Robin Miller's Mailbag for August 12, presented by Honda Racing / HPD

Illustration by Paul Laguette

Robin Miller's Mailbag for August 12, presented by Honda Racing / HPD

Insights & Analysis

Robin Miller's Mailbag for August 12, presented by Honda Racing / HPD

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Q: I know you will get a thousand letters with the same(ish) question, but do you think it was irresponsible for Mr. Penske to say he would not run the 500 without fans and continue to push selling tickets when it was very evident to everyone that that would be a very iffy thing to pull off by August? People who bought tickets in good faith now cannot get refunds. People have spent hundreds or thousands on accommodations, transportation, parking, etc., on his word that the race would not run without spectators. I believe today’s decision is the right one, but I don’t think he should have ever made his earlier claims.

Mitchell Stacy

RM: No, because he meant it, and he spent weeks and weeks working on a plan that had the blessing of health officials and looked to be very doable. But something happened to make him pull the plug, and I don’t believe it was his decision — I think he took one for the team, as they say. But with things opening back up in July and IMS dropping the max capacity to 25 percent, I was optimistic he could pull it off. Of course the downside is the money spent on airfares, hotels, etc., but I’m not really sure how many people were making a long trek. IMS said roughly 70,000 tickets were redistributed but I’d wager most were Midwest fans, so hopefully not too much damage done.

Q: I can’t say I was surprised when I received the email from IMS saying that there will be no fans at this year’s Indy 500. I just really appreciate everything that Roger Penske, Mark Miles, Doug Boles, Jay Frye and everyone at IMS and IndyCar have done so we could even have a season. My friends and I have been wondering how this would have been different under previous ownership? (And this is not a knock against the Hulman-George family). Thankfully Penske & Co will navigate these troubled times, and who better to be at the helm than The Captain!

I think that instead of bitching, moaning and complaining the IndyCar fans need to rise up, tune in as much as possible and help deliver to Roger and everyone associated with our favorite sport the best damn television numbers they have ever seen!  It’s the best way we can say “thank you” for their efforts during this freaking pandemic. I for one will be tuned on NBC, NBCSN, IndyCar Pass etc., and can’t wait to come back to IMS next year to see what Roger & Co have done to the old place!

Scott St. Clair, Erie, PA

RM: I don’t know that Tony George and his sisters would have had the mindset to pour in millions to keep IndyCar going after the millions they spent on the Indy Racing League and putting open-wheel back together, and who could blame them? The perfect person wound up with IMS and the series, and I’m not sure IndyCar would have survived without The Captain during the past eight months.

Sounds like pretty much everyone is happy to have The Captain navigating IndyCar through some very choppy waters. Michael Levitt/Motorsport Images

Q: I would appreciate your honest opinion about something. Just how bad would the situation be for IndyCar and IMS if the Hulman/George family still owned the Speedway and the IndyCar series? My gut tells me it would be dire. Too many mouths feeding at the trough. My understanding of Tony Hulman is that he ran the Speedway as a separate business. He invested a lot of money up front in the Speedway, but he lived off income from other sources and plowed most if not all the Speedway money back into the Speedway for many years. Perhaps in later years he was able to take some money out, but by then the Speedway was self-sufficient. Obviously, Roger is the exact same way. He doesn’t need the Speedway to support his lifestyle. The family, on the other hand, relies almost entirely on the trust funds for their livelihoods. Yes, some of them work in various ways and yes there are other non-Speedway oriented sources of income for the family, but IMS was a large part of their income, from what I understand.

With IndyCar probably being a cash drain for the past several years, the Speedway and the income generated from the 500 and 400 was left to cover IndyCar’s financial shortfall and ‘feed the family.’ Ergo, I say if the family still owned IndyCar and the Speedway, things overall would be in dire straits. I don’t have any inside knowledge, this is just my gut feeling.

Ultimately I think that the sisters would have been more than happy to let IndyCar die (in order to stop the cash drain) and live off one race a year (Brickyard) or two if they could still muster up an Indy 500. TG may have been against it, but he would have been outnumbered. I know this sounds crazy, but desperate people do desperate things during desperate times. And finally, I think that if the family didn’t sell it to Roger last year, they would have ended up selling to the France family this year or next. Just my two cents.

JRT

RM: None of us know what the Hulman trust said or what the terms of the sale were, but it was Tony George’s idea to ask R.P. if he was interested in buying it and that gave IndyCar a future. You say you have no inside knowledge but then you say the Hulman/George family was desperate, which I find interesting. Nobody loves IMS more than TG, but there was plenty of family turmoil at the end of the IRL days so selling it was probably the best thing. And there was another potential buyer in the Speedway, but I don’t think it was NASCAR. But TG looks like a genius for selling when he did.

Q: In your Monday article you had a quote from Bobby Rahal stating “I’ve said all along, thank God we’ve got Roger, and if he hadn’t come up with doubleheaders, we’d have lost some sponsors along the way.” I’ll raise one more thought for the racing public to chew on: imagine if this season played out the way it has (COVID-19) under the leadership of the Hulman-George family? No one likes what is going on. But the racing that we have had has been as good as always, with Road America really carrying the load for some unbelievable racing. But could you imagine if Roger Penske had not purchased IMS and IndyCar? The coffin would have been in the ground and the last nail hammered in.

Brandon Stevens, California

RM: I’m not sure anyone but R.P. could have kept this thing going (or had the passion to keep it going), and I think everyone is very appreciative that T.G. sold it to The Captain.

MX-5 Cup | Round 12 – VIR

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