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: So, what’s up with the Askew move? Is it about money? Because of Pato? It just all seems odd. I doubt Castroneves has a shot at a full-time seat, but isn’t Gil De Ferran involved?
Jim Doyle, Hoboken, NJ
RM: We only know what McLaren tells us in its press releases and that’s not much, but it appears to be payback for Askew’s story with the Associated Press about his health.
Q: I love reading how all of the “experts” write to you and want to go back to Michigan, Fontana and other oval tracks that were financial losers in the last few races they staged. I hate it that they aren’t on the schedule, but they were money losers. People love telling others how to spend their money without knowing a damn thing about business. These races cost money to run, tracks wake up every day and eat money – a lot of it – and track owners and promoters are like retailers, they purchase the rights to the race at one cost and sell tickets to offset that cost. If they do well, they make a profit. And that’s after debt service, promotion, employee support and all of the other costs of running the track and the actual event. It’s a huge risk.
But for all of the “experts” out there, there is one way to make sure we can go back to these tracks. Just become a promoter, or better yet, build your own oval track and put your money on the line. Let’s see how that works out. Do you ever get tired of all the complainers? For me, I’m just glad we have racing at all, given the situation we are in and have been in for the past 20 years. I’m thankful for Roger Penske, a guy who loves the sport and is putting his own money into the sport to help it survive.
A. Taylor, Dallas, TX
RM: I think what I grow weary of is the assumption from fans that IndyCar doesn’t want ovals, or that all they have to do is call up MIS, Kentucky or Chicago and we’re back in business. Even though an oval is cheaper to stage than a street race, it’s still a big number in today’s economy. Sanction fee, promotion and staffing makes it almost impossible to break even unless you have a great title sponsor, and they’re few and far between. Ovals are vanishing because nobody goes anymore, and nobody wants to take a chance they might start again.
Q: I’ve read with great interest all of the people who are outraged about the lack of ovals on the 2021 IndyCar schedule. I, too, am deeply disappointed to see ovals disappearing from the schedule, but I’m also a realist. My true passion for IndyCar racing was born when I was in my early 20s in the mid 1990s, when the concept of an all-oval track IndyCar series was launched. I attended at least one IndyCar race each season between 1997 and 2011, and again between 2013 and 2019. I’ve attended IndyCar races at Charlotte, Richmond, Dover, Orlando, Nazareth, Homestead, New Hampshire, Pocono, and even Watkins Glen and Mid-Ohio. Although I prefer IndyCars on oval tracks, I also enjoy road racing, and have attended a number of IMSA races as well.
My point is, I’m passionate about IndyCars racing on oval tracks. However, this is 2020, the world is still in the midst of a pandemic and I’m disappointed I was unable to attend any auto racing events this year. However, I’m thankful that racing was able to continue in the midst of the pandemic. I understand that the pandemic, and the economics of the sport in general, have led to a lack of ovals on the 2021 IndyCar schedule. And while I may be disappointed, I completely understand and I am happy the series was able to at least release a schedule for the new year. Although I do believe the schedule will go through some changes, I’m just keeping my fingers crossed there will be some racing to enjoy in 2021, on any type of track.
Will more oval tracks creep onto the IndyCar schedule over the next five to 10 years? Hopefully. But if they don’t, I’ll just be happy that racing is able to continue. Now, the death of the Brickyard 400, I can’t write such nice things about, as watching in person as Tony Stewart won his first race at IMS was a day I will never forget…
RM: First of all, thanks for traveling all over to support IndyCar. As for ovals, if NBC, NASCAR and IndyCar can agree on a track and a date, I still think a doubleheader is in play for the future. And maybe Kentucky could return some day, but I can’t see most of those old ovals ever coming back on the schedule.