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.
Quetions 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: This past weekend proved how NASCAR and IndyCar can benefit when they work together. So my proposal is, let’s do it twice. I like the road course weekend like it is, and it should stay that way in August. In May though, the Indy 500 obviously should stand alone on Memorial Day weekend. The weekend before, however, is a tough ticket sell and isn’t particularly ideal as there is very little going on, particularly on Sunday. As it sits, we have qualifying Saturday until 6:00 p.m. and then Sunday there’s the 90-minute last row shootout and 60-minute Fast 9 shootout.
What I would like to see is, Friday evening, let’s see a Truck race at IRP under the lights, Saturday have qualifying until 6:00 p.m., then an Xfinity race at 8:00 p.m. at IRP. Sunday, have the last row shootout from 10:30 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. and the Fast 9 from 12:30 p.m. to 1:30 p.m., then at 3:00 p.m., have a Cup race on the oval – give the fans more bang for their buck and sell weekend passes to see all the action. In turn the following weekend, have the 500 move forward to 11:00 a.m. and the 600 back to 6:00 p.m. to allow more drivers to do the double. Just make it two incredible weekends of racing for all the fans and drivers, and allow lots of opportunity for them to try a lot of different things too! I wondered your thoughts on this idea. Could it work?
Ben from Toronto
RM: Of course anything could work with the right promotion, and I like the more bang for your buck concept.
Q: I read with bemused eyes your recent comments about Indy ‘needing’ Kyle Larson and I couldn’t disagree more. IndyCar doesn’t ‘need’ Larson. They’d like to have him, but need him? No, no, no. What IndyCar needs is somebody who believes in promotion and can figure out a way to translate what they see into the future to attract fans. Larson doing a one-off only benefits Larson. The 500 is doing just fine without him.
Now, here’s something I’m really care about: How long will it be before Penske sells off the IndyCar series to NASCAR so they can use it as their “warm-up event” to their races? I mean, if this past weekend is any example, IndyCar was the perfect opening act for NASCAR — they sure treated IndyCar that way on the broadcast… Hell, A.J. Allmendinger and the rest of NASCAR sure treated his win (as they always do at IMS) at Indy like he won the 500. So why not let them control the series for their own benefit? Anyway, good to read your commentary again. Keep it up. Stay well.
Jake, Nostalgialand, USA
RM: Of course we’ll agree to disagree. Indy needs the best drivers in the world, and Larson would sell a ****-load of tickets. Your NASCAR question is intriguing because R.P. deals in bargains so I guess it’s just a matter of staying connected with NASCAR and moving on or letting them have a captive market. I honestly don’t know what R.P.’s long-term plans are, but I’m anxious to see them.
Q: One of the most amazing aspects of the weekend at IMS was hearing how many NASCAR drivers who were able to see an IndyCar in person for the first time, and vice versa with the IndyCar guys. Truly a coming together organized by Roger Penske, and glad that you could take it in, in person. On that subject, I did read that many Cup drivers were lamenting losing the IMS oval race, as many Indy Lights drivers did. Do you feel these are permanent changes? Why do you think Roger has made the Indy 500 the track’s only oval race?
Greg from Belleville, NJ
RM: Not necessarily, but Sunday’s crowd was larger than the last few Brickyards on the ovals and got a decent rating despite the length of running time, and NASCAR is very serious about being more than ovals. The Captain understands economics better than most of his competitors, so cutting back to one prestigious oval track race ramps up the energy and interest.
Q: Your column on the need for IndyCar to get Kyle Larson in the 500 next year was on target. This IndyCar series has missed so many good marketing opportunities over the years and this is one that should not be allowed to slip through the cracks. But I was surprised that in your extensive recounting of Larson’s biography, which went beyond his amazing skills with various cars on a variety of tracks, you did not mention his suspension from NASCAR for a remark that was in the least incredibly insensitive, and at worst vile and racist. By all accounts, he has done the right things to redeem himself and his reputation since then, but it remains on his, shall we say, permanent records and must be taken into account in any assessment of his career and its future prospects.
Michael Hill, Baltimore
RM: Kyle made a mistake, lost his ride and suffered a public beatdown but that’s not him, and Willy T. Ribbs came to his defense after listing to the tape and talking to Larson. We forgive and forget, and he learned a valuable lesson.