Welcome to the Robin Miller Mailbag presented by Honda Racing / HPD. You can follow the Santa Clarita, California-based company at: hpd.honda.com and on social media at @HondaRacing_HPD and https://www.facebook.com/HondaRacingHPD.
Your questions for Robin should continue to be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org We cannot guarantee we’ll publish all your questions and answers, but Robin will reply to you. And if you have a question about the technology side of racing, Robin will pass these on to Marshall Pruett and he will also answer here.
Q: So Rossi says: “Unfortunately, with less than 10 laps to go, our luck changed. We’re not really sure what happened, we’re going to investigate to see if something went wrong because it was a very abnormal issue to have when we hadn’t experienced anything remotely similar all weekend.” Investigate what? He locked the brakes a couple laps earlier in the same spot. Now with RHR in his mirror he brakes a little too deep, a little too late with tires seven laps older, bingo. Own up to it, you just got out-raced. Nothing abnormal here.
RM: Spot on, Jeff. Rossi drove a flawless race up to that point and team manager Rob Edwards kept telling him to think “big picture”. I don’t blame him for not wanting to give up the lead, but it was so obvious RHR had him covered at the end. It’s not a crime to make a mistake, and Rossi is having a helluva season. But blaming Wickens for their crash at St. Pete and then looking for an excuse Sunday is lame.
Q: I just got done watching Detroit 2 and have a few thoughts. Congrats to RHR, hell of a job. Rossi gets an A- for winning the pole and having a great weekend up until nine to go. I get he was disappointed, but if he’s going to be the next superstar of IndyCar racing I think he needs to work on his media relations game. No crew or sponsors were thanked, no “we had a great car all weekend but…” no optimism for Texas. The pit reporter was left with no answers and dead air. Get him shipshape Robin! We know you can do it!
Scott in VA
RM: Telling ABC he had: “nothing to say,” was low class, but I guess he finally accepted the blame. I’ve written nothing but positive things about him since he landed in 2016 (I wrote in a column last winter he would be a title contender in 2018) but he needs to man up in situations like Sunday. Remember how J.R. Hildebrand handled the greatest disappointment of an IndyCar driver’s career in 2011? Rossi should watch that interview.
Q: I don’t know what you think, but it’s time to get rid of the Detroit Grand Prix and head back over to Michigan International Speedway. The track at Belle Isle is to narrow and to bumpy for these cars.
Brian Lancaster, West Lafayette, IN
RM: As long as GM stays in IndyCar, there will be a race at Belle Isle. And I don’t think MIS has any interest at the moment.
Q: Is Simon Pagenaud in danger of losing his job? If we look at recent history with Team Penske and how it handled the Juan Pablo Montoya situation, it seems fairly similar to where Pagenaud is right now. In 2015, Montoya won the Indy 500 but had a forgettable year in 2016, and was put out to pasture in favor of Newgarden. Pagenaud won the title in 2016, finished second in 2017, but is in the midst of a forgettable 2018 with The Captain eyeballing Alexander Rossi and Robert Wickens. Power was rumored to be on the outside looking in until he delivered the coveted Indy 500 trophy and now leads the championship, Newgarden delivered the title last season and is looking strong in the hunt again, which leaves us with Pagenaud looking like he needs to do something in a hurry if he’s going to be around Team Penske in 2019.
Am I reading this situation wrong, or is this how you see things too? Is Simon on his way out, or if The Captain can land Wickens or Rossi, would they jump back up to four cars?
And I haven’t even mentioned the Fernando Alonso/McLaren sweepstakes that I’m sure Roger Penske is somehow involved in! No way that McLaren was meeting with teams in Detroit and Penske wasn’t one of them. I think it might be time for a mid-season 2019 silly season preview, because it sounds like some big fish are in play across the board.
Ryan Ward, San Jose, CA
RM: I wrote that Will’s contract was up and winning Indy likely got him a two-year extension, but I’m just guessing and I’m not sure about Simon’s contract situation. You must remember that JPM and Helio were both over 40 and Newgarden was a no-brainer, plus R.P. needed some major stars for his Acura sports car program. Pagenaud is still as quick as anybody,he’s just struggling a little bit, and he’s only 34. But Rossi is only 26 and Wickens is 29, and The Captain is always looking down the road. And I know he’s been impressed with how quickly Wickens took to an IndyCar and how stout Rossi has been in every discipline. Would Team Penske go back to four cars? I doubt it, unless that was the only way to get one of them.
Q; I read somewhere else that Will Power’s seat may not have been hot at Team Penske, but was a little warm. The names of Rossi and Wickens were mentioned as replacements. I am sure the Indy 500 has his seat back to room temperature, but was the idea of Will being out after this year plausible?
Mark in Cincinnati
RM: Look, he crashed in two of the first five races before sweeping May, so you never know. I speculated that winning Indy saved his job and I don’t know how serious R.P. is about Wickens or Rossi, but he did ask Paul Tracy about Wickens so that tells me something. Sometimes you’re only as good as your last race or season in IndyCar, but it’s pretty obvious that Will is still on top of his game, and R.P. likes continuity.