Q: While it is upsetting that history, tradition and fan input weigh lightly in putting together the schedule, I understand (reluctantly) that IndyCar is a business. I also understand that although some decisions may be unpopular (recall the initial uproar from the DW12 and closed-formula/spec format) they can make good business sense for some, many, or all of IndyCar's key stakeholders. Having said this, I am struggling to understand how an IMS road course race to open the month of May makes business sense for the majority of the key stakeholders. Although the teams would profit from the meager race purse and sponsor agreements, and be spared the expenses of moving the circus from one venue to the next (i.e. all personnel stay in Indy for the road course race, opening day, qualy, race, etc.), I cannot fathom how such an event would be profitable for the series. There will probably be fewer than 30k in attendance over the three-day event and the TV ratings will be poor (I certainly am not inclined to go out of my way to watch the DW12 run on the infield course). If the Baltimore GP teeters the line of fiscal solvency, would you be able to enlighten us as to how an IndyCar road course race held in the month of May can be profitable year-in year-out?
RM: I think I told Mark Miles when we first met that he could open the gates at IMS with free admission and not draw 40,000 for a road race at the Speedway. Unless they find a mega-dollar title sponsor, it cannot make money. Of course, I also predicted non-stop yellows at Mid-Ohio on NBC Sports Network, so maybe IMS will draw 100,000…
Q: As someone who isn't a local, I would be much more inclined to travel to a late summer IndyCar race on the IMS road course than to make two trips in May. I know you hate the idea in general, but you're old, and a road race within a reasonable days drive of Chicago would be appealing to me. Others?
RM: If it's inevitable, then I think I also prefer a fall road course race because it would have a better chance of getting an audience. But you are definitely in the minority.
Q: How many years do you give IndyCar at the IMS road circuit before the number of empty seats make them end the race? Add yet another race at Indy to devalue the 500. And they are raising ticket prices for the 500? Smooth move, IndyCar.
RM: I would imagine that if the inaugural road course show is a flop, then IMS/IndyCar would have the good sense to abandon the project.
Q: With all the discussions on reconfiguring the infield layout at IMS, I was wondering who initially approved the current layout. It seems to me the problems with the course should have been apparent with any input from individuals highly regarded in road course design and ultimately from computer simulation before final approval was given. I was never a fan of the road course in the first place, but if it is already there why not attempt to improve it and make it a unique racing venue.
What do you see as the improvements that should be made to the course? Would the open field north of the track ever be given consideration to become part of the redesigned road course (cars exiting and entering via the tunnel) where the possibility of elevation change could be incorporated without jeopardizing sight lines for the oval and the 500? Also, I believe more of the oval should become part of the re-designed course to improve the racing. BTW, welcome to RACER, a real racing destination.
Brad, LaPorte, Ind.
RM: Well the FIA had to give it safety approval but as far as the architect of the course I'm not exactly sure. It seems like Kevin Forbes drew it up but I know IMS has acknowledged its looking at making some changes.
Q: I can't understand how ending the season on Labor Day is a good thing. If the series is trying to grow why would they want less exposure? To avoid football? Aren't the ratings during the summer abysmal without competing with football? It seems the current brass decided to listen to the Boston group instead of their fans.
Jared, Reading, Pa.
RM: The IRL tried ending on Labor Day many years ago and it didn't seem to make any difference in the TV ratings or attendance. If you promoted a race in a Houston during football season it might be more cause for worry but the few people who still watch IndyCar will watch it regardless of the season.
Q: Montoya has great talent, he's aggressive, he's got personality galore and have you seen how many Twitter followers he has? I think he would be great for IndyCar. What do you think? Is there any potential spot for him on one of the top teams? He's not going go to a mediocre team.
RM: He called Michael Andretti, so that shows me he's still serious about racing and he was one of the most exciting drivers of the past 30 years. But will he still have that drive and ability? Be fun to see.
Q: I wonder if I am the only one underwhelmed with the idea of Montoya driving Indy cars? Half the drivers are well past the midpoint, if not in the twilight of their careers. Adding a once talented but aging driver is not exciting to me. I would like to see some young blood injected into the sport. If this is so great for the sport then maybe A.J. is only six months of low carb dieting from suiting up again. At least he would add an American driver.
RM: You raise an interesting point. Is Montoya still a draw? Can he still win? When Nigel Mansell came to CART he was 40 (two years older than JPM) but he was also the defending Formula 1 champion and on top of his game. Would I rather see Kyle Larson? Hell yes, but that's not going to happen.
Q: So, what do you make of the Montoya rumor? I love JPM, but I didn't figure he would consider going back to Indy cars. Does he still have the hunger? The cars are a lot slower now.
Second, I continue to have hope that NBC Sports will develop into something really great. I believe they are doing well, but the NASCAR thing puzzles me. I guess the thinking is, if they have such a treasure chest available, why would they not just buy out the Mouse of the wretched network TV contract? I can understand ABC wanting to retain Indy, but why do they bother with a series that they obviously have no enthusiasm for?
RM: JPM is too young to be a full-time sports car driver but hunger is the big question. He wanted to lead every lap in CART and was a badass everywhere because he was making a name for himself. Does he still have that fire? Maybe. NBC Sports Network needed an anchor and got one with NASCAR and I think we're all hoping this is good for IndyCar's future.
Q: What is your take on the possibility of Montoya being hired by AA? Great rivals on the track, how would Juan Pablo fit into the team at AA, with Michael being his new team owner/boss? Guess it all depends on sponsorship money materializing, as it will also to add Carlos Munoz to the team for next season! That would make six cars if all other drivers remain; is that possible? What happens to EJ Viso and also, James Hinchcliffe, who seems to be on the bubble at present?
Now, on to a gripe over the proposed schedule for next year. Running an IndyCar race on the road course, be it standalone or combo with the new USCR sports car series as an month of May opener is a bad idea in my opinion! How many fans do they think can afford to travel to Indy for two races during one month, spend additional money on tickets, travel, hotel, food expenses beyond what they've spent on tickets for the 500? Perhaps a race on an oval would be a better tune-up for the 500. I guess we'll find out more answers after the private one-car compatibility test is run next month. Also, ending the season by Labor Day stinks! Not everyone is a football fanatic.
Tony Mezzacca, Madison, N.J.
RM: Montoya vs Andretti rivalry was fierce in CART but they always had admiration for each other so I'm sure they could mesh. Hinch and GoDaddy would seem to be the key dominos at Andretti but running five cars is a stretch and six would be insanity. That won't happen. A road race at IMS with Indy cars is like running the Kentucky Derby with mules.
Q: Is it safe to assume with the few good Cup results and two Nationwide wins AJ Allmendinger is gone from open wheel after 2013? Is it wise to leave Penske and a mashed up schedule for a middle-to-nothing full-time Cup team? Guess you have to chase the almighty dollar.
John, Watkins Glen, N.Y.
RM: I would imagine so since he's probably going to have a lot more options in NASCAR. But if RP offered him a full-time IndyCar ride, that would change everything. And if his seatbelt hadn't come loose at Indy and he won…where would he be in 2014?
Q: Happy to see you safely landed at RACER. Do you think Tony Kanaan lands at Ganassi next year for possibly his final year in IndyCar,. then moves on to replace Scott Pruett alongside Franchitti?
Skip Ranfone, Summerfield, Fla.
RM: I think there's a chance for T.K. at Ganassi, Panther and KV but we likely won't know until Hinch and Briscoe make their decisions.
Q: Do you believe there is any chance of Alex Tagliani acquiring a ride in an IndyCar during the remainder of the 2013 season? Since leaving Herta, he qualified on pole for the Trois-Rivieres Canadian NASCAR race and the following weekend on pole for the Grand-Am race at Kansas having never been in the car or on the track previously. There is do doubt he can get the job done if given the proper equipment and he is making that statement in other series.
K in Canada
RM: No, because Herta is looking for a new shoe for 2014 and trying out different drivers so there's really no other place to go for Alex. He can still go quick, no question, but unless he can find a sponsor, he's probably an Indy 500-only and sports car driver.
Q: Is this Sonoma one-off the test run before a combined SFHR/Muscle Milk 2014 full-time seat for Lucas Luhr? Any shot that Conquest or Newman/Haas coming back?
RM: I imagine he's going to gauge his interest level and make a decision but not necessarily with SFH Racing. I'm sure Eric Bachelart still wants to be at the Indy 500 but Newman/Haas is done, sadly.
Q: I'm wondering what's going to happen next year with Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing, RW, and Muscle Milk Pickett Racing? RW is wanting to get more involved with IndyCar so I could see them doing a Panther/DRR kinda deal with one car being SFHR and the other being SFHR/RW, but the biggest question is Muscle Milk Pickett Racing. Honda doesn't want any more single-car teams, but if SFHR and RW get together for a second and BHA gets a second car, than that would leave Foyt and Muscle Milk Pickett the only single car teams and Honda may be OK with that. Pickett is really the oddball here because he doesn't seem like the type to merge with anybody. He's also not starting a team from scratch; he has all of the support equipment, vehicles, shop, and tools; he just needs the DW12 and DW12-specific equipment.
Buddy Campbell, Marietta, Ga
RM: Have no idea but it would be nice to see Newgarden with a veteran teammate like Oriol Servia because I think that really accelerates his career. Greg Pickett is the interesting wild card and Marshall Pruett's story here a few weeks ago made it sound like he was seriously considering an IndyCar team of his own – which would be great.