Long one of his most popular features at SPEED, Robin Miller brings his questions from and answers to readers to RACER.com.
• If you have a question about open-wheel racing, send it to MillersMailbag@Racer.com
We can't guarantee your letter will be published, but Robin will always reply.
Q: I just read your article on the 2014 schedule and I seriously hope that the IndyCar Series does not do the IMS road course race. I never cared about tracks, and only about the cars, and since I love F1 and Indy equally, I always thought the road course was awesome until I got older and realized it's boring and slow. The way I see it, if you add the old tracks back, like Laguna Seca, Elkhart Lake, Cleveland, (the tracks I grew up watching in CART in the late '90s/early '00s), the fans will come back and be pleased, and clearly the Boston Consulting Group don't know anything about racing. Do you know if Mark Miles even listens or reads the fans suggestions on the mailbag or anywhere else? I know RB did, and that was awesome of him, but it seems like Miles doesn't care about our opinions.
Elmer Ardon, LBC
RM: I think Laguna and Elkhart have a shot at the 2015 schedule and we all want Cleveland back but it needs a title sponsor. Not sure if Mark reads the Mailbag, but I send him letters from it when pertinent and I've seen him talking to fans at St. Pete and Mid-Ohio so I think he's trying to listen.
Q: I just finished reading an article on another site which was referring to IndyCar testing the IMS “road course” in September with an eye to a spring road race there. I wondered if this was new news or the others are just picking up on one of your favorite bad ideas. There was a void in my racing news and I didn't know where to look for real answers. Then I came upon RACER.com and to my wandering eyes did appear a familiar face and column that will keep me in the loop with real racing news. I will sleep better tonight knowing I can get real racing news again.
RM: My first story for RACER.com was last week and it laid out a road race at IMS in May with a test next month, a doubleheader at St. Pete and somewhere between 20-21 races for 2014. Thanks for the kind words and support.
Q: So I read that IndyCar may run the road course at IMS at the beginning of May. Why? Why do they think this is a good move? I know they think this will be profitable but how?
I come to the Indy 500 every year because I schedule my vacation around it. I've done the same thing in the past to see the Michigan 500 and to go to Mid-Ohio. I attend St Pete every year because it's my home race. There is also a buzz about the town about it. It's a happening thing. I've felt that same buzz at Mid-Ohio, and Birmingham. My point is I don't see a lot of people taking vacation to come to this race, especially if they attend the Indy 500 as well. Some people may do both, but for me, and I'm single, it would be one or the other and why would you take the road course race over THE GREATEST SPECTACLE IN RACING?
You wouldn't. You may get a local crowd but good grief, the locals don't even come out for Pole Day anymore. What makes them think the locals will come out for this? To me it's like NASCAR running a race on the road course at Daytona. It's a bad idea. I know this group from Boston suggested it along with raising prices for 500 tickets, but if they suggested having a dance contest for qualifying would IndyCar do it?
Kris, Ocala, Fla.
RM: Your opinion is shared by 90 percent of the people who write me or who I encounter at a racetrack. It is a bad idea and I think this event will dilute the product. We fell for Indy because of speed and thrilling passes – not 40mph corners.
Q: I've just read your article about the schedule taking shape for 2014...and all I can think of is "yuck." What is wrong with this possible schedule: 1) Racing at the Indy road course is a godawful idea...why take such a magical place and run a crappy parade race in the infield? Not to mention...who has the money these days to attend two IndyCar races in the same month? 2) Ending the season on Labor Day weekend...just wonderful. That can give people more time to forget about the close, exciting racing IndyCar offers. 3) No Road America, Canadian Tire Motorsports Park, Phoenix, New Hampshire or Richmond. I swear with this series it's like moving two steps forward, and then taking one step back.
RM: You hit on what should be the biggest concern to the IMS folks: how many people can afford two races in one month? You're raising some of the Indy 500 ticket prices and also asking fans to support another event.
Q: Just read your article about the 2014 schedule, and all it sounds like it is the “Randy Plan,” so why did they fire him? I actually prefer to watch road courses to ovals, but watering down IMS is a big mistake. They really are not listening to what the fans want and have no vision for the future or growth.
Paul Hirsch, Erie, Pa.
RM: Yes, the double-headers were Randy Bernard's idea and they were a big hit in Toronto, Detroit wants them back and St. Pete has requested a double for its season opener. Houston likely is a wait-and-see until after its initial twin bill in October.
Q: I find the new schedule both encouraging and discouraging. The May road race is a joke. The marketing firm's recommendations of that and lights at IMS are so nonsensical I will not waste your time with something that we both agree is a joke. However consideration being made to add COTA to the schedule in the future is a great idea. I have been to two races at COTA and it is a world-class facility. I know it is in Texas, but the crowds at the facility for racing have been huge and the racing is excellent. I love IndyCar at TMS and do not want to see that race ever disappear off the schedule. Eddie Gossage has been great to IndyCar for a lot of years when no one else was interested in promoting its races. I do, however, believe that the crowds and facility will make the COTA IndyCar race fantastic. Definitely better than a street race in Houston or Detroit. The racing is great and the future does not look bad for IndyCar but moving into a more modern and well respected facility will do nothing but improve the younger and more international race fan base. COTA is a step in the right direction for IndyCar's future.
Dr. Stephen, Desoto, Texas
RM: I think Austin has a good shot at being on the 2015 IndyCar schedule and it is a phenomenal track. There won't be three races in Texas so I guess we'll see if Houston is a winner on its return. Working on a TV show idea with RACER for 2014 so stay tuned.
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.
Q: I don't see why it's such a good idea to have a short season because that means that IndyCar is invisible for six months. I understand it's hard to compete with the NFL, but so what? Baseball, basketball, hockey, F1 and NASCAR do it. It's time IndyCar stops thinking it's going to be easy to get the fans back with a couple of easy fixes. I live between Sonoma Raceway and Laguna Seca. I have seen several billboards along the freeways for the Superbike race in September at Laguna; guess how many I've seen for the Indy Car race this month? ZERO.
Ralph (auto racing fan since the '70s)
RM: I agree but I think after 2014 there's a plan in the works to lengthen the season considerably. The Sonoma crowd has improved over the past couple years but it's still woefully small compared to NASCAR, so IndyCar needs more marketing, among other things.
Q: I understand IndyCar not wanting to go head-to-head with the NFL, but what is keeping them from racing in Europe in September/October while F1 heads to Asia? They could show the races live on TV on Sunday mornings before NFL games. With IndyCar drivers from Italy, Germany, and France it seems like a good idea to have races in those countries (Imola, Lausitz, Magny-Cours) and then finish off the season at Surfers Paradise. Any thoughts other than it all coming down to money?
Chris, Phoenix, Ariz.
RM: I think Mark Miles and Derrick Walker are considering a non-points cluster of races following the regular season in 2015. Of course, the key is to actually get the big money you are promised – something CART learned isn't always easy.
Q: We all have a dream schedule in our heads for IndyCar but all of these folks that are complaining about 2014 need to understand these things just don't happen overnight. There are millions of dollars at stake and it takes time to try to make an event a win-win situation for all of the parties involved. I'll be an IndyCar fan as long as they can keep the doors open (and I'm in that young age demo they covet so much) and do my best to support the series and watch every race. Living in Rochester, Minn., I look forward to the not-too-distant future when I'll be able to attend Iowa, Milwaukee, and Road America within a single-day drive.
That being said, YOU CANNOT HAVE A RACE IN HOUSTON IN AUGUST. I grew up in Houston and without fail it will be 95+ degrees and extremely humid almost every single day from June through mid-September. Who in their right mind would pay to sit on metal bleachers in that weather? If Mr. Miles is looking to start the season earlier, move the Houston race to February, March, or April and it will be great. After that, you're begging for failure.
RM: I think Houston in the spring would be perfect but it won't happen until at least 2015, if at all. I know Mike Lanigan is wary of having his double-header in college and pro football season so August will at least be better (or should be) next year.
Q: Why do so few IndyCar stars and teams support the lower levels of the sport? The NASCAR Nationwide and Trucks series are so healthy with entries owned by Sprint Cup teams and drivers. Tony Stewart is in a class by himself with all he does, but guys like Clint Bowyer own late-model teams. In IndyCar, Michael Andretti is the only driver/team owner to really embrace the ladder. Is it because IndyCar only wants 22 cars on the grid rather than 43 like NASCAR has, and thus doesn't want or need a better driver pipeline?
Lee Robie, Cincinnati, Ohio
RM: First of all, the highest paid driver in IndyCar probably ranks behind 20 NASCAR regulars, so an IndyCar driver owning another team is a pipe dream. IndyCar tried to entice its owners to participate in Indy Lights by granting them more test days but Michael and Bryan Herta were the only takers. Sam Schmidt has kept the Lights series afloat with his multi-car team but, short of writing it into the rulebook, there is no way to make an IndyCar owner support the feeder system.
Q: Why don't any IndyCar teams try to get Scott Speed or any motorcycle racers to try out for any IndyCar rides? Why don't IndyCar have a week-long try out for all drivers that IndyCar invites to a track and have them all try out in a big open test day for new talent? Have them all timed and stream it on their website. Maybe have a prize for the top driver. That way, everyone gets a chance in a equally prepared cars. It's also a good chance for the team to try out new engineers.
Joseph N. Lawson
RM: Can't say for sure other than it appears Speed wants to stay in NASCAR to try and make a living. The only shootout I can recall was after the 1996 season when Tony Bettenhausen tried out Allan McNish, Patrick Carpentier, Jorg Muller and Tom Kristensen for his CART team. Carpentier won the ride for 1997. Hell, I just remembered that Jeff Krosnoff and Alex Zanardi had a test for Ganassi's seat for 1996 and Zanardi got the nod.
Q: Is there any chance that we'll see at least one additional standing start this season? Perhaps at Baltimore, for example or even make both Houston races start this way. It would give the drivers more practice and help towards having more of them in 2014. Race 2 in Toronto went off without a hitch (Ed Carpenter's stall aside), so why not add some more?
Graeme Watson, Brentwood, Essex, UK.
RM: Definitely one of the Houston races but that's it for 2013.
Q: I've been very happy with Derrick Walker and what he's doing – except – I read that he likes the idea of green-white-checker finishes! Apparently he thinks Indy would have been a better show had it finished under the green. It's the Indy 500! It doesn't need NASCAR gimmicks to be exciting. Also, should I be planning to buy tickets for Road America next year?
Wally, Eden Prairie, Minn.
RM: If the race had finished under green it would have been amazing, given that everybody was saving it for the end. Derrick isn't trying to change history, just thinks it would have been a slam-bang finish for the paying customers. Road America? Probably next year but hopefully 2015.
Q: Looks like you will be writing a lot more articles at your new home. Good! Any behind the scenes rumblings about driver changes for 2014? Kanaan? Hinch? Dinger? Swiss Miss?
John T. Feeser
RM: Hinch is the big domino. If he leaves Andretti for Ganassi's fourth seat then it opens up the possibility for Montoya or maybe Kanaan, who is still talking to KV Racing and Panther. I think Allmendinger is leaning toward NASCAR and not sure about Simona's contract.
Q: Something that has always bugged me about IRL/CART. In the sports pages across the country, the day after the race, why don't the results of the race include the amount of prize money each driver makes? NASCAR does it, golf does it. What's your take on this?
Tim Rockwood, Palm Springs, Calif.
RM: It's too embarrassing. The driver in 45th place in NASCAR Sprint Cup will earn more money than the IndyCar champion because the IndyCar purses are pathetic. CART finally stopped it many years ago and IndyCar thankfully followed suit.
Q: Besides Chevy and Honda proceeding with aero kits and Dallara not, have you any news on any other company planning to make an aero kit? With regards to Indy Lights, any news on the proposed building of the new chassis for 2015? Lastly, give us your take on the 2014 silly season and possible destinations.
RM: No but we should be getting a release from IndyCar any day now. Tony Cotman is in charge of the new Lights car but way too early to know much. Silly season predictions? I'll save those for a column next week.
Q: I have really enjoyed the last two seasons more than I think any since I began following CART/IndyCar in the early 1980s. Unfortunately, I have resigned myself that, due to changes in culture and greater availability of entertainment alternatives, that IndyCar is destined to be a niche sport. In your opinion, can IndyCar survive and even thrive as a niche sport or does it take more $$ than can be generated by a niche sport? It seems we need a fresh crop of wealthy “sportsmen” like John Zink, Jim Kimberley, the Wilkes, Mike Boyle, etc. who pay to participate in the sport because they want to, not to advertise anything in particular.
Chris Ruske, Millville, NJ
RM: I think Indy cars, sports cars, midgets, sprints, motorcycles and dragsters are all niche sports and, yes, they can survive but how do they thrive? More sponsors and new owners help but nothing would help more than a mega title sponsor that buys national TV time and, of course, better TV ratings to more people might come on board.
Q: Why would not the Disney oval work perfectly well for the Indy finale? Is A.J. Watson still around to slap together a mile dirt "aero package" to get the DWs on Springfield and the Indy Fairgrounds where some Gen-Xers can rediscover the edgy sport of their grandparents? If Brawner could get Mario's Hawk up Pikes Peak and Lloyd could get the Mongoose around Springfield just short of making the field in the '60s, I bet a DW12 could be made to run the cushion.
RM: I watched Rube try to qualify the Mongoose for the Hoosier Hundred and it was painful. The only way you're going to see any of your dreams come true? Buy a Dick Wallen video. But a special challenge race on the dirt with IndyCar drivers in late models might generate some interest. Might.
Q: Seeing the success of AJ Allmendinger in the Nationwide Series has reminded me of an idea that I had last year. I would love to see Will Power get a shot at one of these road courses. What do you think about Roger Penske giving Will a shot and how well do you think he would do?
RM: I think he would struggle with the weight and tires for a couple races but eventually get the hang of it like A.J. and Sam Hornish have.
Q: Just watched the Nationwide race at Mid-Ohio. Good racing, too bad for all the stupid NASCAR rules like: lucky dog, green-white-checker and throwing yellow flags for no apparent reason. Do they use local yellows? (My 13-year daughter even asked me why they didn't use a local yellow!) This race just confirmed my thought that NASCAR is to racing as the WWE is to wrestling.
RM: No, no locals and it's maddening to watch lap-after-lap of caution for a spin or a tow-in. I liked the old Formula 1 days – no cautions EVER.
Q: Is Kurt Busch going to race at Fontana this year as a prelude to Indy, and if Busch does a halfway decent job at Indy, do you think this will open the door for other NASCAR drivers to give the 500-miler a tryout?
RM: No, because most of the name drivers have a binding contract that wouldn't allow them to test an Indy car, let alone race one. Kurt is in a unique position but I imagine he could still do Indy in 2014 if he's hired by Tony Stewart.
Q: Has Michael Andretti considered writing a book about his career, especially his time in F1? Would be so interested. Almost as much as Montoya driving IndyCars in 2014. Any truth to the rumors or just driver/sponsor pressure to Hinchtown? Great to see RACER have you and the rest of the "beat" crew. I still own my first six plus years of RACER magazines in boxes and treasure their features/pictures.
RM: Never heard Mike mention anything about a book but I don't see him interested in sharing a lot of personal stuff; he's just pretty private. Montoya called him about a ride and, obviously Hinch and GoDaddy will go a long way in shaping what the 2014 driver lineup looks like. Happy to be at RACER. Glad to be anywhere at age 63.
Q: Congrats on your move to RACER. Question, is this the last year of IZOD's sponsorship deal with IndyCar? If so, anyone in line to take over as title sponsor for next year?
Jim, San Diego
RM: Yes, this is it for IZOD and, no, there isn't a replacement in the wings just yet. But IZOD hasn't done much of anything the past two years so it's not like a big loss, other than the money.
Q: Well, it's twice now that NASCAR has walked away from ESPN. Don't blame NASCAR. Money talks. Can't believe NBC paid that kind of money, as attendance and viewership seems to have peaked for the tin-tops. Just think it is funny because ESPN probably made NASCAR a "crossover" sport years ago...and they walked. Then, once they got them back, and put IndyCar in the distant rear view mirror, again, they walked away once more. ESPN better get more Texas Hold 'Em Tournaments going. Still don't see the attraction of 3,500 lb. pigs that run 30-40mph slower than an IndyCar. I think I might do everything I could to get a title sponsor to optimize exposure....even if you have to sacrifice some dollars. But wouldn't it be nice if every time you walked into a McDonald's or Subway, there were IndyCar napkins with schedules and wall posters and IndyCar hanging mobiles, etc. You could really cross promote the hell out of both entities. This is a much better product, but God, it so badly needs exposure! IZOD? You need something more mainstream...and visible. And no, that doesn't include a plan for running on that stupid 16th Street road course.
RM: It's a funny deal (to quote Sterling Marlin). ESPN made NASCAR and then NASCAR pitched them for FOX and NBC and then ESPN came back only to be outbid by NBC again. There was no chance ESPN was going to get into a bidding war over NASCAR and I understand they had a party to celebrate losing the contract. For the folks who think IndyCar now has an opportunity to be on ESPN full time, get serious. ESPN didn't want the most popular form of motorsports so why would it take IndyCar? The bottom line is that NASCAR races still kick the ass of every sport except NFL on a weekly basis, so it will be a way to put NBC Sports Network on the map. Big time.
Q: I was wondering what you remember about Bruce Jacobi? He seemed to be a “super sub,” often filling in temporarily when a team was between drivers or their regular driver was injured. He made a 10-year career of this in Indy cars before moving to stock cars where he sustained fatal injuries in a qualifying race at Daytona. If he had gotten a regular gig with a top team, how good would he have been? He seems to be an almost forgotten footnote in racing history, so any light you can shed on him or his career is appreciated.
Gregg Rauscher, Port Colborne, ON
RM: Bruce was a journeyman who was entered at the Indy 500 almost every May from 1960 to 1974 but never made the race. He qualified in 1962 but the engine blew as he took the checkered flag and he crashed (only to be bumped a few minutes later). His best ride was in 1963 with the Vita-Fresh Special but he crashed that before qualifying. His best-ever result was a fourth at Springfield in 1970 (thank you Donald Davidson for the fact-check). The real tragedy is that he'd been away from racing for almost a decade when he went to Daytona in 1983 and had his fatal accident. He was a handsome, very personable guy who was at the right place at the right time to get some decent chances but never quite made it.
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