Miles calls post-Fontana comments 'damaging to the sport'

Mark Miles comments on what caused the pack racing we saw in California and his thoughts on the heated reactions from some drivers/teams.

Miles calls post-Fontana comments 'damaging to the sport'
Simon Pagenaud, Team Penske Chevrolet leads the start
Mark Miles, CEO of Hulman and Company
Helio Castroneves, Team Penske Chevrolet and Juan Pablo Montoya, Team Penske Chevrolet
Race action
Ryan Briscoe, Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda in huge crash
Takuma Sato, A.J. Foyt Enterprises
Ryan Briscoe, Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda in huge crash
Pack racing
Takuma Sato, A.J. Foyt Enterprises Honda and Will Power, Team Penske Chevrolet crash
Helio Castroneves, Team Penske Chevrolet
Will Power, Team Penske Chevrolet crashes
Will Power, Team Penske Chevrolet and Helio Castroneves, Team Penske Chevrolet

Mark Miles is a difficult guy to figure out. He’s the CEO of Hulman & Co., also taking on the sovereignty of INDYCAR and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Miles came to this job from tennis and it’s clear that’s where he gets a lot of his directives, referring to that game several times during a mass interview on the first day of July.

Three years ago Miles allowed himself to be thrust into the sport of motor racing, but it doesn’t appear that he’s gotten the hook that allows most fans and participants to proclaim: “There is not cure for racing.” He still thinks of it as a business first, rather than one of the few, true sports in this world, as even the great novelist Ernest Hemingway realized.

Some of our stakeholders, by whom I mean representatives of teams and certain drivers, I thought, really going too far with their public statements.

Mark Miles on post-race comments from drivers/teams

Still, this is Miles’ domain (for as long as the Hulman/George family and the board of Hulman & Co. decides to keep him on) and he’s trying very hard to raise the profile of the properties he manages and present a good face to the balance of the world. Of course, these days the Verizon IndyCar Series isn’t the most popular version of motorsports on this planet, but the most recent race at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif. did allow INDYCAR to gain some traction in the world of media interface.

Pack racing at Fontana draws larger audience

The reason for that was “a compelling race,” according to Miles. There were very few people at the race but the television ratings nearly doubled, something that Miles has been searching for throughout his tenure. “This race had two sides,” he said. “It was compelling. It was hard to look away and at times it was hard to watch.” He noted that many people outside Indy car racing weighed in on the contest, including some NASCAR drivers that implored their Twitter followers to watch. “This was the most-watched NBCSN race since 2011,” Miles advised.

On the other hand, he realized that many drivers were concerned by the downforce levels decreed by the series and weighed in that maybe the downforce levels might have gone “a step too far.” He also noted that the temperatures were about 10 degrees cooler than expected. Derrick Walker and his team did listen to the drivers on Friday at Fontana but making a setup change at that point was definitely “not the best course of action.”

Some going 'too far' with public statements

But what got to Miles was the fact that some stakeholders - not just the drivers that made comments about the “pack racing” in Fontana but others in the community - made comments publicly that may have been “damaging to the sport.” And as he’s seen in tennis, he intends to invest in some sort of reprimand for commentary that reflects negatively. Makes you wonder what he would have done about Will Power’s double-bird at New Hampshire, right?

"What I didn't love about it was -- it's one thing for our fans and audience and all that and people that care about us to weigh in and have opinions and that's great. If they don't, then we really are in trouble as a sport. What I didn't love was our members, I think of them as members, some of our stakeholders, by whom I mean representatives of teams and certain drivers, I thought, really going too far with their public statements.

It’s clear that Miles won’t censor criticism but he does believe that “lines have to be drawn. We have to move in that direction for the benefit of the series,” he said. “We need to show some tough love, but the important point is to build the culture we want. It is incumbent on us to be a responsible and responsive sanctioning body; I will change this culture to some extent.”

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