Q: Well, we are two races in, so I guess it is time to start talking about Silly Season. Something has been wrong with the No. 27 team since last year. Rossi’s driving hasn’t declined, and Andretti Autosport is undoubtedly giving him the best, but something just isn’t meshing there. I think something radical needs to change with either engineering/leadership or with Rossi moving on. I remember you writing that Penske was sniffing around when Rossi and Andretti were negotiating a new contract. What do you think?
RM: I think it’s way too early to get excited about driver changes, and Rossi was on the front row at Barber and got tangled up with Graham last Sunday fighting for sixth. It’s a new world, brother — like I told you in the pre-season story, the youth movement is taking over. But don’t count out Rossi. I saw Michael and Rob Edwards having what appeared to be some heated words in the pits, so frustration rules right now around the No. 27 car.
Q: It’s great that NBC is putting more races on the network, but it’s not so great that whatever is not on the network seems to be very spotty. It is Sunday morning, before the St. Pete race. To this point, I have seen no reference to IndyCar qualifying (searches on Xfinity and the Peacock Premium app yielded nothing). Peacock only had last week’s race to view – nothing on this week’s race. No practice. No qualifying. For hardcore fans, this is very distressing. That qualifying especially was not streamed live on Peacock or shown on NBCSN is really a shame. But further, it’s not even available to me after the fact. I have no way to see yesterday’s qualifying. Do you know if this was a universal problem, Robin, or am I just a victim of my local Comcast network?
RM: I pay $5 a month for Peacock and watched both practice sessions and qualifying on Friday and Saturday (and qualifying was re-played Saturday night at 10 p.m. on NBCSN). Plus there was a 30-minute pre-race show Sunday on NBC that broke down qualifying so I’m perplexed at where you live and what service you have.
Q: As much as I love watching the IndyCar races, one thing I always looked forward to was watching you! Now I feel like something is missing. Use to see you racing around the paddock interviewing or joking with everyone. Who do I get now? Rutledge Wood interviewing kids! I can do that in my living room with all of my kids! So tell me, will we ever see your return?
Jim in LA
RM: Thanks Jim, nice to be missed, but I can’t really move around very well and Indy will be the only races I go to this season, so NBC is kindly going to let me do some essays like it did in 2020.
Q: I read the recent article regarding the ticket allowance for the 500. Have you heard if the Speedway will allow fans in for practice and qualifying?
Joel Holland, Urbana, OH
RM: Absolutely, $15 for practice and $20 for qualifying.
Q: I read that the infield will be closed at IMS. Why not let anyone who’s been vaccinated into the infield? Bring your card for gate admission.
RM: All I can say is that IMS is trying to control the environment and obviously feels the infield invites people on top of each other. But I can’t answer your question.
Q: I know race fans (especially IndyCar fans) reserve the right to bitch about anything and everything. But after the year we just had, I wish people could be grateful for small victories as we get to resume watching races in person in 2021. Case in point: The small-minded commenters on the recent Indy 500 attendance plan story. You can whine all you want about how you think things should be, but the bottom line is this: Get a shot – go to the race. Don’t get a shot – stay home and watch it on TV. Pretty simple.
Roger Penske and IndyCar moved heaven and earth to have a 2020 season that probably didn’t make them a dime. So how about we be part of the solution and be happy with racetracks opening back up again, even if it isn’t quite as fast or convenient or as full-capacity as some would like? I was happy to get my racing fix via NBC Gold and Dirtvision last year, and am chomping at the bit to get back to Knoxville for some live action. But I’m grateful for what I could get last year, and if a free COVID shot or two is my ticket back to normal, all I can say is better living through chemistry. Are race fans ever satisfied?
JQ, Des Moines, IA
RM: I’m convinced you could take some fans to the track (for free), sit them behind the pits (with a free lunch) and give them credentials to be on the grid before the race and they would bitch about their seats, the sun being in their eyes or the fact they couldn’t get Scott Dixon’s autograph as he was being buckled into his car. Indy will likely have the largest sporting crowd of 2021 and, no it’s not perfect, but it’s a lot better than a year ago.
Q: Sitting here watching the St. Pete race, fully vaccinated with confirmed seats for my 46th 500. Watching St. Pete, I am really impressed with the ad campaign that Carvana is putting into IndyCar. I know, cue the J.J. haters because he is in all of them, but it’s impressive to see them go all-in on IndyCar.
We have heard that Carb Day will be open to fans with a $25 ticket. Now, with the Freedom 100 gone (which is a shame because it was always a fantastic race!), pit stop competition canceled, concert canceled, we are essentially paying $25 for a one-hour practice. Now, I don’t mind paying R.P. a few extra bucks, because I’m sure it is needed, but have you heard anything about any more track activities being added? Maybe still allow the vintage cars to run? I think it will be a hard sell to bring in paying fans in for so little activity (but we’ll still go, dammit…). What say you?
D. Thomas, Tell City, IN
RM: I’m pretty sure practice has been increased to two hours, but no disagreement – a great day has been reduced to what it used to be prior to the pit stop competition. The Lights race is perplexing because not only was it always an amazing race, teams could get sponsorship.