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 am a lifelong Indy car fan, been to the 500 23 times, Long Beach nine times, Toronto three plus Portland, Houston, Vancouver, St Pete, Michigan, even Surfers Paradise – you get the drift. It seems IndyCar has never recovered from the split and they keep changing bosses, taking one step forward and two steps back. Once recognized as North America's pre-eminent racing series and on par with F1 in some opinions, they are floating in a state bordering on insignificance.
I applaud the idea of an IMS road race to kick off May. The purists may object but they are in denial that their sport is slowly dying. IndyCar needs a schedule renaissance, starting with throwing out the mindset that the series must conclude by Labor Day. None of the other major racing series suffer from this disease. There should never be a three-week hiatus of racing in the middle of the schedule. If IndyCar is to claim to be North America's open-wheel series, then they must run at the continent's newest and finest road racing circuit, COTA.
I hate to see the Baltimore event be discontinued. This was developing its own identity as a major sporting event on the East coast, i.e. another Long Beach. It was a much better event than St Pete, at least from a fan stand point. I also hate to read that the Sao Paulo event is in jeopardy, another event where at least the TV live feed would reflect packed stands. Why does IndyCar not consider an Aussie tour featuring events in Surfers, perhaps Melbourne or Sydney, and Adelaide? This could be done AFTER Labor Day. I, for one, have always been of a mindset that having Indy cars race at places like Long Beach or Surfers Paradise can't be anything but good promotion for the IndyCar Series and the Indy 500 itself.
Bill Sanders, Olathe, Kan.
RM: Indy car racing has never recovered, nor will it likely ever, from The Split but Mark Miles is taking Randy Bernard's approach and abandoning status quo. Hence the road course race at IMS to kick off May. I'm not a fan of it but I'll give it a chance. Read my story on RACER.com about the plans for the 2015 schedule and I think you'll see some destinations you'll like – including Austin. And I think a “down under” stop is under consideration as well. But there won't be any 3-week gaps, I promise you that.
Q: In his Twitter Q&A, Derrick Walker said, "2014 is a transition year. I can see quite a few possibilities in 2015 but for now I don't anticipate any new events for '14." Was that written before the news came out about Baltimore? There is a difference in new races and new venues. Will there be an additional doubleheader added to the schedule to make up for losing Baltimore?
John in Charleston
RM: It was after and it appears that a street race in Providence will take Baltimore's place, but not until 2015. St. Pete is exploring going to a double-header but it sounds like Houston will only be one race in 2014.
Q: Since IndyCar wants to be in the Northeast, why not run at the New Jersey/New York street circuit? The sanctioning fee would certainly be a lot less than an F1 race.
Mike White, Evergreen Park, Ill.
RM: I certainly think that's an option, especially given the tenuous status of this event with Bernie and F1. But Providence sounds serious as well.
Q: I think it is a mistake to end the season by Labor Day. Why is there a rush to end the season so soon in 2014 and not wait until 2015 when they can work out all the date conflicts. As hard as it is to put a street race on, I don't see it as a good idea to cancel it and to think it's an easy fix to bring back. Yeah, I understand that they don't want to go head to head with football. But with this overseas series they want to do, exactly when will that be on TV? Um…I think football will still be on and I will choose to watch a Duke B Ball game over IndyCar in Iran.
Joseph N. Lawson
RM: You are in the majority of the people who write to the Mailbag and the ones I talk to daily but I think IndyCar has been encouraged to do this by their partners and sponsors. It didn't make any difference when the IRL tried it either.
Q: I thought by now we would have started getting snippets of the 2014 schedule. What gives? I was glad to see an IndyCar test will be scheduled for Road America.
Scott, Bargersville, Ind.
RM: Like we've all been saying and writing, 2014 won't look much different than 2013 except it will be condensed, include the IMS road course and not have Baltimore. But see my story about 2015 and I'm optimistic we'll see some good additions.
Q: In regard to having additional tracks for IndyCar in the future, what about some of the tracks that have been abandoned? Gateway and Nashville Speedway come to mind as possibilities. It would seem to be a good idea for IndyCar and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway to be more in control of its own destiny by buying some of these tracks, like ISC has done. Also, what happened to the relationship between Lucas Oil Raceway and USAC? We don't see too many sprint and midget shows like we used to. I miss Thursday Night Thunder!
Tony in Indianapolis
RM: Gateway has no shot and Nashville had decent crowds and Firestone nearby but nobody seems to want it back. That's the trouble with most ovals: the fans scream for them but then nobody shows up and so the promoters are wary. I still think Richmond has the best chance of returning because it had a good turnout each year.
Q: Despite living in the midst of PA Sprint car country – which gets OK local coverage – the only time IndyCar gets any mention in the local media is the 500 itself, or if something horrible happens like Dan Wheldon's death. But with Montoya leaving stock cars to return to open wheel, it was major news; would suspect this situation is similar in other markets where NASCAR is the only racing that gets regular mention.
This might be cynical but if anyone knows the value of media exposure, it's The Captain. All things considered, could this be a factor in whatever sponsorship he found to run JPM (as opposed to Tony Kanaan or Justin Wilson)? BTW, I sure hope Tony K does not become another Buddy Rice!
John Weaver, Camp Hill, Pa.
RM: With all his global businesses, you would assume Roger Penske has a major South American company lined up or on the hook but I also think he sees JPM as value for his team and the series.