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 love the concept of the Nashville street course, but if there’s an accident, at the anticipated high speeds, what safety measures are in place to keep an IndyCar from flying off the Gateway Boulevard/Korean Veterans Memorial Bridge?
Rob Peterson, Rochester, NY
RM: Let’s let track designer Tony Cotman answer. “While the straights are a reasonable length, the portion over the water is only 500 feet. For example, the final 2,000 feet of the straight from Turn1 – Turn 7 is not over water.”
Q: Any idea as to the plan for safety over the river? Will there be dive teams in the water? Is that even a legitimate fear to have – a car ending up in the water? Obviously, the catch fencing is designed to keep cars within the track, but those are two long, fast straights and this is open-wheel racing, after all.
BL in Wisconsin
RM: Like all circuits where water is present precautions for rescue will be taken. In this case the fire department has an ALS-equipped boat, which will be used along with additional divers.
Q: All in favor of expanding the IndyCar schedule, and especially going back to Nashville. One simple question: how in the world is it safe to race IndyCars across a truss bridge that spans a river?
RM: As Cotman pointed out, the cars are only over water for a short period of time and there will be provisions for water rescue in the event it’s needed. He’s also a member of the FIA Circuit Committee, so safety is always paramount whenever IndyCar adds a new track, and I’m sure Nashville will be no exception.
Q: Not to be a Debbie Downer, but on a scale from Baltimore to Boston, what’s the odds Nashville happens?
Shawn Lee, Maryland
RM: Based on the investors, location and cooperation from the city, I think it’s got a bright future.
Q: I’m very excited for the Music City GP. The track looks really wild, and it’s a great city for the series. Plus, the locals interviewed are dying for a big event. Who knows about 2021 at this point, though by ’22 I hope to fly out there. Without spoiling your off-season fodder, I have to figure the chances of COTA and Richmond returning to the schedule are iffy. With that being the case, what’s the likelihood of another Road America double and Indy GP being run twice (prior to 500 and during Brickyard)?
Greg in NJ
RM: Richmond has a three-year deal and is very much in play for 2021. COTA isn’t dead yet, and IndyCar officials are working to see if it can be on the schedule for 2021
Q: In reading several of your responses, it looks to me as though you feel the future of IndyCar is questionable. You continue to say purses are bad, teams are going to lose sponsorships, it’s hard to attract crowds. What the heck is going to happen?
Jim Riddle, Highlands, NC
RM: I fear the immediate future of all motorsports is iffy just because of the pandemic, companies losing money and laying off employees, so justifying sponsorship of a race car is going to be difficult And, other than Gateway, attracting new fans is hard, but old standbys like Long Beach, Road America and Mid-Ohio keep carrying the flag. But the fact at least 23 cars are on the grid for most IndyCar races is certainly encouraging, if not shocking.
Q: I’m really confused. Earlier in the year when Roger Penske bought the Speedway and the series, you were very optimistic about the future of IndyCar. But last week this was your response to one reader’s question… television ratings drive sponsorship so that’s why NASCAR is on another plateau, and I’m really concerned about IndyCar and 2021. So why are you now concerned about IndyCar and 2021 and what changed your mind so quickly?
Ron, Portland, OR
RM: When The Captain bought the Speedway and IndyCar, the economy was healthy and so was the country. Obviously, that’s all changed and nobody is sure when COVID will subside enough to resume normal life, but motorsports isn’t a necessity – it’s a luxury that few people or companies can afford right now. I’m concerned that between low TV ratings and the malaise of corporate America that some IndyCar teams will have trouble holding onto their current sponsor or finding a new one. I hope it’s not true, but I’m just being realistic. And I can promise you that without Roger Penske we would not have had an IndyCar season, or the 104th Indianapolis 500, or any chance at survival.
Q: A few years back F1 made plans to run a race in Weehawken, New Jersey. Aside from having the west side of Manhattan as a backdrop, the street course had a neat run up the Hudson Palisades, then back down to run along the Hudson River. What ever happened to that race, and wouldn’t it be cool to have IndyCar run on that circuit?
Bill Phypers, Brewster, NY
RM: It died in 2013 before it got started, and again in 2017 when Lights were proposed, so I’d say unless someone came to R.P. with a sweetheart deal, it’s still dead.