport fields a team), poor purses and it’s very reasonable by European prices but still an expensive proposition. I think Dan Andersen has tried to keep the budgets in check, but we’re still talking a couple million to do it right and that’s a lot right now.
Q: I was very disappointed to hear about the cancellation of the Indy Lights season. It’s understandable, but nonetheless disappointing. My question is, where do you think the Road to Indy fits with Roger Penske’s priorities? I know he has many, and not everything can be an immediate priority, but I believe the Road to Indy is a key step in growing the sport. I don’t pretend to know how it stacks up with other issues.
Wally, Eden Prairie, MN
RM: I think R.P. has a plan for Lights and I’m hoping to ask him about it this week. But between the Brickyard weekend and Indy 500, I imagine that’s not a priority at the moment.
Q: With two sons and an ‘extended family’ in motorsports, I have to respectfully disagree with you in your RACER article ‘Enough of this nonsense’. I’ll be the first to admit that the iRacing thing isn’t really my cup of tea, and while I could lean your way with the actions of Bubba, Simon, Santino, and Daniel if it was just buddies having some fun, Kyle’s actions are just not acceptable period.
That being said, none of it is acceptable once you’ve crossed the line and present it in a public format as a TV broadcast. At that point the dynamic has changed completely, as you now are representing your sport, team, sponsors, branding, etc. Images get tarnished, bad examples are set for younger viewers, and a general lack of professionalism is displayed by behavior like that.
I also think opportunity for other growth (large or small) gets damaged when at least some level of seriousness and polish isn’t taken. If that’s something a driver, or team is not comfortable in signing up to, that’s fine. Don’t participate from the beginning. But at the same time, don’t downplay or badmouth something that might do some good and be bit helpful. That’s part of the responsibility of the whole ‘freedom’ thing that seems to have become so popular lately. You have the freedom to choose not to participate, just as others have the freedom to take part, accepting the responsibilities that go with it. And neither should hold anything against the other. Thanks for the great job you do, and for allowing me to voice my opinion, too!
W. Vincent IV
RM: My objections were to press conferences, press releases, guest grand marshals and people singing the national anthem like it was truly some kind of a big deal. And what does it do for IndyCar if some kid from F1 who has never driven an IndyCar or seen the tracks comes in and kicks everybody’s butt? We’re trying to sell IndyCar as one of the best and toughest arenas in motorsports, and I don’t think that helps. Is it good if some young people became IndyCar fans and will start following the series? Of course, and maybe that is the end result, but we all need to treat it for what it really is – a video game with no risks other than what comes out of a driver’s mouth. Thanks for your letter.
Q: Thank you for saying what I’m sure many of us who have participated in the real thing have been thinking about computer racing. I tried to watch because, just like every other fan out there, I needed a fix. Sadly, I became distracted by my neighbor’s newly-planted lawn and freshly-painted house. I’m not disparaging the people who participate because there is an obvious skill level required, but how can crash out and then push reset? How do you race without being able to feel what the car is doing around you? How do you…oh, who cares! Thank you for telling it as it is one more time.
Tom Patrick, Baja California
RM: Thanks Tom. We all got hooked on racing because of the noise, the speed, the danger, the competition, the cars or the drivers. I have no idea how anyone watches two hours of sim racing or how any real racer finds any enjoyment in it, but the best news is that it’s over and I don’t have to read about it every day.