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: With all the talk about Scott Dixon as a possible driver for a new McLaren IndyCar team, why wouldn’t it make sense for McLaren to partner with Chip Ganassi rather than Andretti? CGR ran a four-car team for several years and I think the only reason they cut back this year was money. McLaren would be a high-quality partner and would presumably bring plenty of money to the table. Dixon could finish out his career still associated with Chip but also have the opportunity to drive (and probably win) for Team McLaren, any Kiwi’s dream.
Alan Hummel, Saint Petersburg, FL
RM: I suppose it makes sense except that Michael Andretti and Zak Brown have become friends and partners and their collaboration in 2017 was a success so why change?
Q: The recent rumors about Scott Dixon to McLaren are very interesting. Here is an angle that I am not sure has been discussed. Certainly McLaren could offer Dixon big money, a ready-made transition to sports cars with Zak Brown’s United Autosports team and possible re-entry to full WEC prototypes with the 2020/2021. What if the other carrot would be a one-off F1 drive to replace Alonso if he is off doing a WEC race next year? Dixon’s one of the few on the IndyCar side to meet the SuperLicense qualifications. Crazy idea for sure.
RM: I guess it all depends on what Dixie’s plans are for the next five to six years but I don’t think he’s got any aspirations to do a one-off F1 drive in a bad car. And people say McLaren could offer big money but where is it coming from? Not the F1 side. Scott seems to enjoy sports cars so that could be a caveat.
Q: What does a “partnership” mean? There’s all the buzz of McLaren possibly joining IndyCar full- time if they can “find the right partner,” but what exactly does that mean? I know in 2018 Shank is partnered with SPM so I figure that’s the best example of what a partnership provides.
Also, if McLaren signs Dixon does that mean there’s no room for Alonso? I haven’t ever seen a rumor that McLaren will field a two-car team in 2019.
Ryan in West Michigan
RM: When Alonso drove at Indy in 2017, Zak Brown and McLaren partnered with Andretti Autosport — using their equipment, crew and experience. If McLaren does come to IndyCar full-time next year, it’s likely to return to Andretti or find a new partner that already owns everything so it’s almost like a lease deal for McLaren. Nobody (other than a couple people) knows what McLaren, Alonso or Dixon will be doing next year — it’s all conjecture. One car? Two cars? No cars? Might as well guess like everyone else.
Q: Growing up a Chicago sports fan in the glory days of the Bulls dynasty (those teams would eat Golden State’s lunch by the way), the saddest day of my teen years was when it was confirmed after the ’98 Finals that Bulls management didn’t think keeping the team together another year was the right direction. Are we on the verge of the same thing happening at Chip Ganassi Racing? Target goes away, Honda money helped but I’m guessing isn’t making up the shortfall again this year, PNC comes on, seems like a great sponsor but can’t be spending what Target spent, the extra money from Chilton and Kimball goes away. Now you’ve got Dixon who is the perennial all-star, but can Chip sustain him with a huge offer from McLaren? Or is Ganassi going into “rebuilding” mode and trying/having to find cheaper talent? Steinbrenner money + amazing young talent means Colton Herta with the Chipster next year?
RM: Too early to say but, obviously, Ganassi would not want to lose Dixie and if he wins another title it may be a moot point. But I do like the sound of Colton Herta to the Chipster with George Michael Steinbrenner as the partner.
Q: It seems to me the only contenders in Chevy are Penske. All other top teams are Honda. Is there any chance of a major shakeup with this? Also, I believe you said last week in the mailbag that Roger Penske would love it if they were the only ones running Chevy. Why would that be? How would that benefit them? After being a longtime fan (CART, Champ Car, IndyCar), I (and family) will be attending my first race in Iowa (happen to be in the area) and will keep an eye out for ya.
RM: The Captain always likes having his own brand, be it a chassis or an engine, and lives for the Unfair Advantage. He’s got three of the best drivers so that’s all the information Team Penske needs and, by the way, they’ve already won five of the 10 races this season. I doubt if GM would mind if RP was its only customer except it wants more than three engine leases. See you this weekend.
Q: About your recent article and interview with Mark Miles on the 2019 IndyCar schedule, do you know/have a sense how many races they would like to have annually or set as a goal moving forward? I’ve hoped we could reach 20 races and want to say that Derrick Walker seconded that emotion while he was president of operations/competition (or maybe I made that up…).
Cody Decker, Greenwood, IN
RM: I think 20 would always be the goal but only if it was 20 solid events and, right now that’s not even close. Just finding 15 good partners that can operate in the black is difficult at the moment.