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: First, let me congratulate Scott Dixon on winning a fifth IndyCar Championship. An awesome race car driver, and a great guy (or “bloke” as we say Down Under). I have known Scott since he came to Australia (although he was actually born in Australia) as a teenager, mentored by NZ legend and F5000 great Kenny Smith to race in our Formula Holden category in the late ‘90s, and he was a freckle faced kid and bit of a porker (a little chubby). In his Indy Lights winning season in 2000, we saw him begin to transform into the great athlete that we still see today, and he won that title against a very good field which included several drivers who already had success at good levels or went on to achieve. Today, he is the ultimate professional race car driver competing in the greatest racing series on the planet.
RM: Well said. He’s the consummate pro, on and off the track, whose many talents serve him well in IndyCar’s diverse platform. He’s also a first class person with a splendid sense of humor a lot of people don’t see, and a great ambassador for IndyCar. And he’s gone from that bashful kid in Lights to a good quote on any subject.
Q: First: you NBC guys do a great job on TV. Second: as much as I like F1, IndyCars are a helluva lot more interesting and entertaining. Most F1 races are over by Turn 2. What’s it gonna take to get more cars on the grid? There’s gotta be a way to steal some of that NASCAR sponsorship money. Third: hate to be a crank, and I admit that Dixon is a great talent, but I sometimes think TV could be called the Scott Dixon Hour. I bet that if you check the stats you’ll find an inordinate amount of time focusing on Dixon with interviews and on-track commentary at the expense of the other 20 guys out there. Too bad the season’s over.
Ed Lawrence, Bozeman, Montana
RM: I think IndyCar may have 24-25 full-timers next year so that’s encouraging, and how can we not help but praise the driver who now only trails A.J. Foyt in championships? Dixie may have gotten more airtime the past two races but he deserved it, and he was the main storyline along with Rossi. If anything, I think our producers try to feature as many drivers as possible on any given race weekend,
Q: I just watched the trailer for Born Racer featuring Scott Dixon. It looks to be very well done and that it could generate some new interest for the sport. Why are they releasing it October 2? The release date is weeks after the season finale, and months before the start of next season. It seems to be the worst possible release date. Thoughts?
Steve M, Danville, CA
RM: The fact IndyCar is off for six months makes me think that October is too early – hell, wait until Xmas time to try and keep people engaged. But Dixie winning his fifth title in a nice segue to his documentary a couple weeks later. And the premier is being shown here in Indy on Sept. 24.
Q: I have followed CART/IRL/IndyCar since the 70s, and as cool the 80s and 90s were, there has never been a deeper talent pool of drivers than the last five years. We have legitimate second- and third-generation racers, not cousins and nephews of legends. When there is a female driver, she can compete, like Legge (robbed of an open-wheel career).
Those scrapping for final seats are race winners, sometimes ex-champions. Turn 1 in each race is no longer a police wrecking yard after St. Patty’s Day. This, now, is gold! Now is the time to add HP and make the cars faster and more difficult to drive, because this batch of racers can handle it. The series is strong, healthy, even attracting top level F1 drivers, delusional NASCAR racers, and others. There are enough American drivers, Canadian drivers, South American drivers and others to make the “purists” and international fans happy that they are seeing top-notch talent. No-one goes into any race thinking: “this is x-drivers’ race to lose” – it is wide open.
From the darkness that was The Split, IndyCar has risen,stronger than ever! I have fond memories of open-wheel racing since the good ol’ days, but I have to check my heart at the door when I evaluate what we have here today.
Brett, People’s Republik of Kalifornia
RM: There is no denying the depth of talent and teams is probably at a 25-year high and, to your point, very seldom does a wanker slide into the lineup – especially on a regular basis. But let’s not to be too hasty, because there were times in the 1950s and 1960s that AAA and USAC fields sported champs from all over North America and with only 18 cars (except Indianapolis) comprising the starting grid, some great drivers were spectators some days if they drew a bad number in qualifying. The youth movement in IndyCar is impressive, along with the new owners who are racers to the core like Mike Shank, Trevor Carlin and Ricardo Juncos.
Q: Well, another great IndyCar season in the books. I hate that we have to wait six whole months to get another dose, but I think next year will be even better. Rossi has proven this year to be a world-class talent. He’s also proven to me that he’s a dirty little ****. I think he’ll get what’s coming to him one of these days, and I’ll be cheering for it.
I know a lot of people agree with me, and a lot of others don’t. I think that’s a great thing. It’s good that IndyCar has a villain again. It’s good that we’ve got somebody to argue about. I’ve gotten into several discussions about him over the last couple months. I can’t remember the last time a driver in IndyCar has been the subject of that much debate. So, while I’ll be cheering against him, I’m glad Rossi is in IndyCar. He’s good for the sport.
Dylan Burgett, Villa Park, IL
RM: Rossi has certainly been polarizing with fans, but as you stated, that’s a good thing, and watching him rise up the ranks has been entertaining and impressive. He’s got some cut-throat in him, but that serves a race driver well, and he’s going to be winning races and championships for the next 10 years. I’m just glad Bryan Herta and Michael Andretti rescued him from F1 purgatory.
Q: After watching the Sonoma finale, I came away impressed with how enjoyable the race (and the season as a whole) was to watch, especially given how boring some of the past Sonoma races have been. Here are a couple takeaways I had. First of all, what was going on with the NASCAR Las Vegas race overlapping the IndyCar coverage? I know Sonoma was scheduled to start after the NASCAR race had finished and the NASCAR race ran long, but even if it had finished on time there would have been almost no time for interviews after Las Vegas and before Sonoma. I normally think NBC does a great job with its coverage of both series, but this seems like a very simple error in scheduling that could have been avoided. Second, Pato O’Ward really impressed in his debut by finishing 9th. I’m sure Harding would want to keep him full-time next year, but have you heard of any other teams interested in him and Colton Herta besides Harding and Andretti?
Alexander S., Cincinnati, OH
RM: The plan was to go from the NASCAR race right to the command to start engines at Sonoma, but it’s not NBCSN’s fault the “greatest drivers in the world,” kept crashing into each other, and the red flag in Vegas really killed the overall plan. O’Ward’s performance was nothing short of dazzling and I imagine quite a few teams suddenly took notice of this teenager, but his immediate future is looking bright.
Q: That O’Ward kid raced well. Any chance we can throw him in a team with Alonso (I’m being presumptuous) and shake up the status quo a little? Do you think IndyCar should start working on a Mexican race to fill one of those three-week gaps that are in the season? I think this kid is here to stay. I also think it might have been smart to chase a European race while F1 is on their summer break – Especially a race in Spain if they manage to get Alonso. Of course I would love to see them back in Australia as a priority.
John, Newcastle, Australia
RM: Pato’s plans will be revealed today, but he’s been getting great coverage from the Mexican media, and if Carlos Slim takes a liking to this kid (how could you not?), then I think Mexico City becomes a reality. I know Mark Miles was talking to them a year ago but IndyCar didn’t have anything like O’Ward to promote back then. And he’s got it all – talent, balls, bravado and personality.
Q: Can you go into any detail as to what’s going on with Harding? They were all in to start the year, but still don’t have any sponsors in the car. Why don’t they have updated dampers? Is it cost? Do Juncos and Shank have updated dampers? Also, I’ve sat in Turn 2 at Indy for 18 years. Since they tore down the rotating scoreboard to update the road course we’ve been frustrated with knowing what lap it is at the Speedway. Can you pass that on? I’d love to see a mini scoring tower in Turn 2 like the one they built at Mid-Ohio.
Loren, Newark, OH
RM: As Marshall wrote last weekend, Harding became the Junior Andretti team last weekend at Sonoma – complete with engineers, mechanics, shocks and technical support from Michael’s team. There will be a significant announcement regarding Pato and Colton today so read RACER.com. I sent your request to IMS.
Q: The three drivers I enjoyed watching the most this past season were Alexander Rossi, Sebastien Bourdais, and Robert Wickens. With your extensive knowledge of former drivers, do the racing styles and personalities of each of these drivers remind you of any former drivers? Also, do you think the best years are now behind Bourdais?
James Jackson, Livonia, MI
RM: During one of our live practice shows last weekend, Leigh Diffey asked Michael Andretti if Rossi reminded him of himself, and that’s actually a good comparison because they both want to get out front and lead every lap, and both are super-aggressive. Wickens bears some resemblance to Al Unser Jr. in that he gets whatever the car is capable of on that particular day, and Bourdais is kinda like Big Al – a smart, savvy guy that pushes at the right time. I think Seabass at 30 was probably faster than the soon-to-be 40 ,but he’s still plenty capable of winning.
Q: An amazing season. Hats off to Scott Dixon for joining Big Tex as the only drivers to win the IndyCar title five times. But the season was all about Alexander Rossi, even if he fell short of winning the Indy Car title. What would have happened if Dale Coyne had a matching contract to compete with the Campos GP2 team and kept him back in 2015? This is a driver that got away from Coyne, Manor, and Haas. Even Formula 1 itself. Now, 2019 could become his year. But another obstacle could be on the horizon with Fernando Alonso coming into the series. And as far as Dixon goes, can IndyCar’s Iceman place a Formula 1 drive on his bucket list after getting his sixth before calling it quits?
JLS, Chicago, IL
RM: I’m sure Dixie might like to test an F1 car some day, but doubt if he’s got any interest in racing one unless it was as Lewis Hamilton’s teammate (and that ain’t gonna happen). He’s almost 40 and very secure in his career. On the other hand, Rossi was given a second lease on his racing life by Andretti and Herta and has run with it, and I think that’s one of the best stories of the past few years. People say ‘well now Rossi will want to go back to F1’, but again, why would he leave a great situation where he’s a contender in every race to go back and maybe get a mid-pack ride? No chance.
Q: When Rossi cut his tire on Lap 1, he skipped the Carousel and the chicane. When he rejoined the race at Turn 7, the end of the drag strip, he was running in the top five. When he rejoined the race at the exit of the chicane, he was running 10th and nearly took out Ed Jones because he just drove straight on the track instead of stopping for the field to pass. 1) Why didn’t Kyle Novak penalize Rossi for this? If not for cutting the track, at least for driving into the middle of a race with a damaged car.2) What do you think about it? 3) What did competitors think about it?
Kyle in Raleigh
Q: It did not matter when it was all said and done, but Rossi took advantage and played the system on the opening lap after he broke his wing. He then took the shortcuts and basically entered the pits without losing much in track position. He got the wings and nose replaced and did not lose a lap. If he had to take the actual track, he would have lost a lap. IndyCar has to close this loophole with time penalties to reflect what he would have lost.
Mark in Cincinnati
RM: Here’s IndyCar race director Kyle Novak:
“Drivers were instructed in the drivers meeting that the shortcut from the runoff at Turn 4 to the re-entry point in Turn 7 was available to them if the car was in significant mechanical distress impairing their own safety or the safety of others. Drivers would be allowed to take that shortcut provided the time and all positions gained were given back on the lap in which the shortcut occurred.
“In the case of the 27 car, all the time and positions were given back before the car arrived at the pit entrance.”
Q: I’m a Detroit Lions fan. Can we please have a couple more races to watch? This season was here and gone before we knew it, and what an amazing season it was. I’ve got a couple questions, but I’m sure the responses will be brief. Who had the most disappointing season? (Graham Rahal) Is Pato really that far ahead of Colton? Side note: I guess these cars don’t race great everywhere. It was still better than most Sonoma races.
Ryan in West Michigan
RM: Condolences on your football team Ryan, but in talking to a couple of sponsors this past weekend they were saying they hoped IndyCar’s season was over before the NFL started, so if anything I think Mark Miles wants to start much earlier and end in early September. I think 20 races would be ideal. Nobody was more disappointed with his season than Graham; first time in four years he didn’t win a race. What you have to remember about Pato is that he drove high horsepower IMSA cars in 2017 and he’s a grad student while Colton is still in school. Last Sunday’s race was typical for Sonoma: no passes for the lead except on pit stops, and pretty much a bore. Certainly not the venue you want to end your season and crown your champion at, and Laguna will be a carbon copy – from the lack of fans to the lack of action.
Q: Now that the championship is officially over (congrats to Dixon!) we can now find out how silly season will shape up over the break. Everyone including yourself has stated that Felix Rosenqvist is a done deal at Ganassi. My question is, why? Now let me expand here. This is not a knock on CGR, Indy ar, Formula E, or anyone, but I wonder why Felix would want to trade his seat in Formula E which is funded by the largest farming tractor company in the world (and which also makes cars in India) in a series that appears to have some global appeal, is growing, and has the eye of the top European car manufacturers? Was his contract not going to get renewed by Mahindra? Is he not a fan of the electric power? Did Chip offer a deal too good to pass up? Is IndyCar something he has always wanted to do?
RM: I don’t know about everyone, but I wrote back at Pocono that he was headed to Ganassi although it sounds like there might be a couple complications so nothing is set in stone just yet. But after his two tests for Ganassi they were wowed by his talent and feedback. He’s won at everything he’s tried in open-wheel and desires competing at a higher level, which IndyCar clearly is right now. I understand Felix is making $1 million so Chip probably won’t pay him that, but Formula E is like the scrap heap for guys who didn’t make it in F1 and I think Rosenvquist wants to test his talents against better and more diverse competition with an engine ringing in his ears.
Q: At Sonoma practice this past weekend, Chip Ganassi was asked about who might fill his second seat next year. Given he made no mention at all of Ed Jones, it seems a done deal that he’s firing Ed, unfortunately. Ed had an off-season comparable to Pagenaud’s, but Penske still re-signed Simon. Is there any place for Ed to go next year? Has any team expressed an interest in him for 2019?
Chris Pericak, Charlottesville, VA
RM: Chip is not a patient person, so after Jones’ crash at Phoenix and a few struggles the writing was on the wall. But Ed is a good shoe and drove his butt off for Dale Coyne in 2017, so I imagine that might be a place he lands if he can find a couple million. But there aren’t many seats open.
Q: I’m wondering if you have any thoughts on if Robbie would have ended up in a top tier ride next season had he not had the accident? (I’m not sure how deep his ties to Honda are either)
P.S. Portland was great this year, can’t wait for next year!
Mike Austin, Vancouver, B.C. via Toronto
RM: Sam Schmidt said last spring he had a five-year deal with Robbie, so that’s where he’s staying when and if he can get back in an IndyCar. And Honda is a big fan.
Q: In a piece last week ‘Herta, Keeping it Real…’ your colleague Marshall Pruett used the term “Hertamania 2.0”. Did I miss something? I recall Bryan Herta as a particularly bland character and journeyman racer, and fans of the day (myself included) keeping any ‘mania’ well under control. Is Colton Herta a much different personality and racer than his Dad, and can we expect something special from him?
A Jenkins. Canada
RM: Bryan was Lights champion and a damn good racer that won in CART and IRL, but might be forever remembered for being passed by Zanardi at Laguna in the Corkscrew. But Ganassi gassed him but he found a home with Bobby Rahal (that’s where David Letterman introduced Hertamania) and was a superb road racer. And he’s got a marvelous sense of humor (check out our Tony Kanaan’s 300th start video on RACER.com). Colton is special but he’s a quiet, 18-year-old right now, so give him time to grow into his role.
Q: With all this new interest in IndyCar are we going to see races other then Indy where we have bumping? I’m seeing some stories that Shank wants to have a two-car team by 2020. What do you think is a conservative guess on car count for this coming year and maybe 2020? This really is a great problem for a series to have.
Rick from PA
RM: Townsend Bell and I were talking last weekend about the pros and cons of bumping people. He likes the fact it’s a tough series that takes on added credibility if only the fastest 24 cars make the grid, but I worry about sponsors and sending people home. Obviously, it didn’t affect SPM, Hinch and Arrow, but you hate to press your luck. I think 24-25 full-timers is a reality for next season.
Q: A great 2018 is officially in the books and I am looking forward to what 2019 has in store with the rumors of new teams, drivers and a few new tracks. Is there any word on the title sponsor search? Hopefully IndyCar is looking globally, with rumors of international races ahead. Just like Fed-Ex did for CART. Also, are we expecting an active “silly season” or a “silly silly season”?
Eric, Hayward, CA
RM: No word yet, Mark Miles is in Europe working on the international TV deal as we write but his next goal is securing a title sponsor (and he says he’s got a couple candidates). Silly Season is pretty much two seats right now: one at Ganassi (I think it’s going to be Felix Rosenvquist) and SPM to be Hinch’s running mate until Wickens’ situation comes to light. We all hope Robert is back, but 2019 might be a real long shot.
Q: Was very disappointed that the NASCAR race ran so long that it cut in to the season-ending IndyCar final race broadcast and eliminated all of the pre-race hype and setup. And the start of the race, too, was cut. Kind of a slap in the face to IndyCar. Let’s be honest. NASCAR is a contrived joke. It’s not racing. No wonder the stands are emptying. Stage racing, competition yellows, red flags in the last 10 laps, GWC, lucky dog, the Chase… on and on.
These drivers can’t even drive in a straight line at the end of races. Understand the decision that while the viewership numbers are where they are right now, (although dwindling rather fast for the tin-tops), NASCAR will always get preferential treatment by NBCSN and bump IndyCar. Any plans for NBCSN to handle this any differently moving forward under the new contract, or will we just have to live with it? No matter how much they cross-market and hype the races and broadcasts, NASCAR is just so painful to watch. Here’s a thought for NASCAR: maybe they should try rolling the cars off of the trailers and race, straight up, for a change, and produce an honest race winner.
RM: As I wrote to an earlier reader, NBCSN can’t control NASCAR’s crashes so it was just unfortunate because the plan was a nice doubleheader that ended in Vegas and went right to the green flag in Sonoma. Sure NBC paid a fortune to get NASCAR, but just wait and see how good things will be for IndyCar next year on the Peacock.
Q: I have watched and read your work for years. I wanted to write several times but lacked the courage. I have been frustrated at various times with IndyCar decision-makers, but today I cannot fault those in charge. Today I missed the start of the IndyCar final race. I am so disappointed. I was stuck watching fake racing NASCRAP. They cut to the IndyCar race on Lap 2. I feel so frustrated. I went on the app before 6:30 PM ET when I saw NASCRAP was running long, and the live stream on NBC sports app wasn’t showing me anything. I tried TV and cell phone apps. This is a horrible way to treat IndyCar fans.
You keep telling us how NBC is going to be different and actually give long suffering IndyCar fans something better. They proved this is not the case today. No pre-race for season finale, and no race start. I guess I can watch the start of race when IndyCar posts race on YouTube days from now. Thanks NBC. I really wonder why I torture myself with IndyCar. I try to promote IndyCar to my kids and family and friends, but why? The people running the series have crapped on us so much over the years. The TV partners have crapped on us over the years.
This is more difficult than it should be to be a fan. I’ve been to several races over the years and taken my kids to races. I went to Watkins Glen the previous two years and there was no promotion. I live in Syracuse, NY area and never saw or heard any advertising. When I told people about the race and that I was going they had no idea. I promoted the race more than the series or track did. love the series so much and have for so long (since I was a young kid). My 12-year-old son Alexander is a huge Alexander Rossi fan and was invested in the title chase until the frustration of trying to watch race – he left and went back to gaming on Xbox. I got to tell him Rossi suffered damage 20 minutes after race coverage start time. Not sure how Rossi suffered damage since NBCSN cut over after incident.
We deserve better than this treatment. I support the series and have been IndyCar Nation member for years. I purchase IndyCar driver and IMS gear for myself and family. I was going to purchase the NBC Gold when available so I could watch everything IndyCar on one platform, but our series finale is treated like this? This is the sobering reality. NBC is no better. NBC doesn’t care about IndyCar. I am not a valued NBC customer.
RM: No doubt a lot of fans were pissed with what transpired last Sunday, but it had nothing to do with playing favorites. NBCSN was going to show the conclusion of the first Chase race if it lasted until midnight, and unfortunately IndyCar got burned because of all the crashes and the red flag. But let me say that NBCSN ran non-stop promotions of Sonoma all during the NASCAR race (including as live cut in a couple times showing different drivers) and NBC will do more for IndyCar next year than anyone can imagine. NBC does care about IndyCar and this will become quite obvious next May. I’m sorry for your disappointment, but going to CNBC was the only alternative until the NASCAR race ended. Second guessing, maybe the IndyCar race should have been moved back to a 7 p.m. EST start, but you would hope three-and-a-half hours would have been enough. Don’t give up on NBC Gold, and get me your address so I can send your son a Rossi hat.
Q: Well, I tuned in to watch the final IndyCar race and what do I see? The usual NASCAR wreck-fest with what they now call overtime. I’ll give NBC credit for handling it fairly well. That racing is so contrived that the potential winner with 10 laps to go never wins. They certainly make IndyCar look professional and true to the sport. If you can’t run three laps without wrecking, you need to find another sport. Please, IndyCar, never copy anything they do, I am sure many of those driver are as frustrated as most of us.
Harold, Dayton, OH
RM: I don’t think there’s ever going to be that kind of manipulation in IndyCar, or most of us would walk away.
Q: As is well known, A.J. Foyt is a proud and forceful presence in IndyCars. How does having his name on a team which, despite a revolving door of drivers is perennially at the back, sit with the notoriously impatient Foyt? Is his volatile presence part of the problem?
Snuffy Smith II
RM: No, A.J. is pretty hands-off compared to a decade ago, and it’s pretty much Larry Foyt’s team. There have been some nice upgrades to the team the past couple years, but with a rookie and a veteran I don’t think there’s much in the way of technical feedback compared to Andretti or Penske, and that’s huge today.
Q: This is not directed at you, but please try to rationalize the shaft us IndyCar fans were shown today by cutting away to go to the NASCAR “playoff.” Embarrassing. NBCSN promotes the IndyCar finale and then decides, nope, we’ll cut to another network to show a contrived NASCAR finish and then stick around for the meaningless victory lap and winner’s interview. All-around poor move by NBCSN. At least I know where IndyCar stands with NBC: at the bottom.
RM: Please read my response a couple of questions back. NBC went after IndyCar and it’s going to be a big part of the motorsports market of NASCAR, IMSA and SuperCross. What happened last Sunday was simply unfortunate. No network is going to not show the finish of the race it’s had on for three hours, and CNBC was the backup plan. And IndyCar will get more airtime, more promotion and more exposure from NBC and NBCSN next year than it’s ever had with anyone else.
Q: Thanks for the RACER.com vids, and I loved your podcast with Kelly Crandall. I’ve got a few questions this week. What would your choice for the IndyCar schedule be, and what supporting racing would you like? What tracks do we need to go back to, or drop? What happened to the car counts in Indy Lights? Yes, IndyCar needs to promote the series much more. I’d love to see a commercial with Fernando saying “My name is Fernando Alonso, remember it. Because I’m going to win the Indy 500 and the championship next year”. Now flash to the current 500 winners laughing, now have a rookies O’Ward and Herta come in and say, “Uh, remember Nigel Mansel?” They all frown. Flash back to Alonso with a big smile and he says “See you next year.”
Steve Coe, Lemon Grove, CA
RM: If I had promoters, I’d add Cleveland, Richmond, Mexico City and maybe Kentucky. Here’s a take from Mazda Road to Indy boss Dan Andersen:
“Indy Lights as you know suffered a “perfect storm” this year with too many Lights drivers moving up to IndyCar, some earlier than they should have, and Carlin Racing parking their four-car team at least for the moment. IndyCar and I have a solid five-year-plan for rebuilding, and their new licensing requirements will prevent every driver with a bankroll from buying an IndyCar seat at prices not much higher than an Indy Lights budget. Truth is, we need more IndyCar teams to support Indy Lights, rather than simply taking (and too early) our drivers. The Road to Indy ladder is working well, and while we have some issues to address, our history should allow us some time to address them.”
Q: Saw a Twitter post with Mike Hull talking about the engine war in IndyCar and was wondering how lopsided the engine performance was this year? And do you think it’ll be different in 2019? Thank you and to RACER for great reporting!
Glenn Weaver, Charlotte
RM: Honda won the manufacturers title for the first time since Chevrolet came back to IndyCar in 2012, and Honda scored 11 victories to six for the Bow Tie, but Ganassi made the move in 2015 because Honda paid him handsomely. And, yes, I think Pagenaud wins a couple times in 2019, so that really balances the sheet.
Q: I’ve been seeing many of the readers talking about Plexiglas replacing catch fencing. Wouldn’t plexi that’s thick enough to hold a car be the same as a wall and need to softened? My opinion is, just raise the wall and SAFER Barrier where possible.
With Honda winning the manufacturers’ title, will Chevy look for a better team to sign, or possibly ask Penske to go back to four cars? I think Chevy needs more bullets in their gun to compete with Ganassi and the Andretti group.
Bruce in Philly
RM: Take too long to explain all the reasons Plexiglas isn’t feasible, but trust me, IndyCar has looked into it and it’s not an option. Chevy won the title in 2016 and 2017 with Team Penske and three cars is plenty, plus Ed Carpenter is always a threat at Indy and so was TK this past May.
Q: I remember Chevy and Penske (I believe) were testing the manufacturer aero kits at COTA prior to the 2015 season. Do you have any idea of lap times that the cars dressed in their manufacturer aero kits were turning? I assume the universal kit should be pretty close, and see higher top speeds on the long straights. Longer braking zones… good passing action?
Tim from Stamford
RM: No. I keep hearing six to seven seconds slower than F1, but who cares? IndyCar will put on a much better show, and I would hope if they could put on a show like they did at Mid-Ohio that COTA will offer plenty of places to pass.
Q: Mr. Miller, all of the sudden rumors of Alfa Romeo and KIA to IndyCar (from Bobby Rahal) seem to be popping up everywhere. Where is IndyCar actually at on this matter and is a story by RACER.com coming soon? This would be the cherry on top of everything positive to happen to IndyCar lately! Thanks in advance!
Kyle in Germany
RM: Jay Frye is in Switzerland at an FIA conference, but I hadn’t heard these rumors until your letter.
Q: Re: Laguna Seca and no place to pass. I respectfully refer you to this past weekend’s IMSA event there. I have spent an aggregate of nearly three months of my life (three or four days at a time ) at this track, and I just saw passes made where they had not been made before. I’m not talking about passes on cars of different classes, but passes for position in Turns 2-3-5-8 and 11. Granted, the passer had to be really committed, but the result was most exciting. The eternal optimist in me hopes for at least a fraction of this kind of action from IndyCar when they get there. Oh yeah, and the calamari is fantastic.
RM: I hope I’m 1,000 percent wrong and Laguna turns into a combination of Road America and Watkins Glen, but I sat through four races where there were zero passes up front and one race where the winner never passed a car on the track, so I remain skeptical.
Q: There has been a lot of talk that the IndyCar race at Laguna Seca next year will be the equivalent of a sleep aid, because there will be little to no passing. At the IMSA race, there was some great on-track passing. I realize that open-wheel racing is a different animal, but prototypes do share some similarities (aero dependent, carbon brakes, tire compounds, etc.). Drivers noted that tire wear was significant due to the abrasive nature of the circuit. This made for some good battles out of the hairpin. Will the racing be the Monterey-area equivalent of the Chili Bowl? No, but it is way too early to write it off. On a safety note, IndyCar and Laguna should carefully study the Super Trofeo accident from Saturday. Cannot repeat the tragic events of 1999.
Jonathan and Cleide Morris, Ventura, CA
RM: Again, I hope things have changed since Champ Car was last there (I’m told nothing has in terms of the track), but these universal aero kits have made for some great road and street course racing, so hopefully Laguna will benefit as well. The young lady who crashed a couple weeks ago hit the throttle instead of the brake, so I don’t know what anybody can do in that situation. It’s protected about as much as possible, but obviously it’s a fast part of the track.
Q: I cannot agree more with Earl Zwickey’s letter to you about slowing the cars down. I love Jim Hall and Chaparral, but wings have got to be the worst thing that has happened to auto racing. So I was super interested in what Gordon Kimball was going to say, but didn’t see any suggestions. A friend of mine who races says they need to get rid of paddle shifters to make the show better. I wrote to you a while back about stock blocks and the reply from IndyCar was weight distribution. Engineering is more important than good racing with manufacturer involvement? I know I sound like a “get off my lawn” guy, but gosh darn those cars from the ‘60s were beautiful! No wings, no tunnels, no paddle shifters, no push to pass, and do whatever it takes to get Ford, Ferrari, Mercedes, Dodge, Nissan, Toyota, Hyundai, Kia, etc in there!
Greg Williams, Apache Junction, AZ
RM: Gordon has plenty of good ideas, I just didn’t share them because I wanted to use his premise that the show would not suffer and likely be better if cars were going 175 through the corner instead of 225 mph. And it gives the drivers a fighting chance to react. Not sure paddle shifters have any effect on the racing, I just wish drivers still had to shift and heel toe because that was part of their craft.
Q: I was wondering your thoughts on the possibility of a return of an oval-only type of IndyCar series? The USF2000 car and Pro Mazda car has shown that quality cars can be built for a lot less money than what Dallara is charging, and with the implementation of the Ilmor engine in ARCA (also Chevy’s engine builder I believe?) we know that a reliable “crate” system can be built cheaper then most think. I think you have a lot of open-wheel guys on the market that would love an opportunity at a less expensive IndyCar-type series. Obviously you get into the cost versus safety equation, but interested to hear your thoughts.
RM: Can’t see it, too hard to get people to attend ovals and another series isn’t going to magically change that reality. If any driver has IndyCar aspirations, he or she has to learn to road race, so I just don’t know that another one would be any better than Davey Hamilton’s or the one in Michigan that Bryan Gerster runs.
Q: Could the rumors about Liberty wanting to buy IndyCar/IMS, etc. be true? I absolutely hope so, the Hulman family is not progressing the series – they don’t have the $$power or the people in place for round-the-world promotion. Yes, I said ‘round the world, not just the U.S. Wouldn’t it be nice if IndyCar raced in Europe and South America at tracks that used to just host F1? That takes vision and guts – Liberty has both. By the way Penske, why don’t you buy IndyCar and promote it like you do your businesses? IndyCar is stuck with the Hulman family in control. The best racing on the planet (yes, better than NASCAB and way better than F1), but nobody sees it on NBCSN!
RM: First of all, the Hulman/George family does not run IndyCar racing, and The Captain spent his own money and time getting CART started in 1979, so he’s got bigger fish to fry. Randy Bernard was approached by one of the Liberty principals in 2010 about whether IndyCar was for sale, but after one meeting he never heard from them again. And I’m not convinced Liberty is all that smart, and we’ll see if they’re still solvent and standing in a couple years.
Q: As much as I hate it, it seems that A.J. Almendinger’s stock is turning downward in NASCAR. Do you think any IndyCar teams still see value in the ‘Dinger? I think he would be a great asset to that series!!
Paul, Williamstown, VT.
RM: If Mike Shank would expand I imagine he might consider A.J. since they worked together in sports cars with a lot of success, but don’t think anyone else in IndyCar would be interested. I’ll always wish Dinger would have stayed in open-wheel because he was just becoming a star when he left for NASCAR.
Q: First of all, I would like to thank you for your passion, for reporting and for sharing your deep knowledge about motorsport, and more specifically the IndyCar Series.
I am a Portuguese engineer, currently living and working in Paris, who has a long-term passion for American open-wheel racing that started first with CART, then IRL and mainly Champ Car in the early 2000s, and now with this refreshing and exciting IndyCar Series “re-incarnation”.I can’t say how joyful and excited I have been about IndyCar these past months, with the new aero-kit, the amazing drivers and teams, and the variety of quality circuits that are visited. All this has made me travel back to my teenage years, when I avidly followed the races on Eurosport on Sunday evenings and patiently waited for the new RACER and Champ Car magazines, which arrived in Portugal several weeks after being published.
Moving forward to today, there is a lot of excitement growing on the prospect of more teams and especially Fernando Alonso coming to IndyCar, which would be really wonderful, but my biggest wish for the series is that a “proper” naming sponsor is found in time for the next season, providing not only the funding but also the media exposure and advertising that IndyCar needs and deserves.
Earlier this year, there were some rumors about IndyCar considering a “throwback livery” race for the 2019 season, like NASCAR currently does. Do you have any news on this? It is confirmed that the current engines will be upgraded for the 2020 season in order to reach 900hp, for which I am all in favor. But is there going to be any engine performance upgrade for 2019? Any news on new engine manufacturers? What’s your feeling/opinion on these stories about an eventual Andretti/McLaren/Harding partnership, with Honda and Chevy in the middle? Honestly, I would be very happy to have Fernando and McLaren confirmed, especially if Pato and Colton both graduate to IndyCar, but these stories about teams with different engine suppliers becoming partners doesn’t sound very realistic to me…
Many thanks once again for your professionalism and passion for the sport and may you have a lot of good news to share with us readers in the coming times.
RM: Nothing new on Fernando, throwback paint schemes or a title sponsor – we may not know Alonso’s status until November (that’s what Zak Brown told me a few weeks ago). The Harding/Andretti will come in focus today with a major announcement that you can read this afternoon. Thanks for your note and passion.
Q: After watching the BC39 in Indy, I was wondering – are USAC and WoO sprint car drivers and teams making some money, or they are just on that “If you want to become a millionaire in racing you gotta start as a billionaire?” Sponsors may pay for NASCAR and (some) IndyCar teams and drivers some cash, but I don’t imagine how it is for these two sprint car series guys. I hope they are all doing ok.
GC, from Sao Paulo
RM: I would say very few USAC and WoO teams make money, but it’s possible to make a little or break even with a good sponsor. Kasey Kahne’s team won Knoxville with Brad Sweet and that was a nice payday, ditto for the King’s Royale at Eldora. But WoO has three or four big paydays while USAC finally had one good one for midgets ($17,000 to win) at the BC39. It’s a labor of love for most, and some drivers make a decent wage – especially if they’re lucky enough to get a little retainer in addition to the prize money. Bryan Clauson and I did a story a few years ago about how he would never be rich like a NASCAR driver, but he could earn a decent living in USAC provided he kept winning midget, sprint and dirt car races.
Q: The Month of May Triple Crown: Indy Road Course, Turn 3 Midget event, Indy 500. We need to get these Indy drivers into midgets and let them race during the month of May. Tell me you haven’t already thought of this, you evil genius, you.
RM: My idea was to get six or seven IndyCar drivers to hot lap midgets on Wednesday of the BC39 and have Sarah Fisher be their driver coach and we’d shoot it for NBCSN, NASCAR America, RACER and IndyCar’s website. Rossi, RHR, Marco, Gabby, Conor, TK and Zach were all on board and Tim Clauson was going to be kind enough to provide us three midgets, but we couldn’t pull it together.
Q: Does it bother you when the NASCAR drivers do burnouts on the yard of bricks? They all talk about how much they respect the history and they are honored to be there, but then they desecrate the track the first chance they get.
Pat, Brownsburg, IN
RM: Not really, but I’m told it sure pissed off Doug Boles and the IMS folks.
Q: It’s the day after Brickyard. I spent some time yesterday and this morning reading all the usual complaints about the event(s). Surprisingly, none from you so far today. Well after reading the comments on RACER.com and responding to one “Indy 500-only” person, I figured I would go right to the top.
This commenter went on a diatribe about NASCAR and it only being a south/southeast niche sport nowadays and has no place at Indy due to him holding it in “high regards.” Don’t get me wrong, he made a lot of great points. Viewership being down, business model being unsustainable and that moving back to its roots on shorter high-banked tracks would provide a better TV product. All great and probably true comments. (Funny thing is many people said the same thing about IndyCar in the last 25 years).
He went on to say how it was embarrassing that IMS holds 250,0000 people and how it was lowering its standards to host a race where 50,000 people showed. He failed to point out the attendance for the Indy GP that IndyCar runs at the Speedway. The rub to me is why people feel like Indy is too good to host anything but the Indy 500. Notice I said the Indy 500. People with this attitude seem to me like they could care less about IndyCar and only the Indy 500. Not to mention the lack of disrespect to any other racing series. Why are you people like this? It’s views like this that helped nearly kill IndyCar on more than one occasion. I am a fan of IndyCar and NASCAR (and many other series). They both run on some really great and dare I say historical tracks. Nobody gets butthurt that Daytona has a road course that hosts a fantastic 24-hour event. They don’t get offended that the stands aren’t packed. No one would be offended if IndyCars were racing at Darlington in the future.
People at the Speedway have jobs because there are other events held there. Your city gets an economic boost from these events. So why do you bitch about it? Tell those people that benefit from these events that IMS and the Indy 500 are too important and so you are doing away with everything else.
There are some important things that no-one ever points out. NASCAR is responsible for many, many, many more jobs than IMS is. How many drivers actually get paid in IndyCar? How many drivers make a living just because of IMS? Maybe 25? There are three times that many NASCAR drivers spread among their top three national series. How many people are employed as writers, radio or TV broadcasters? What, three to five times as many? How many crew people are employed by the two different series? I bet two teams (Hendrick and JGR) in NASCAR employ more people than all IndyCar teams put together. I bet they don’t lay every crew member off the day after the last race of the year, either.
There are so many other areas I haven’t even touched that benefit greatly around the country from this “niche, regional” sport. To that point, IndyCar benefits from NASCAR. Why do you think they wanted NBC so badly? You don’t think the benefit of the lead-in from NASCAR races was discussed? How many drivers in the last 25 years have said, “I am giving up NASCAR to go run the Indy 500? How many have said I am giving up the Indy 500 to go run NASCAR? The country (not south/southeast) is littered with numerous tracks where IndyCar has failed, sometimes more than once, and the tracks said “no thank you” to another. I guess it’s possible that someone said that to NASCAR, but for the life of me I can’t place it. As a matter of fact I know of three within three hours of me that would give anything to have them back again.
With IndyCar’s recent uptick and NASCARs issues, it’s time to change the attitude and narrative. You don’t have to support or even like NASCAR, but all the “Indy 500 only” crowd needs to respect it, and dare I sa,y even appreciate what they do. Thanks for all the passion you have for Indy,
David, North Carolina
RM: I imagine a lot of the anti-NASCAR at IMS sentiment comes from the fact stock cars ruled the Speedway from 1996 to 2003, and the Indy 500 was second fiddle. I know it made me crazy and jealous and mad. Now that it’s flipped, and Indy is again king and NASCAR is a ghost town at IMS, there is more of a ‘why are they still here?’ feeling. But aside from all the money ($15 million) that IMS reaps from television, the race itself is still valued by the NASCAR drivers and teams. I like watching Cup on road courses and places like Darlington and Bristol, and Kyle Larson, Chris Bell, Kyle Petty, Keselowski and Harvick always hold my attention. But all the gimmicks turn open-wheel fans off, and that’s what I hear every week. Plus the fact IndyCar racing is so much better right now but that doesn’t count. NASCAR is still the big dog on TV and at the box office, no matter how far it’s fallen in 10 years, and that means a lot when it’s time to find sponsors. The sad fact is that IndyCar is still a secret in this country and if you ask the common man about racing the invariable answer is NASCAR. I hear what you’re saying in terms of liking lots of different things and as much as I’ve railed on NASCAR in the past 20 years, I’m a hypocrite because I watch it whenever I can and I like Kyle Petty, Little E. Jeff Burton and Dale Jarrett in the NBC booth.
Q: I wasn’t following F1 when Ronnie Peterson had his accident, but from all I read it was a racing accident and not anything intentional. Why, three years after the accident, did the Italian courts try to prosecute Riccardo Patrese and Gianni Restelli for manslaughter? Thank you for all the info I’ve learned from you.
RM: Italian law is very different when it comes to motorsports, and Colin Chapman and Lotus had to sneak out of the country after Jochen Rindt’s death at Monza. Peterson died of a blood clot but they went after a couple of drivers after the fact, so I’m always amazed F1 continued to race in Italy.