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 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: Watching Scott Dixon move into third all-time on the wins lists was pretty awesome, but it seems fans that grew up in the ’60s and ’70s will never consider him to be an all-time great. How come older fans dislike so many of today’s drivers and never want to give today’s drivers the credit they deserve? Did fans from the ’30s and ’40s who saw Wilbur Shaw, Louis Meyer, Bill Holland, and Mauri Rose not consider the drivers from ’60s and ’70s to be great? Why is it that the older fans mostly the old USAC fans feel this way about today’s drivers?
RM: It’s more a case of people don’t care as much anymore. Scott is very low profile, and IndyCar doesn’t spend much money promoting him, either. USAC fans today could care less about IndyCar drivers because they don’t watch them grow up at Kokomo, Terre Haute and Winchester. But that’s not to say that USAC, and race fans in general, don’t respect Dixie; they just don’t have a vested interest. I know Parnelli, Mario, A.J. and Uncle Bobby all think highly of him. Can’t speak for the fans of the ‘30s, ‘40s and ‘50s, but I know Ward, Rathmann, Sachs, Marshman, Hurtubise all revered Vuky, Ruttman and McGrath. Having said all that, Dixie may well be the most invisible star IndyCar has ever had.
Q: I just attended my seventh IndyCar race at Texas Motor Speedway, and I can say comfortably, this one was my favorite of them all. I think Indycar got the package just right. So please pass on my compliments to Jay Frye, Tino Belli, and Bill Pappas. It looked like an old-school Saturday night race at the local bullring, just bigger and faster. Lots of passing, lots of unpredictability, and a lot of fun.
My wife and I took our next door neighbors, who have only ever been to one drag race prior to this, and I wish I could have gotten a picture of the looks on their faces as the field passed by in anger at the drop of the green flag. Giant smiles, eyes wide, and an overall look of “holy s*** they’re fast!” I knew immediately that they were hooked. The sights, the smells, and the sounds were all big hits with them. They both took several videos to post to their social media accounts, got their friends and parents to tune into the race broadcast, picked a driver to root for, timed pit stops, savored the sweet smells of E85R fumes and tire smoke, and asked questions about how things work in IndyCar. Despite watching both of our home team (Foyt) cars drop out early, the race was still a huge hit.
I’ve already seen some sour souls complain that Texas wasn’t a pack race, and all I have to say in response was that it earned IndyCar two new young (mid 20s) fans that have already pledged to return to TMS next year. Add in that we got to see Scott Dixon pass Michael Andretti on the all-time winner list, and I don’t know how could it be better.
Grayson, Houston, TX
RM: Glad to hear your report and thanks for recruiting a couple of 20-somethings – it’s that IndyCar desperately needs.
Q: The race at Texas was perfect. IndyCar wanted to get away from the pack racing of the past, and it seems they have achieved that. Fans were down on them because of the previous oval races, but give them a pass on Phoenix because it was so early in the season, and I thought Indy was a great classic-style race. At Texas we didn’t have the pack racing, which is good, but cars could pass if they had the right set-up and took care of their tires. Passes actually mean a little more these days. Drivers have to set up the pass rather than automatically get it done with the massive draft like in the past. I have enjoyed the racing so far, and think Jay Frye has been doing an excellent job. Keep up the good work, IndyCar.
Josh, Sarver, Pa.
RM: I spent the race in the pits, but from what I could see there were plenty of aggressive passes – some for position, some lapping cars – even though the high line never came in like a year ago.
Q: I’ve watched racing for a half-century now. This year’s 500 was as good as any, and better than most. I can’t remember the last time I watched two days of qualifying and sat on the edge of my seat both days. It’s been years since I yelled during a televised race, or shouted for my beloved spouse to get in quick for a replay. Formula 1 is now as exciting as a holiday parade. There are more passes in a middle lap of an endurance race. The only question is how many drivers will run into each other at the first corner.
NASCAR races consist of 195 laps with all of the excitement of a funeral. It’s hard to separate the yellow flag laps from those under green. The five remaining laps look like particle traces from CERN as collider physics play out, randomly removing cars and drivers from contention. IndyCars, rallying (if you want to see drivers holding on for dear life), V8 supercars, and short-track racing of all kinds is where I point people. Trying to get a new generation interested in racing is impossible if every race is a four-hour slog.
Is the new Indy formula perfect? No. More power is needed to provide for brute force passing. The aero package is close, though. If the cars are difficult to set up perfectly, as at the 500, there will drivers who are better at one part of the race than another. The only thing that’s missing is the opportunity to hit the line through a curve so perfectly that the driver can flatten the accelerator on the exit and squirt past four cars that are wiggling around. That will only come when there is too much power to allow for full-throttle curves. Agree?
RM: I think the goal is 900 horsepower sooner than later, and coupled with the lower downforce, it gets the formula Rick Mears has been campaigning for and we all want to see. Thanks for your educated opinion.