Robin Miller’s Mailbag for April 21, presented by Honda Racing / HPD

Robin Miller’s Mailbag for April 21, presented by Honda Racing / HPD


Robin Miller’s Mailbag for April 21, presented by Honda Racing / HPD


Q: I’d really like to pull the trigger and get tickets for me and the kids for the Indy 500, however since it will be a long drive from Florida and there doesn’t seem to be a firm decision on spectator capacity, I’m hesitant. Can you shine some light on how and when the crowd size decision by RP, Boles and the governor will be made? I would love to go again (daughters first 500!) but I am wary of making travel plans and then not being able to attend because a pre-determined capacity number.

Tim, Naples, FL

RM: I don’t blame you, but I’m told that IMS will make an official announcement within the next week.

Q: RACER recently had an article indicating that Canada may have some international border crossing limitations due to COVID. If the Toronto IndyCar race is in jeopardy, I propose that Sonoma be the replacement.

I recall that the racers and their teams wanted to attack the Corkscrew at Laguna Seca. The teams may have also wanted to have sponsor-related functions in the Monterey area after years of schmoozing in the Napa-Sonoma area. California continues to have a strong car culture and will certainly support my proposal if the California IndyCar dates are widely separated. When it comes to COVID separation for fans, viewing large areas of the track at the same time, seating and grandstand facilities, Sonoma is much better than Laguna Seca. A race at Sonoma and Laguna Seca should make both the teams and the fan’s happy! Do you think that The Captain might support racing at Sonoma and Monterey?

Bill in CA

RM: First off, attendance at Sonoma was never very good, kinda like a glorified tire test, and that’s always embarrassing for the season finale. But it wasn’t the track’s fault, they promoted the IndyCar race, it’s just that not enough people care. So to race there again you need a good argument for the promoter, and with all due respect, I don’t see one. It was kind of a mutual decision to part ways, and Laguna’s 2019 crowd was a pleasant surprise. And Long Beach will be a perfect place to end the season because it has tradition and atmosphere. Do I think R.P. would consider Sonoma? Not a chance. Making Road America, Gateway or Mid-Ohio a doubleheader is much easier and affordable.

Q: You have mentioned several times that Penske buying IMS and the IndyCar series saved the series from folding. That got me to thinking about what would happen to the Indy 500 if the series did fold. I’m certain the 500 would survive, but in what form? Would the rules be opened up to attract a larger variety of participants and cars/engines, or would the rules become more restrictive to try to lower costs even further? Would the purse increase by using the funds that now support the series? What do you think?

Jack, Beavercreek, OH

RM: I don’t know how to answer that question Jack, but I don’t want to find out. People have always said you could run garden tractors and draw 100,000 people at IMS, but you’ve watched the NASCAR and F1 attendance dwindle so I’m not sure the Indy 500 could ever work if it wasn’t an IndyCar event.

And so begins five years of Mailbag letters asking when Sonoma will return to the schedule. Michael Levitt/Motorsport Images

Q: One of the things that hurts Indy is the road course taking over the infield. When we were much younger we could park, party and no matter which way you roamed, you found the racetrack and had a great view. As we matured, we could park, relax, cook, commiserate with whomever we were around, get to our seats and see a great race. After the race, while 300,000 people were leaving, we could repeat the morning ritual for a few hours, then leave after the crowd had gone, as Indiana’s finest guided us out the gates. It was $20 a person for entry, and our ticket gave us the run of the place all day. We were close to the action and a big part of the show. Indy needs to get the fans up close before and after the race.

Drivers need to be very accessible after the racing is over. King Richard stayed until every autograph request was signed. TV promotion is the old way; being available for a quick selfie with the fans after racing, practice or qualifying will bring a lot more young people into the sport. Open the gates and let the fans mingle with the drivers after the race so everyone’s social media accounts show how cool it is. Free airtime, massive distribution, great publicity. Up close and personal at no cost and great distribution. The extra time spent with the fans will pay huge dividends. It makes everyone part of the show.

Jack DeVience, Valparaiso, IN

RM: When Tony George said he was getting rid of the Snake Pit in 1989 I cautioned him that his grandfather liked the thought of kids getting into the race at a cheap price and then growing up and becoming ticket holders. Has it hurt the Indy 500? Tough to say. The spectator mounds are certainly better vantage points than up against the infield fence and the golf course and parking have limited accessibility, so it’s probably cost IMS a couple thousand people on race day. I don’t count the disco in Turn 3 as race fans, but it’s still a cash cow with 220,000 spectators. Sadly R.P. didn’t make anything in 2020 so hopefully he can recoup some of those losses next month. But the IndyCar drivers are pretty good about engaging with fans after the race before heading to their motorhomes.

Q: Regarding Paul Tracy’s removal from many IndyCar event broadcasts. After watching Barber, are you kidding me? The insights PT has on the overall history of IndyCar and his own experiences are invaluable and make it much more interesting for the audience. I appreciate TBell and Diffey, but give me a break, no way they were ever in the trenches like P.T. Please have a word with those clowns at NBC and tell them we need more P.T, not less.

Gary, Anza, CA

RM: I’m the one who suggested P.T. to NBC so obviously I think a lot of him, and he’s refreshing among today’s TV analysts. But NBC has cut back in many areas and I think the plan may be two announcers in the booth and one or two pit reporters at most races except for the Indy 500. I’ve already had over 100 emails and texts about P.T. and the fans aren’t happy, but it’s business — nothing personal.