Robin Miller's Mailbag for September 16, presented by Honda Racing / HPD

Illustration by Paul Laguette

Robin Miller's Mailbag for September 16, presented by Honda Racing / HPD

Insights & Analysis

Robin Miller's Mailbag for September 16, presented by Honda Racing / HPD

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Q: What is your thinking the impact of J.J.’s participation have on attendance, TV ratings and acquiring new fans to IndyCar?

Mike W., Birmingham, AL

RM: If they pull it off, it could certainly get some new eyeballs for the first few races, but then I think it depend on how he runs. People aren’t going to rush to the TV to watch him run 15th, but I do think he could help the Indy 500 rating if he chose to try it next May.

Q: Sergio Perez is leaving Racing Point at the end of the season. Since there are very few F1 seats available, do you see any scenario where Sergio, and his considerable backing, finds his way to IndyCar?

Josh N.

RM: Zak Brown has said he is interested in talking to Perez about IndyCar for 2021. If it happened, along with Pato’s ascension, a race in Mexico City is a no-brainer.

Q: With Bubba Wallace announcing that he’s not returning to Petty and the No. 43 car, do you think there is any interest either from him or from anyone in IndyCar to bring him over?

Mark, Orlando, FL

RM: I can’t imagine him changing career paths, and I’ve never heard anyone mention him in the IndyCar paddock.

Q: With what happened to Seabass and then Hinch followed by this week’s announcement that Racing Point (Aston Martin in 2021) tore up Sergio Perez’s three-year contract to bring on Vettel, are driver’s contracts worth anything?

Dick & Sue Hildebrand

RM: Contracts are made to be broken. In just about every situation, the driver kicked to the curb gets some kind of compensation but has to take a vow not to badmouth his former owners.

Whatever Wallace does next year will probably involve him driving something pretty similar to what he’s racing now. John Harrelson/Motorsport Images

Q: I see you’re getting more questions about VIR. I asked two years ago about and you said I was nuts. They’d need to add sand traps for IndyCar. If they did, it would be as safe as Mid-Ohio and safer than Road Atlanta. People can stay in Danville, Virginia, about 30 minutes away. VIR could easily add more camping on site. I think it’s incredible you said no way IndyCar could ever race there when you admit you’ve never been there. Ultimately, whether they’re interested in IndyCar is another story… they do a ton of Michelin and BMW consumer testing there.

Steve Cox

RM: Are you sure I didn’t use the term “squirrely” instead of nuts? That doesn’t sound like me. As for the fact I’ve never been to VIR, it’s got no relevance because I’ve asked IndyCar officials and various drivers about the chances and they said quite a bit of work and pricey. That’s how my opinion was formed. So how does VIR afford IndyCar? Does it even want IndyCar? Does IndyCar want two races in Virginia? I’ve never seen any signs from either side that this is a potential marriage.

Q: Last week’s Mailbag got me wondering about two of my favorite tracks from the past. What led to the demise of Cleveland and Michigan races? Being an IndyCar fan from the ’50s, I should know, but old age wipes out a lot. Both were great places to watch a race. For years, Michigan was a b**** to get to, but pretty sure that finally got fixed by making route 12 one-way on race days. Thanks for the memory refresher.

Dave Seaton, Indy

RM: As long as Cleveland had a good title sponsor it was booming, but by the Champ Car days it had lost its momentum and that community awareness and support it had in the CART days. Mike Lanigan tried but threw in the towel when he couldn’t get any sponsorship. MIS was the victim of The Split. Check out the crowd in 1995 when Scott Pruett passed Al Unser Jr. on the last lap (75,000) and it was still healthy when Greg Moore beat Zanardi and Vasser in 1998. But when the IRL took over in 2002 attendance began dropping, and after Tony George put open wheel back under one roof in 2008, neither side wanted to continue to the best of my recollection.

Q: I have to start off by saying I am a huge IndyCar fan, watch all the races, have attended racers, regular on RACER.com, etc. I feel the need to say that because my question is, why? Why would anyone decide to go IndyCar racing — do owners actually make any money from racing? I am talking big money, that is a worth a return on their time/investment. I am trying to figure this out because it seems like there are only about 800,000 or so die-hard IndyCar fans out there and the TV ratings are not great, so it just seems crazy to put so much into something if you are not seeing a return. I am glad they choose to do it because I love the sport.

Steve R.

RM: That is certainly a fair question and one I often ask, but you’ve got former racers like Rahal, Andretti, Vasser, Ganassi, Shank, Schmidt and Coyne, and it’s their passion. I think Dale makes money, and of course, in the big money days of Honda, Toyota and Mercedes and going public, I am fairly sure the CART boys did just fine. It is much tougher today and the purses are pathetic, so it’s all about funding. If you can assemble enough sponsors to break even, then that must seem like being in the black. And Andretti and Ganassi got sweetheart engine deals, and I imagine R.P. is the same with General Motors.

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