The RACER Mailbag, November 3

The RACER Mailbag, November 3

Insights & Analysis

The RACER Mailbag, November 3

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Q: Right now we have Indianapolis, Iowa, WWTR, and Texas as ovals. Indianapolis is obviously not going anywhere, I know HyVee has big plans with Iowa, and WWTR appears safe for now. But it’s completely clear that Texas Motor Speedway is completely ruined since they, a) re-did the track after 2016 when it was perfectly fine to begin with, and b) put the slime on the track to help the stock car sleds turn left. It’s clear TMS is ruined for good, and the fans will no longer show up. I flew down there for the 2021 “races” and I’ll never give TMS another dime.

I have three questions. Is 2022 finally the last year TMS will be on the calendar? What, if any, ovals are left out there that IndyCar could go race on? I’d like to see in a perfect world, any three of these six tracks return: Richmond, New Hampshire, Homestead, Michigan, Pocono, and Kansas. And finally, are any of these realistic possibilities?

BAP

MP: Here’s an Amen for you right out of the gate. Texas has been a bore in recent years, made worse by the track’s slavish devotion to NASCAR’s demands for the PJ1 traction goo that doesn’t play nicely with our cars or tires.

We all understand why they give NASCAR whatever they want — stock cars bring in the most money — but with Cup’s crowd size declining there as well, it makes me wonder if the new track president will change their approach and stop treating IndyCar like a second-class citizen. If it wasn’t for Pato O’Ward being young and the right kind of crazy with some of his high-risk passes, this year’s doubleheader would have been a total snoozer.

So, my hope is for the new TMS leadership team to give IndyCar a reason to keep coming back. Crappy single-groove racing and light fan turnout are two perfect reasons to bid farewell; maybe if they fix one of the two glaring issues, we won’t have much to worry about.

As for the other tracks, Richmond sure seemed like it was going to be something special until COVID-19 took it off the schedule. All the other ovals you mentioned make me think of the old IRL days when I and many others watched great races go on in front of thousands upon thousands of shiny and empty aluminum seats.

Q: First, thanks for doing this. I followed and read Robin Miller since his days at the Indy Star, so racing fans (and I) need a place to read and chat about those all-important speed-related questions.

I read that the F1 deal is off for Michael Andretti. How does this news affect Silly Season? And any 2022 Indy hopes for Ferrucci?

Jim Bryan, St. Louis, MO

MP: The main person it affects is Kyle Kirkwood. As I wrote in our new silly season update, he was meant to drive Colton Herta’s No. 26 Honda if the Andretti F1 deal came together and sent Colton on whatever F1-related journey he’d go on next year. With that door closed for Kirkwood, he’s become a hot commodity for other teams to pursue.

Kirkwood’s name is unlikely to change between now and the new season, but everything else about that race suit could look very different by the time he find a spot on the IndyCar grid. Chris Owens/IndyCar

Q: Long-time Robin question-asker here. This whole F1 team purchase thing has been very exciting to say the least.  Especially involving Colton Herta. What is Michael’s next move to own an F1 team?  Save money to start one from scratch? He has to get one and they need to run on the best configuration possible on the road course at IMS! 

Dan, Lima, Ohio 

CHRIS MEDLAND: The sensible move remains to purchase an existing team, because of the infrastructure that would already be in place. As Haas has shown, it takes years to build up a team from scratch, would require a huge amount of investment, but now also comes with a $200 million buy-in fee just to get an entry. So the amount needed now is the cost of building an F1 team PLUS $200m up front. If you want people with F1 experience as part of your team too, then it can take years for them to be free of “gardening leave” from their previous team, whereas if you buy a team you get all of those experienced personnel immediately. It makes the timelines very different, and is less complex.

I’d imagine the first thing Michael needs to do is find more money, because all of the above reasons make an existing team much more valuable. Essentially they’re franchises now, and just because Andretti Autosport wants in doesn’t mean it’s automatically entitled to a spot on the cheap.

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