Q: Here's how we save IndyCar
– we do a “family swap.” We swap the Robertson clan of "Duck Dynasty" for the Hulman-Georges. The Robertsons would bring their 11.8 million viewers to IndyCar, which would attract all the big sponsors away from NASCAR. Uncle Si could be the competition director, Willie would be in charge of the business side, and we'd put Phil up in the flag stand. Drivers, crew chiefs, and owners would be required to wear face paint on race day, to reflect their sponsor's colors. As for the Hulmans, send 'em down to Louisiana to learn backwoods common sense and good judgment, and get the blessings of Jim Nabors before they are allowed back home again in Indiana.
Jim Scott, Wisconsin Rapids
RM: Would you consider working in IndyCar's marketing department?
Q: To be both bold AND cautious simultaneously is a difficult and dangerous thing to attempt (ask NASA). Half-bold often leaves all involved dissatisfied for different reasons. Presently, a May road race at IMS is divisive. So, if it is definitely on (and I am a traditionalist who is coming around to the potential of such an event) it should be leveraged boldly to capture the full potential to unite (or be abandoned). How can this be accomplished? Simple, make the race a true GIFT in return for 100 years of loyalty shown to the 500 and the IndyCar Series by generations of Indianapolis and Mid-western fans and massively market it as the biggest THANK YOU in the history of motor racing.
While you lose potential revenue (and I bet there are models whereby you at least break even), look at what you get in return; lasting and priceless goodwill, the best possible apology for all past mistakes like the Split, dumping Randy, losing Baltimore – and maybe Brazil and Kanaan, et al.
Further, look at what you get; an authentic reputation for caring about the fans beyond just words, a unique event that instantly separates you from NASCAR and Formula 1 in terms of customer service, 15 to 50 thousands more fans filling the TV cameras than you would get under the traditional model, and generally more "butts in seats" to promote the 500. This idea has been touched upon but it deserves true thoughtful consideration. Maybe you still give some of the prime seats to 500 ticket holders, sell suites to local businesses, find a title sponsor (State of Indiana?), make it a non-points sweepstakes run to appease traditionalists, use empty bleachers to sell corporate banners or honor the states and nations where IndyCar has run throughout its past glorious history, etc. Maybe you break even, lose a little, or even profit a little.
BUT, none of that should be the focus. The focus (the marketing focus especially) is FREE SEATS to say THANK YOU for YEARS of LOYALTY. You could erase almost all past bad and present doubt with one single day. How much would that be worth moving ahead? Otherwise, what's the point beyond short-sighted profit? Is it that crazy???
Lance Barry, Girl's School Road, Indy
RM: Probably crazy but I suggested to Mark Miles that anyone with an Indy 500 ticket is admitted free to the road race and asked to make a charitable donation (minimum $10) to show some goodwill and appreciation to the diehards. I think it's going to take something like that to ensure 40,000.
Q: From your experience, how do the drivers really feel about the "Push to Pass"? I would imagine the more experienced drivers appreciate it, but am really curious as to whether IndyCar has ever considered a system like DRS (Drag Reduction System) used in F1?
Kenny Ramirez, Corona, Calif.
RM: I think they've accepted it as a necessary gimmick to make street races better (and it's worked) but something new may be coming. Stay tuned.
Q: I must say if the Indianapolis Motor Speedway needs renovation, much less adding a possible road course for the Indy cars, do the Speedway organizers have any thought to getting rid of those F1 starter lines on the front stretch for good? I HATE looking at those things – they're an eyesore. It ruins the beauty and mystique of the Speedway, especially if no racing sanction is using them. In fact, I think the road course configuration for Indy cars should go counter-clockwise, unlike when F1 was there.
RM: Those lines are used by MotoGP and no decision yet on which way the IndyCars will run the road course.
Q: The letter by Joe Walsh in the Sept. 11 mailbag raises an interesting point about the points system. I am in agreement with him. There isn't enough incentive for drivers to go for it because the difference in points between 6th and 7th isn't enough. If you win a race the points should be significant. IndyCar's points system is better than the old CART system for podium points but it still rewards mediocrity.
The best point system we've seen in the last 50 or so years was the old F1 system of 10-6-4-3-2-1. If you applied that system to the last several years of IndyCar, the changes in the final standings are significant. In 2007, the champ would have been Dixon rather than Franchitti. In 2009 the order would have been Briscoe, Franchitti, Dixon rather than Franchitti, Dixon, Briscoe. In 2010 the champ would have been Power rather than Franchitti. Dario didn't try in the last race because he didn't have to and so might still have won the title. In 2011, Power would have done it again and would have been untouchable by the time of the last race.
For sure, if the points system was different the drivers would race differently. With a different points system the standings might have looked the same. In the old F1 system, you would need to finish sixth 11 times to finish ahead of a race winner. The current IndyCar system only requires two 7th-place finishes to be ahead of a race winner. This just doesn't seem right to me. Winning and to a lesser degree finishing on the podium is far more important than being 13th. Just the thoughts of an old curmudgeon.
RM: I always liked that F1 system because it did reward performance more than consistency but I still think winning doesn't get enough of a spread to second place. Having said that, the past five championships have come down to the last race without any Chase, so it's working.
Q: I think sometimes we all tend to look back on the past and think it might have been slightly better than the reality of the situation. With all the down time between races, I thought I would check out some classic CART races to entertain myself. Go check out the 1993 ITT Automotive Detroit Grand Prix on YouTube. I think about five people were ready to lynch Wally Dallenbach after the race. The difference was, back then, there was no social media, thus it didn't quite blow up the way things do now. Funny that the start, blocking and restarts were the hot topics with Race Control! There is also a certain Toronto race where the same happened to Tony Cotman!
Paul Haluska, Sarasota, Fla.
RM: In the 1960s and '70s, the drivers policed themselves and nobody even knew the chief steward's name, but the advent of street circuits made it a contact sport and tough on Race Control. It's a thankless job.
Q: In the new issue of RACER magazine they are debating the best racing movies of all time with a lot of hope on "Rush" living up to the hype. So, who do you think was the best actor-driver – Newman, McQueen, Garner or someone else? Do you think Patrick Dempsey has the "right stuff" to make a go as a professional racer? If Ron Howard can pull off with "Rush" what he did with "Apollo 13," then it will be great. Everyone who watched Apollo 13 knew what was going to happen, yet there were cheers in the audience when the parachutes came out. Not so many of us in America know the story of "Rush" but I am certainly going to be first in line to get a ticket…that is, if it makes it to dear old Waco. What the heck, it's worth driving to Austin if it doesn't come to Waco!
Tom in Waco
RM: McQueen was a dirt biker turned sports car racer and had some balls while PLN didn't start until he was 43 but obviously possessed the skills needed to win SCCA/Trans-Am races and titles. Dempsey seems serious (the four-part series on VELOCITY about his quest for Le Mans is quite good) but it's very difficult to be a full-time actor and part-time racer.
Q: In view of all the publicity linking concussion and football, I am surprised there has been no talk linking Massa's tragic accident in 2009 and the fall-off in his performance since his “recovery.” Certainly the effect of a spring hitting one's head at God-knows-how-many mph must exceed the head bumps in football.
John Peterson, Minneapolis, Minn.
RM: He never seemed as quick and the same thing happened to Roberto Guerrero, although he made a helluva comeback after being in a coma from his 1987 IMS testing accident.