Robin Miller's Mailbag for September 12, presented by Honda Racing /HPD

Robin Miller's Mailbag for September 12, presented by Honda Racing /HPD

Insights & Analysis

Robin Miller's Mailbag for September 12, presented by Honda Racing /HPD


In most cases – such as Phoenix, 2017 – crashed cars are eventually returned to the teams. Image by LePage/LAT

Q: It is amazing that Robert Wickens survived his crash and it is a testament to the work IndyCar has made to safety in the last five years, but I’m wondering what happens to the remains of Wickens’ car after a crash like that. Does it go back to the team to be salvaged, or back to the manufacturer to be studied, or maybe it goes to IndyCar to be scrutinized? Can you fill us in on what happens to chassis after such a major crash?

David, Chicago

RM: IndyCar kept the tub for a couple hours, taking photos and comparing notes with Dallara, and then gave it back to SPM. That’s usually standard operating procedure. In a case like Dan Wheldon, I believe IndyCar kept the car for a few months and went over every detail.

Q: With the recent release of the extent of Robert’s injuries, I have to ask: Did the safety cell really do its job? And what about the HANS device? In 1971 I was involved in a very bad car accident (my fault – stupid teenager) in which I fractured my fourth lumbar vertebrae. It took over a week before the doctors knew whether I would be paralyzed. Luckily, I wasn’t. I have stainless steel rods and screws between my third and fifth vertebrae, and I have to be careful that I don’t overdue it. I was lucky. Hopefully, Robert will come through okay and be able to walk again. Forget racing again. Just being able to walk is the most important thing. If he can race, then that is a bonus.

The number of fractures to his extremities is troubling to me. It doesn’t sound like the safety cell offered enough protection. Did the safety cell get ruptured or punctured? I can understand that his arms may have come out of the cell, but multiple fractures to both legs is disconcerting. Are IndyCar and Dallara looking at the safety cell to see if it offers enough protection? I sure hope so.

I also have to ask if the HANS device was faulty or improperly installed?

Doug Mayer

RM: Talking with SPM team manager Taylor Kiel and Dallara’s Owen Synder, they both said the safety cell held up as good as anything imaginable considering the ferocity of Robert’s accident. And everything else performed to standards, as it should have. There was a report the fire bottle came loose on impact and that may have contributed to his leg injuries, but nothing has ever been confirmed. When you go from 190 mph to zero, the consequences can be devastating, and I’m just glad he didn’t suffer any head injuries. We are all praying he walks out of the rehab center.

Q: Questions about Cleveland seem to be appearing almost weekly, and your standard response is that Mike Lanigan would promote Cleveland again if he could score a good title sponsor. Is he actively looking for a title sponsor? Would it help to get a committee together to help him look for a title sponsor? What can we do to help him bring racing back to Cleveland? There’s a small Facebook page named “Bring Back the Cleveland Grand Prix” that must read your column since they share a lot of your Cleveland Mailbag questions. Every little bit helps I guess.

Brian Dembinski, Amherst, Ohio

RM: No, I don’t believe Mike is looking for a sponsor, he’s busy running his company (MiJack), but if someone were to find a sponsor and bring it to him, I imagine they could get a nice percentage and become a hero, because we all want to go back to Burke Lakefront Airport.

Q: Will we ever see IndyCars back at Michigan International Speedway… and why the hell not?

James Hileski, Kalamazoo, Michigan

RM: Not unless MIS wants them back, and there’s no conversation at the moment.

Q: How much does it cost a venue like Gateway or Pocono to host an IndyCar race? How much do tracks try and get for title sponsorship of races?

Ben, West Michigan

RM: It all depends on the sanction fee, how much sponsorship can be obtained, your marketing budget and the expenses of conducting a two-day show. Gateway (Bommarito Automotive Supply) and Pocono (ABC Supply) both have good title sponsors, but nowadays that could vary from $100,000 to $500,000.

Q: In regards to the 2019 schedule and news that COTA is on the schedule, I have a question about the sanctioning fees and territorial agreements. Having been widely reported that IndyCar was working hard with Eddie Gossage, and that they granted a discount on their sanction fees, it leaves me with the following questions: Is this deal now exclusive only to Texas for a discounted fee? Or would this open the door for other venues to request a discount based on territory? Can you give more detail in to other venues that might have territorial rights, and how far those rights stretch that would deny potential tracks from ever becoming an IndyCar host?

Given that Austin and Fort Worth are roughly 220 miles apart, I have been looking around at other tracks, both on the schedule and not. Barring what we know about certain tracks’ willingness and facilities, the following host track combinations come to mind: Long Beach and Fontana (60 miles), Toronto and Canadian Tire Motorsports Park (60 miles), Detroit and Michigan Int. Speedway (70 miles), WeatherTech Raceway and Sonoma (149 miles), Pocono and Watkins Glen (170 miles).

Jamie Doellinger, Wrightsville, PA

RM: There have always been different sanction fee prices for different venues, and sometimes it was necessary for CART, IRL, Champ Car or IndyCar to lower the fees in order to keep that particular race going. When Tony George merged the two series in 2008, I know Long Beach got a sweetheart sanction fee because it was owned by Kevin Kalkhoven and Gerald Forsythe, so that was understandable. But I’d be surprised if anyone pays more than $1 million these days, and yes, Texas did get a discount after all these years because obviously the crowds ain’t what they use to be and IndyCar understands. Texas and Sonoma were the only two territorial deals I’ve ever heard of in IndyCar. Belle Isle and MIS ran together in CART, as did Pocono and The Glen or Toronto and Montreal. Long Beach and Fontana never had a problem because they were always separated by five or sixth months.