Q: Firstly, I am a fan of all IndyCar drivers, so whoever wins the 500 I’m okey-dokey with that. Secondly, and more importantly, I hope that Jimmie Johnson wins the race this year but only to see NBC go apes*** forever and ever afterwards. Every car-cam shot from every race after that will be from J.J.’s car. All commercials will be Carvana ads. Every pre-race show will be 30-minute Jimmie Johnson infomercials. Every post-race show will have J.J. interviewed before the winner. You know I’m right, don’t you?
Janis (hiding out in a rock and roll band in central Florida)
MP: You just broke my Sarcasm-ometer, Janis.
Q: The last Mailbag seemed short on accolades for the Long Beach Grand Prix weekend, so I feel obliged to comment. It was a great time! I’ve been going since 1987 and the vibe is always good; this year had some excellent reasons to love going to the races. Big action in the IMSA race, aggressive Porsche Cup, hysterical Super Truck antics, incredible historical IMSA (am still hearing those four rotor Mazdas in my brain and wondering how much Zak Brown spends maintaining his Jaguar), and of course a great IndyCar race.
I am particularly impressed with the accessibility of the drivers. The Friday autograph session was packed, and every driver I spoke to said that they were having a good time. In particular, the RLL trio was smiling, joking, stepping up for selfies, and made you want to hang out and have a beer with them. And for a much lower ticket price than F1.
This is how you build momentum for the series – excitement, accessibility, multiple fun race series in one weekend. Granted, Long Beach has a long history and was the crown jewel that the IRL sought for years, but man, if every IndyCar race was like this we should be able to double annual race attendance and, over time, television ratings.
Paul in San Francisco
MP: It’s a spectacular event without question. The history and provenance help, for sure, as does the oceanside setting. It’s not exactly a secret, but most of the track owners/event promoters belong to a group that meets a few times each year. I wonder how IndyCar might leverage the skills and creativity within that group to help some of its underperforming venues.
Q: If they really cared about scraggly starts they should go to standing starts. Oh wait, I forgot standing starts in IndyCar are impossible. I remember years ago they would wave off starts, sometimes more than once. Now it seems if the polesitter is less than three car lengths ahead they let it go.
MP: Duly noted.
Q: F1 has a budget cap. It is early in the season and some teams have incurred multiple crashes with significant damage that is obviously expensive. Assuming that teams budget for these occurrences, is it theoretically and hypothetically possible for a team to incur so much expense in crash damages that they reach the budget cap and can no longer rebuild and field a car?
Steve in Florida
CHRIS MEDLAND: Yep, it is theoretically possible! You’re right that teams have budgeted for it, and Otmar Szafnauer made clear that Alpine has allocated quite a lot of money on that front so that it doesn’t get caught out, but it’s not a bottomless pit anymore so if a team was to write cars off on a regular basis (think Mick Schumacher’s crash in Jeddah – estimated at up to $1m in damage by Guenther Steiner) then it would at the very least have to start moving resources away from car development or similar and onto production. If a team had a shocking run, then technically it could hit the budget cap limit, although in that case it would likely still manufacture the required parts to race and just take a penalty handed out by the FIA.
THE FINAL WORD
From Robin Miller’s Mailbag, 23 April, 2014
Q: Is there any chance you could obtain the rights to write the definitive biography of A.J. Foyt? I have the one that was issued in the late ’70s and it is rubbish. You know A.J. quite well and nobody loves open-wheel racing more than you. You are truly the best writer when it comes to Indy.
ROBIN MILLER: Well, thanks for the compliment but Bill Neeley wrote a book in 1983 (A.J.) that’s a pretty good read about Super Tex, so go on Amazon and see if you can pick one up. A.J. asked me once why I hadn’t written a book yet and I told him I couldn’t until he’s passed on. He wondered why and I said: “Because after you read one of the chapters you’d want to kill me.” He called me an a**hole, I agreed and said that’s why we were pals.