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.
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. Views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of RACER or Honda/HPD.
Q: I was wondering if there is any talk within the paddock or IndyCar management regarding the month of September? I know Penske and his team are probably just trying to get through August, yet I would imagine Penske has people working on the possibility of September having no races, or maybe racing elsewhere. Do you believe we are headed for a race-less September? Not just because of the virus, but I have heard there are issues with management at WeatherTech Raceway. My gut tells me that both Portland and Monterey area are not going to allow fans even if they allow the race. Do you think Penske will still have those two races, even without fans?
Lastly, do you believe the drivers are aware that this might be a 10- or 11-race schedule? I don’t want any drivers or teams making ridiculous comments at the end of the year dismissing whoever does win the championship. As long as they have a diverse set of races and tracks, the champion is deserving.
Derek, Riverside, CA
RM: Unless the Harvest GP in early October at IMS is moved it appears IndyCar will be idle in September, because Portland and Laguna are both scrapped. And as crowded as NBC’s sports schedule is that month, it would likely be very difficult to fit in another race. Plus, with the IMS road race now a doubleheader, which combined with two at Mid-Ohio and Gateway, gets the number to 13 and St. Pete is set to be 14.
Q: I love the Mailbag every week and I look forward so much to reading your columns, but one thing as a Californian living two-and-a-half hours from Laguna Seca is, you have to know what’s going on there. They want to racetrack closed because of the property value for real estate development, and they could care less about the health and future of Laguna Seca as a racetrack. That managing board really wants them out of the way despite the MotoGP race that used to generate more income for the whole entire Monterey Peninsula in the week leading up to the race then any other event, including the historic races or the IndyCar races back in the day. I’m just saying the lifespan of Laguna Seca… yeah we may have a race in September or October or whenever it’s scheduled, but I would say after that, no more.
RM: Obviously it’s become official since you wrote and Laguna is cancelled for 2020, but as RACER reported on Monday, the track is negotiating a three-year deal to keep IndyCar, so that’s encouraging.
Q: In response to your article on Iowa Speedway and a rumored Penske purchase, I still think renting it going forward makes the most sense. I like the Iowa track and really enjoy watching the races there. Dirt track racing, not asphalt, is king in Iowa, and my concern is sustaining a fan base in the years to come. Should the track change hands from ISC, making an action packed two-day event is crucial. Hosting IndyCar, Indy Lights, MSR Sprints, USAC Silver Crown or ARCA/Xfinity might work. What do you think?
Rick, Roseville, MI
RM: The Captain said in my story he would prefer to keep renting Iowa because it’s one of IndyCar’s best tracks, but he may have to buy it to make sure it doesn’t get bulldozed because NASCAR doesn’t seem to want it. And I’m sure whatever returns with IndyCar in 2021 will be a good package for race fans.
Q: Do you think IndyCar will now go to COTA since F1 cancelled the race?
RM: No, and I don’t think IndyCar will ever race at COTA again. If the track was having financial issues before, losing the F1 race might be the final nail.
Q: We’ve recently seen Formula 1 decide to race at tracks they didn’t have on their original 2020 schedule — Mugello, Imola, Portimao, Nurburgring, and I’m sure they could add more. With IndyCar seeming to want to keep races in the greater Midwest, do you see any outside-the-box tracks in the Midwest or Northeast in the mix? Milwaukee, Lime Rock, VIR, Watkins Glen, Pocono, etc.?
Tom, Greenwood, SC
RM: No. Unless St. Pete gets shut down by the pandemic, it looks like IndyCar will have 14 races in 2020, and that’s the number it was shooting for a few months ago. I would think Barber and Richmond would be the first two choices if St. Pete was canceled, and it would likely have to be a rental situation.
Q: Has IndyCar ever explored the idea of racing at Brainerd in Minnesota? With the cancellation of the West Coast swing, Brainerd could be an interesting alternative. The 2.5-mile course looks a bit Mickey Mouse for IndyCar, but the old 3.1-mile course would be cool. In the old days it held Can-Am and F5000 races. I have no idea if the facilities are appropriate for the cars of today, but more doubleheaders are going to be too hard on the mechanics.
RM: USAC ran twin 100s at Brainerd in 1969 (Johncock and Gurney victorious) but never went back, and I’ve not heard anyone in IndyCar ever mention it, so I would seriously doubt if it’s on the radar.
Q: Do you think IndyCar will ever go back the Watkins Glen? I love the series and that Roger Penske is the owner. Would love to see them there. Seems like great racing, and a true destination for race fans the week before and after.
RM: Michael Printup has always said if the right date could be secured he’d be interested, but July 4 and Labor Day both flopped. Sharing the weekend with IMSA would seem to be the only option, but the sports cars don’t seem too keen with that idea so it’s doubtful.