Robin Miller’s Mailbag for April 14, presented by Honda Racing / HPD

Robin Miller’s Mailbag for April 14, presented by Honda Racing / HPD


Robin Miller’s Mailbag for April 14, presented by Honda Racing / HPD


Q: It seems like half of the questions in the Mailbag are complaints about why the sport is not like it used to be, or suggestions about bringing back this or that from the past in order to fix things. Motorsport is and has always been about innovation. Formula 1 is still massively popular outside the U.S., even when the racing isn’t very good, because people love the idea of seeing the most advanced race cars. It seems to me that if we want to expand the popularity of IndyCar (or any racing series), then we need to be forward-looking, not backwards-looking. We need to be grabbing young fans and not going out of our way to please the old ones. Thoughts?

John B., Little Elm, TX

RM: Agreed, but do we really think young people care about cars or innovation, let alone racing? I don’t think they do, certainly not enough of them who balk at driving a passenger car. There is no doubt that IndyCar lost a lot of luster with car and tech magazines and gearheads when everything went spec, but I don’t see it ever coming back. IndyCar’s assets are its drivers and the good racing, but right now that’s not enough to drive the TV ratings.

Q: It seems like every week there is at least one question regarding the long-term viability of IndyCar. That issue is obviously on the minds of many fans. We deal with a relatively short season, there always seems to be the question of will there be enough races, and of course the matter of attendance. How can the issue of viability and growth be put it to rest? I know we hope Mr. Penske can get it done, but it would be nice if fans knew there was a plan and timetable like most businesses have. As it stands now, there always a question of a race or two that are in doubt. We need assurance of long-term growth and success.

Jim Riddle, Highlands, NC

RM: I think Jay Frye’s five-year plan has worked out quite well and maybe that’s why we’ll have 23-26 cars at every race. I imagine R.P. has a long-range plan for marketing and promoting, but it’s not going to happen overnight. Racing is a volatile business where sponsors and promoters can come and go in a heartbeat, so not sure how you can assure much of anything except year-to-year. And because the rules package is set and teams know what’s coming, at least there is stability in the competition.

Q: Quite a few people who write to the Mailbag complain about gimmicks that the sanctioning bodies like NASCAR use to keep or increase TV viewership. Almost everything broadcast on TV has to be entertaining: when the racing is boring the announcers in the TV booth try to be entertaining, and the pit reporters keep providing you with interesting tidbits so you don’t change channels. If automobile racing, or any other type of programming, didn’t keep your eyes on the TV, it would disappear in a second. The rules for all series are constantly changing to keep the racing close and exciting for TV.

Watching a race on TV not even close to actually going to a race where you can see the cars, hear the sounds and enjoy being outside without the constant information overload that comes from the TV. It can be enjoyable even if it is not close racing. You might say, “That was a great race,” after watching it on TV, but after attending a race you can drive home and say, “Wow, I had a great day.” Agree?

Michael Oliver, Miami Beach, FL

RM: Absolutely. Television does a good job but it can’t replace the sights, smells and sounds of being at the track. It’s what hooked most of us and what IndyCar needs most at some of its venues. But the people that attend Road America, Long Beach, Mid-Ohio and Gateway always talk about the “great experience” of the whole weekend.

Q: Of all the IndyCar liveries that have been released for 2021, which one would be your favorite that you have seen? Mine would have to be Conor Daly’s ECR B2 Stealth Bomber livery. Absolutely stunning.

Eric, Mequon, WI

RM: It’s very cool, but I guess I’m leaning towards A.J.’s throwback paint job on J.R. Hildebrand’s car and Montoya’s tribute to Peter Revson.

It’s 1971 all over again. SmallIndyCar

Q: Any bets that A.J. will go retro and chase JR Hildebrand around Gasoline Alley with scissors, threatening to cut JR’s hair like A.J. did to the Team Lotus crew in the ’60s?

Dave S.

RM: Naw, J.R. is smart, his hair was tucked in a bun at the test and he was wearing a hat. He teaches at Stanford for a reason. And the long-haired mechanic who got thrown into a barber’s chair on the main straightaway at IMS the morning of Pole Day in 1967 was my pal Eamon “Chalkie” Fullalove — the wing commander and scourge of Facebook. Most of his hair is gone now.

Q: Will we ever see Carlos Munoz again as a driver in the Indianapolis 500?

Steve Sicklick, West Hartford, CT

RM: I imagine it depends on whether his father wants to fund him again or he can find a sponsor.

Q: Now that Lime Rock is under new ownership, is an IndyCar date there ever a possibility? It is in a great market, now that Pocono has gone away.

Mark Reid

RM: Not unless they lengthen the track and spend a few million on making it suitable and safe for an Indy car and why would they? It’s a great sports car track, that’s its heritage and maybe if P.L. Newman were still alive he’d push for an IndyCar race because he loved the place but I just don’t see it.

Q: If Toronto is a no-go this year where do you think the most logical replacement will be? Are there any hot rumors? Will another track become a doubleheader? Do you think a track in the Northeast will jump in such as Loudon or The Glen or Pocono or even Montreal?

Rick S.

RM: I have no knowledge, but I would assume it would be like last year and maybe Road America or Mid-Ohio or Gateway host a twin bill. Keep it simple, plus no track wants to get a race thrown at them cold turkey with no time to promote.