Robin Miller's Mailbag for August 22, presented by Honda Racing / HPD

Robin Miller's Mailbag for August 22, presented by Honda Racing / HPD

Insights & Analysis

Robin Miller's Mailbag for August 22, presented by Honda Racing / HPD


Image by Levitt/LAT

Q: From long before I was born, the best option was hitting a concrete wall. Well, they figured out a better way, and now after every hard hit in every oval series we hear “Thank God for the SAFER barriers”. The number of close calls, and worse, involving a fence are piling up. Wickens is the latest, and, how wrong is this: what a relief to hear it’s only his arm, ankles, and back. There isn’t a halo or a windscreen that’s going to matter against chain-link and a steel pole. I wish I was smart enough to figure out a solution for the fence, but someone out there is. I really hope this problem can be figured out sometime, sooner rather than later. What is it going to take? No matter what, I’m going to watch racing because it’s guys cooler than I’ll ever be doing things that shouldn’t be possible. But I wish we could figure this out. My thoughts are with RW6. I hope he’s OK, and I hope we get to see him out there again soon!

Andrew, Noblesville, IN

RM: If you look at the accident, Wickens rides the wall in the tub then appears to hit a post that sends the car into its violent spin, but the fence never grabbed the car like it did Kenny Brack at Texas, or Mike Conway at Indianapolis, and getting spit back out on the track right-side up was also a godsend. And thankfully his head didn’t appear to hit anything. But his injuries sound very serious. People have suggested hockey arena walls, but the expense would be staggering.

Q: Why is it not obvious to add the windscreens to the IndyCar? I know you have seen the replays of Wickens’ crash. While I didn’t see anything a windscreen could have prevented in that accident, there was debris flying all over the place. This is all going to happen again someday, sad to say. If someone gets hurt from debris from the front, what a tragedy.

Mark Lamontia, Landenberg, PA

RM: IndyCar has tested the windscreen, and will continue to do so after the season.

Q: After watching Wickens’ wreck at Pocono, and seeing recent wrecks where IndyCars barely clear the SAFER barrier and concrete wall (Kimball – Pocono, Wheldon -– Vegas, Aleshin – California, etc.), is the solution making the SAFER barrier and concrete walls taller in areas where they do not obstruct the grandstand? In a lot of these crashes, the cars barely cleared the wall and got to the fence. Had they been even just a foot taller (or more), this may have prevented the cars from ever getting to the fence and causing the carnage we see when they get into it.

Mark in Cincinnati

RM: Do you recall how high Scott Dixon was in his 2017 Indy crash? He would have cleared a 15-foot wall, and Mike Conway, Ryan Briscoe and Kenny Brack also got serious air-time in their accidents. The physics of an open-wheel racecar traveling 200mph and running over a wheel is unpredictable. There is no doubt today’s open-wheel cars have out-grown the fences at a lot of tracks, but which ovals can afford to rebuild or redesign their walls? IndyCar needs to share the expense, because it’s the only way I see it getting done, but you have to have a universal plan first.

Q: So thankful to hear that Robert Wickens was awake and alert after such a scary incident at Pocono. There is no doubt that safety in the IndyCar Series is incredible given the speeds involved, but in my opinion the next great advancement will be developing an alternative to the catch fence that is affordable for tracks without disrupting the visibility of the spectators. Has there ever been any real research made in this regard? Could something like ballistic glass be put up to keep the cars out of the fence, or is that naive on my part? I understand that cost is always a factor, but how much do incidents like these cost in terms of repairs, injury and negative publicity?

Tom Anderson, Mesa, AZ

RM: I called Randy Bernard on Monday because I recalled him meeting with someone about Plexiglas walls. It was Raytheon in 2011, and Randy said the expense would have been astronomical. But anything that deflects the car instead of grabbing it would be fantastic, it’s just not so easy to snap your fingers and make it happen.

Q: Has IndyCar considered making the wire catch fences flush with the SAFER walls and placing energy-absorbing material, similar to that used in the SAFER walls, between the wire fence and the existing fence poles, essentially resulting in SAFER fence posts?

Craig, Cumberland, IN

RM: I don’t know, I’m sure lots of options have been discussed over time and again, fencing is different everywhere so for a uniform system to be adopted would require a new plan and millions and millions of dollars.