The RACER Mailbag, June 15

The RACER Mailbag, June 15

Insights & Analysis

The RACER Mailbag, June 15


Q: Have two comments/questions I hope you can answer.

First, do you know anything about the particulars of the Caesars/IMS deal regarding betting on the 500? I am in no way a huge sports gambler and because of that I have never joined any of the many betting services out there. However, over the years, and being a big Indy fan, I always thought it would be fun to place a few bets on the race itself. This deal with Caesars seems pretty limited (and obscure), and I believe you have to join their betting service to participate. Any talk about “betting windows” at the IMS track — a la horse racing tracks — where you can place a bet without providing your life history and credit card? I hope the argument or reticence isn’t something to do with “family atmosphere” or something stupid like that. We’re long past that silly excuse. And hey, maybe with the increased revenue from gaming, they could increase that still-paltry purse for the biggest single day sporting event in the world.

Second comment/question: Really must thank Roger Penske for putting millions into upgrading the facility, but in one instance he went too far. I have sat in the high rows of the Tower Terrace for years — great seats at Indy; able to see the cars coming out of Turn 4, the entire main straight, and going deep into Turn 1 — but with the construction of that stupid stage in front of the pagoda, the vast majority of Tower Terrace seats north of the pagoda have had their sight of Turn 1 completely blocked. If, as Mr. Penske says, it’s all about the fans, what about the thousands of us who buy seats in the Tower Terrace who have had a rather large portion of our view of the track diminished?

Other than a fancy place for VIPs to stand during the race, what real purpose does it serve? Seems like the portable stages for driver introductions and Back Home Again in Indiana work just fine for pre-race ceremonies, and if you have to have something special for the winner, isn’t the stage that comes out of the ground that raises the winning car enough? Really poor design and decision, IMO.

Do you know, is the Speedway aware of this issue? Can’t believe others haven’t complained. Do they even care? Still can’t believe that silly permanent stage got approved and built. What, no other alternatives? Sorry for the rant. But I would like to hear some Speedway official logically defend it.

Jim in Indy

MP: Brother Jim, the Mailbag is always in need of a good rant; I actually wish we had more of them.

On the betting side, I genuinely don’t know, but I can say that if adding onsite betting windows will bring in significant profits for IMS, I’m confident they will be given a serious look at an interesting toe-dipping effort — but yeah, it also comes across as aimed at hardcore gamblers, not casual bettors who want to put $20 on the 1,000,000-to-1 odds Jean Alesi wins on his return with Lotus in 2023.

On the big car lift in victory lane: I’ve heard it’s a somewhat funny but unintentional thing. As I understand it, the lift is the equivalent of the Andretti Curse. The thing is ALWAYS breaking down, so once it goes up and the banners go up to hide its inner workings, they really do not want to tempt fate by operating it any more than is necessary. Basically, it goes up to make sure it can go up, the dressing is added to the sides, and then then pray it will go down for the winner’s car and then go back up. There must be a solution to upgrade or replace the thing if it’s making you — and other fans — regret your choice of seating.

In case you couldn’t see it, this is Colton Herta’s crew rising to celebrate their Indy GP victory. Brett Farmer/Motorsport Images

Q: The pre-race traditions at Indianapolis are slowly changing, and not for the better. Since attending my 53rd 500 a week ago Sunday, I’ve spent time not only looking at the pre-race over the last few years, but also going back to the days before live TV. It used to be that Tom Carnegie and his team of PA announcers would manage the pre-race script and kept things moving at just the right pace. Jim Phillippe narrated some of the pre-race ceremonies and delivered the stirring, inspirational tribute to all Armed Forces veterans before the playing of “Taps.” Radio and, in their earlier days, TV would follow the PA team.

Lately, it seems that TV is running the script. This has left the fans in the stands with a disjointed experience that really pales in comparison. TC and his crew’s renditions kept things moving from the introductions of celebrities up to “The Command.” This year, there were numerous “silent holes” while TV aired their commercials. The short video clip of cornfields and flags, while done in good taste, detracted from the once incredible buildup.

My dad, who at 91 still watches on TV, was wondering why that piece was aired so close to the start and there were no words before “Taps.” It would have been much better if it was shown at the beginning of TV’s pre-race show. What was once a beautiful progression is now just a series of events. Give the show back to the fans in the stands and let the rest of the world follow along. Calabro, Bestwick et al are more than able to carry it, I’m certain.

Dave Miller

MP: Thanks for the read-through, Dave.

As I often do, I’ll forward this to those who should hear it and hope they act. In last week’s Mailbag we had a great letter about the unreasonable lines to get food during the race that I shared with RP and he responded within minutes saying they received the same feedback and were both mortified to learn of the delays and would be resolving it ASAP. The Captain runs a tight, customer-first ship, so while he isn’t the one to manage the pacing of PA, we’ll always make sure the Mailbag acts as a conduit to whomever should receive sharp feedback from the grandstands.

As a closing aside, I enjoyed hearing Alan Bestwick alongside Dave Calabro.

THE FINAL WORDFrom Robin Miller’s Mailbag, July 15, 2015Q: I read that back in 1986 in CART’s heyday, Ferrari had a car all put together and ready to race and then changed its mind. Is this true, and if so, what happened? That would have been interesting.Doug Ferguson

ROBIN MILLER: Yes sir, there was a Ferrari Indy car designed, built and tested — but never raced and many figured it was just a ploy by Enzo Ferrari to get his way with Formula 1. Ferrari was mad at F1’s engine regulations so he commissioned an Indy car. Ferrari talked to Goodyear about a CART program and it suggested Truesports. Bobby Rahal gave a demonstration run in his ’85 March at Fiorano along with Michele Alboreto (who would ironically end up in the IRL one day) and Gustav Brunner — who would design the ’87-’88 Ferrari F1 cars — first penned the Ferrari Indy car, which was unveiled to the media in ’86. Alboreto tested it but never raced it and it was handed down to the Alfa Romeo boys who came to Indy in 1990 (with disastrous results).