Q: Hey Robin, I hope you’re feeling well and keeping up the good fight. A lot of bellyaching about the schedule. As a 60-year-old fan living through the golden years, I have a lot of hope for the future for IndyCar. I know ovals were the history but they are dead, and most times not good racing. I can only stand the Indy 500. Road and street courses are the future, and are the best racing. That’s why even NASCAR is adding road races. Car racing should be driving fast and slow, turning left and right. I live in NYC and go to Indy every year (20 years now) and drive to every track I can. Hopefully Roger can get IndyCar back to Watkins Glen with IMSA. What I say to the fans is, get out and support this sport. Bring family, bring friends. It is the best racing out there right now. The future is bright. Penske is a genius, and thank God for him. The young drivers are great – Herta, VeeKay, O’Ward, Askew, Ferrucci. You just have to love where we are and where we are going. Agree?
RM: NASCAR dropping ovals for road courses tells you all you need to know about the fate of turning left. In CART’s heydays you had seven ovals, seven road courses and seven street circuits, and it gave Bernie and the France family pause for thought because it was the most interesting and diverse series in the world. Thanks to this Dallara chassis, the rulebook and all the young talent IndyCar can still lay claim to putting on the best racing of the Big 3, and it’s still got the most diversity. If anyone can do a deal with IMSA at The Glen it’s The Captain, and we’d all love to see it.
Q: My teenage son and I had a great time finally seeing some racing in person earlier this month at IMS! The addition of the sports cars Saturday and 8-hour endurance race Sunday made the whole weekend very entertaining. In addition, we were able to have breakfast Sunday before the race at the greatest diner in America, Charlie Brown’s pancake and steakhouse in Speedway. As racing seems to be more and more a niche sport competing for fans and viewers, can we expect to see more of this type of these schedules (IndyCar, sports/endurance racing) in the future? We were even more willing to drive two hours from Louisville to watch a full day of racing as opposed to a single event. Both of us really enjoyed the mix of cars and racing we were able to see.
Josh and Jonah Meier, Louisville, KY
RM: The recent sports car/IndyCar weekend was a result of the pandemic, IndyCar needing to add races and the sports cars already on the IMS schedule. The IMSA/IndyCar twin bills at Long Beach and Detroit are always entertaining so hopefully that coupling could evolve in the next few years (ED: IMSA and IndyCar will race on consecutive weekends in Detroit in 2021 rather than sharing the bill), and it always seems like people react as you and your son did getting to watch two different disciplines. Pretty certain the sports car and IndyCar fans are of the same ilk. And racing’s a niche sport but when you think about how RACER.com’s three biggest areas of audience growth in 2020 have been 18-24, 25-34 and females, there’s hope.
Q: “You believed in Santa Claus until you were 11”? Got news for you. I still believe (I’m 71) because he brings me the Indy 500 every year since 1959. On a serious note, could the cool temps at the Harvest GP helped the Firestone tires make better racing than previous GPs?
Dave Seaton, Indy
RM: Let’s ask Cara Adams, the director of race tire engineering and production for Bridgestone Americas. “To a certain point, most tire compounds perform better in cooler temperatures. We have our 50 degree ambient and track rule to help with the lower limit. Certain harder, more durable compounds, like what we would run at Road America or Watkins Glen, may take a little bit more heat input to be in the optimal based on the type of compound and the thickness of the tread.”
Q: Maybe I see things differently, but it almost makes me want to rip my own eyes out when I see the amount of people whining and complaining about the 2021 IndyCar Schedule. The fact that IndyCar survived a global pandemic isn’t enough for them? That fact that some teams (RLL, Penske, Meyer Shank etc) may expand in 2021 isn’t enough? The fact that Veekay, O’Ward and Herta are three of the brightest young stars in a long time isn’t enough? In my opinion, this series is some of the best racing we have to watch right now in the entire world. The lack of ovals isn’t ideal, but I’d much rather be happy in life with what I do have, than with what I don’t have or could have. Do you get many letters agreeing with me?
Eric, Mequon, WI
RM: Well-stated Eric, and yes, the majority of the mail after the first wave of whiners was all positive because I think people realize IndyCar made the best of a really tough situation and pulled it off in 2020.
Q: First, let me say I’m in agreement with a statement made in October 7th’s Mailbag that some fans are impossible to please, and that your old adage that some open-wheel fans love to bitch for the sake of it seems depressingly true. For what it’s worth, I think Roger Penske’s hand at IndyCar’s tiller is the best thing the sport could possibly have, especially in the present circumstances. I likewise understand that the schedule’s imperfections are a result of economic realities – I went to Fontana the last two years it ran, and Phoenix all three years during its most recent turn; with the audience numbers present, it’d be a tough sell for me to keep going, even if the racing proved excellent.
That said, it does look bleak, and as exciting as that race in Nashville looks to be, IndyCar looks like it’s going to turn into a (much) more competitive American F1 clone if it keeps hemorrhaging ovals. What do you think it’s going to take to stop the bleeding? (Aside, perhaps, from not having so much empty track time?) Likewise, did I miss something? While the Indy road course seems a logical place for a NASCAR/IndyCar doubleheader, I thought one of the prime movers of that discussion was an effort to boost oval attendance. I do hope that particular point hasn’t been forgotten.
Garrett from Reno
RM: I’m not sure there’s any tourniquet big enough because it’s not just a trend – it’s a reality that even NASCAR is giving up on ovals. But there is still a chance for a stock car/IndyCar twin-bill down the road on NBC if the right track and date can be located. How about the Wednesday night of baseball’s All-Star week at Gateway? Or Kentucky?