Q: It seems to me that NASCAR is trying to stifle IndyCar at some tracks. I know Iowa was said to be losing money, but it’s a good track for IndyCar and the only option was for Roger to buy the track? Then, IndyCar has a three-year contract with Richmond and I bought tickets, was very excited to go, and then the pandemic hit. So why not go this year and the next of the three-year contract? Then there is COTA. Again, a three-year contract, I believe, and the first race was probably the best race there ever. I get they didn’t make money, but with the good racing, maybe things could get better? Oh, wait, Super NASCAR can come in and save the track! Then there was supposed to be this whole “We’ll partner on some weekends” thing. What happened to that? I’m not a conspiracy kind of guy but NASCAR is no friend of IndyCar, and if I wonder why they get to play on hallowed ground when IndyCar isn’t even allowed in their sandbox?
RM: I think NASCAR is way too busy trying to keep its head above water to worry about sabotaging IndyCar, and Richmond was collateral damage. Iowa has been bleeding money for years and COTA saw a chance to make some money by replacing IndyCar with NASCAR, so that’s just business. The Brickyard is a big paycheck for IMS in the current TV contract, and we’ll see if a doubleheader with the two can be hosted by an oval in the next year or two. I’ll admit it does look like NASCAR might be ganging up on IndyCar, but I think it’s all about bottom lines.
Q: The 2021 schedule is bad, to say the least. And why? Because NASCAR pulled Richmond and Iowa, and stole COTA. Do you think it is a coincidence that IndyCar is stuck with its least diverse schedule as NASCAR announces its most diverse? I don’t think so. The France family used its power and money to take over sports car racing in the U.S. (Probably why IMSA won’t cooperate on any joint dates.) How soon will the Indy 500 be like Le Mans, in that it is a standalone race [ED: The WEC might disagree with that], with a loose association with NASCAR’S open-wheel series?
RM: I know it looks suspicious and it’s not that I trust NASCAR but I truly think all three instances are more about business than duplicity. But of course I believed in Santa Claus until I was 11.
Q: I just viewed the 2021 IndyCar schedule. The Richmond race was left off of it. (The 2020 Richmond race was cancelled because of the COVID-19 pandemic.) Do you know why Richmond was left off of the schedule? Any chance that it could still be added?
Ron Alper, Norfolk, VA
RM: It wasn’t left off, it was dropped by NASCAR and all we can assume is that the stock car powers got cold feet and were convinced it was going to be a financial loser even though it drew good crowds in the IRL days. No chance it will be added.
Q: Seriously, only three ovals and four oval races for 2021? Why not get rid of some of the doubleheader races and have an oval race at MIS, Chicagoland, Iowa, Pocono or Kentucky? Hell, race at all of them. IndyCar was founded on ovals and they are all going away. Pretty sad! Hopefully, in the real near future, Mr. Penske can wave his magic wand and get some of these tracks back.
Brian Lancaster, West Lafayette, IN
RM: Mr. Penske spent his own money to keep Texas and Iowa on the 2020 schedule, and if any of those tracks you mentioned are interested in hosting IndyCar again, they can find his number pretty easy. But he can’t make them take a race, and right now there’s not a big line to sign up ovals for IndyCar.
Q: Believing that IndyCar decision-makers read your Mailbag, I ask: Now that NASCAR has announced that it will not visit Chicagoland Speedway in 2021, does this open up an oval track opportunity for IndyCar? I attended IRL races there in the past. There are many IndyCar fans in this geographical area. (I am, however, concerned that NASCAR is trying to freeze out IndyCar by virtue of not renewing the race at Richmond for 2021.)
Rick in Lisle, IL
RM: Roger Penske said in a story I wrote earlier this week that Chicago and Kentucky might be an option someday, but probably not earlier than 2022.
Q: I know the 2021 schedule is out, but with NASCAR pulling out of Kentucky (and Chicagoland), do you see any possibility of them hosting an IndyCar date in 2022 or beyond? I know it’s most likely not realistic, but just wanted to hear your thoughts. Thank you for your continued insight and thoughts about IndyCar each and every week in the Mailbag.
Chris Howe, Upper Sandusky, OH
RM: I heard Chicago may get bulldozed, but Kentucky could certainly be a possibility down the road. Again, it’s all about sanction fees, title sponsors and putting in the promotional work to try and make it a success. I would imagine Kentucky might be calling R.P. sooner than later, and obviously it’s in the heart of IndyCar country. But it hasn’t shown any interest in IndyCar for a long time, so who knows?
Q: Can’t tell you how disappointed I am that Richmond never got a shot. Sadly, I doubt it would have pulled in anyone under the age of 35, or maybe 40 since it’s an oval race without an associated carnival. I’ve seen USAC/CART/IndyCar races at Ontario, Riverside, Fontana, Vegas, Phoenix, and Richmond, and all have come and gone from the schedule. I’ve been to Long Beach twice, but don’t like the sight lines for temporary circuits, (however the fist fight in the stands one year was entertaining). So what is an old oval fan supposed to do now? How many viable ovals are left in the U.S. that IndyCar can race on? Is there any hope for us old-timers?
Napalm Nick, Locust Grove, VA
RM: I went to all the Richmond races and I think there were 25,000 quite a few times, so it’s so disappointing IndyCar never got another chance after signing that three-year deal. I don’t honestly know how many viable ovals are out there, but it’s not like there’s a big push to get an IndyCar date. My advice? Just come to Indy next year.