Robin Miller's Mailbag for September 23, presented by Honda Racing / HPD

Illustration by Paul Laguette

Robin Miller's Mailbag for September 23, presented by Honda Racing / HPD

Insights & Analysis

Robin Miller's Mailbag for September 23, presented by Honda Racing / HPD

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Q: Try making sense of the Nielsen numbers for the Indy 500. Is it the starting time, or is it just destined to be one of many niche sports for viewers to choose from? Is lighting up IMS the expensive answer to more viewers for the 500? When will NBC start hinting toward nighttime racing? I doubt if you could budge NASCAR from its traditional Sunday 600 time slot. The first two, maybe three years of dazzling night racing would surely increase viewership. What then? Could the Speedway keep it fresh? Is the midday start so traditional, so family oriented so rich with memories, to not allow a late start?

Phil Wolski

RM: IndyCar is a niche sport and I’m not sure a night race moves the needle. IMS has maintained that lights are way too expensive and R.P. is a traditionalist, so I imagine noon is always the target. The late start this year certainly didn’t help the ratings, and I’m still puzzled at why they were so low since NBA numbers are way down and the golf tourney that day was a runaway. I’m afraid people just don’t care anymore – not enough of them, anyway.

Q: With 15 laps to go at Mid Ohio on Saturday, NBCSN put up a graphic showing the amount of Push-to-Pass remaining for each driver. Some drivers had very little left while others had over half of it left. Marco had 160 seconds left, which was the most of any driver. Do drivers get to carry over some or all of their unused P2P to the next race? Have you ever heard of a driver complaining that their P2P button didn’t work? Does P2P work during practice sessions so that drivers can experiment with the best places to use it? Have you ever heard anyone complain that someone found a way to ‘hack’ the P2P and somehow get extra time or get it to work during qualifying?

St. Pete IndyCar fan

RM: Nobody is allowed any carryover, and P2P is allowed in practice. Never heard of anyone hacking it or any malfunctions.

Q: What happened with Jon Beekuis and NBC? I always enjoyed his pit reporting.

Steve F. KC, MO

RM: We all did, but he was a victim of the salary cap. NBC has full-timers under contract like Marty Snider, Kelli Stavast and Dave Burns, while Kevin Lee and Dillon Welch are contract players. For five months, while FOX has NASCAR, that NASCAR trio needs something to do, so Marty/Kelly/Dave go to IndyCar. And with Hinch added to the mix, there was just no place for Beekhuis. Plus NBC cut back to two pit reporters except for the Indy 500. But nobody was better at sizing up strategy than Jon.

P2P resets at the checker, regardless of how much a driver might have left. Barry Cantrell/Motorsport Images

Q: What was the worst IndyCar Series race for 2020, and what is the worst IndyCar Series race that you have ever been to?

Chris Fiegler, Latham, NY

RM: Texas and Gateway No. 2 were forgettable, and the 1994 Michigan 500 where Scott Goodyear lapped the field and only six cars finished.

Q: I recently came across a video about USAC dropping the ball in the ’70s with losing Marlboro sponsorship for the series by allowing Viceroy to sponsor a team. I was unaware of this. I saw during the Bobby Unser roast that you didn’t hold back on your disdain for USAC’s management. I know it’s likely too large of a list to lay out every screw-up of theirs in a short answer. But, what are some of the biggest missteps made by USAC that come to mind?

Andrew Howard

RM: Losing Marlboro. Taking the dirt tracks out of the National Championship schedule. Banning rear-engine sprint cars.

Q: I saw a great article on Jim Hurtubise. I was not familiar with his story and didn’t know he’s from Western New York, but it was an education of the rise and ultimate demise of Jim. I can see now how he drove for A.J. Foyt. Will Jim receive any additional recognition from any additional halls of fame, or is he doomed to be remembered from 1978?

Rob, Buffalo, NY

RM: A.J., Parnelli and Herk were the standards in the early ’60s before Jim got burned at Milwaukee in 1964. He carried the torch for the front-engine roadster for the next 15 years and ended up being thrown out of IMS in 1978 after his protest in qualifying. But if you saw him run a sprinter or heard the roar of the crowd when he led the opening lap at Indy in the Novi, or watched the reception every time he rolled into pit lane, you know he sold as many tickets as anyone. He belongs in the IMS Hall of Fame, and I’m hoping Roger Penske will get him in there.

Q: Recently, I read for the first time about the Hawaiian Super Prix and it sounded a lot like how you described the Boston GP – all talk and no substance. I wondered what your thoughts were about it, both at the time and now?

Jordan, Warwickshire, UK

RM: CART was rolling along in the late ’90s so when this $10 million ($5 million to the winner), season-ending race was announced and Mario was at the press conference I think we were all hopeful. I think we all questioned where the money was going to come from for Hawaii, and of course, it was all hat and no cattle. A black eye for CART, for sure.

Q: I had to chuckle at your response to my question regarding Larry “Mr. First In Line” Bisceglia in Miller’s Mailbag a few weeks ago and that you aren’t a member of the Indianapolis 500 Oldtimers’ Club. It brought to mind a quote by Groucho Marx: “I don’t want to belong to any club that will accept people like me as a member.” That sounds like something you would say. No interest? Keep up the good work and take care of yourself!

Lawrence Stoen, Palm Beach Gardens

RM: For whatever reason I never joined the Racing Writers Association or any club except USAC (because you had to if you wanted to race), but there are a lot of cool guys in the OldTimers Club, and I enjoy hearing their stories whenever our paths cross.

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