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: I thought the race this weekend at Iowa was fantastic. Not only did we have a surprisingly good race for the win in the closing laps, but the short oval aero package seemed to be just right, and here’s why: cars could race, and pass, one another. Fast cars could pass slow cars. Evenly-matched cars could race each other hard for position. Passing was neither impossible (like Phoenix) nor automatic (like in recent years at Indianapolis). Also, the multiple grooves allowed the cars to give one another space, which enhanced the side-by-side racing and prevented wrecks.
Now, the drawback to having a track and aero package that makes passing easier is when you have one or two dominant cars like we saw this time. Teams that hit the setup (like Newgarden and Hinchcliffe) can pull away and put most of the field a lap down in short order. I didn’t mind that this time because the mid-pack battles were still fun to watch, even if they weren’t on the lead lap. However, I’m afraid that some fans may be upset with the spanking that the top few cars put on the rest of the field. To me though, that’s just short track racing, pure and simple. If you can’t stand it, you’re following the wrong sport. Am I wrong?
Garrick, Mobile, AL
RM: No, I can’t tell you how many races I sat through where A.J. or Mario or Big Al or Uncle Bobby or Mears decimated the competition and won by more than a lap because they hit the right setup or simply had a superior car/engine. All your points are spot-on, because it was a helluva race from beginning to end, front back to front, and it’s refreshing to hear from you many of you that they loved the race even though it didn’t have a photo finish. It doesn’t have to be a good race, but sometimes we lose sight of that.
Q: I think the Iowa Corn 300 was one of the best races of the year. There was so much action all the way through the pack. This ought to give IndyCar a recipe for the kind of oval they need for the series. Are there any other tracks that you can think of that would fit this bill besides Richmond? I was very happy to see Hinchcliffe pull through for the win. I didn’t even mind it ending on a yellow. I think it’s so much better than those orchestrated green-white-checker restarts that NASCAR is so fond of. Finally, I must say there was nobody rooting for Josef Newgarden more than I was back when he was with Sarah Fisher and Ed Carpenter, but as soon as he became a Penske boy it almost made him the enemy. I still like the guy but I don’t have any problem rooting against him. Looking forward to a great Toronto race this weekend.
RM: Richmond put on a couple of great races with two grooves when the IRL first went there, so I imagine the Iowa formula should work if IndyCar ever goes back. Obviously you always want to end under green if possible, but IndyCar simply ran out of laps. JoNew is tough to root against because he’s a great kid with loads of talent and personality. But I get your take.
Q: Iowa was probably the best oval race I’ve seen in many years, and I mean “real” race – no pack or drafting, just hard racing! But sure enough, people are bitching because it ended under caution. It’s like they didn’t see how Hinch and his team had a rocket in the final stint, and not only did he pass the previously dominant Newgarden, he built up an 8s lead? Even if it stayed green the finish would have been Hinch crossing the line at speed, with second place crossing after a quick commercial break!! That was a damn good race with everything you could ask for: a very clean race, a few teams figured it out and some were completely lost, like a real race should be. I just don’t get it, I watched the garbage NASCAR race the night before, and half the field crashed, and I went out for food at the start of overtime and it was still on when I got back? Is that what people really want to see?
RM: That’s what I addressed in my commentary yesterday, Joe. We saw the two extremes last weekend with Daytona and Iowa, and I was so proud of the IndyCar drivers for putting on such a clean, fast but aggressive show. I have no idea what people want to see, but four million of them watched the Firecracker 400 so I guess that answers your question.
Q: Pretty fantastic short oval race last Sunday for IndyCar, all things considered. Reminded me of a late-’90s short oval CART race, and I enjoyed every bit. However, I bet the finish is going to be the topic of conversation. I understand why the caution took so long, and I don’t blame them for it, but what led to Newgarden and Wickens pitting? Race Control seemed to act like they were going to go green, then pulled back once they realized they didn’t have enough time, but that was after they’d pitted. Was it a team strategy problem or a Race Control problem?
RM: Race director Kyle Novak told the teams they were going to make every effort to finish under green, but no guarantees. Just sitting on the pit wall I didn’t see any way you could pit, do the wave-around and restart the race – not enough laps left. So Team Penske, SPM and RLL took a chance, and it didn’t hurt Graham but it cost JoNew and Wickens a podium. I also heard it took way too long to clean up the track, but I ran into Sarah Fisher after the race and she said it was a mess and there was debris everywhere, so to me it was unfortunate but understandable considering the circumstances. Now if IndyCar opts to change things and do away with wave-arounds and just go back to racing when the track is ready, maybe the race restarts. I imagine Jay Frye will take a look at things.