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 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: Where does Rossi stand contract-wise with Andretti? Are the stars aligning for a ride at Penske with him being added to the team’s IMSA enduros? We are doing Mid-Ohio this year as our annual IndyCar trip with a side of Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Where are the good action seats at Mid-Ohio?
RM: We think Rossi signed a three-year deal last year, but just a guess. I think The Captain has had his eye on Rossi since 2017 ,and it’s probably only a matter of time until he makes an offer. I think GAs and walking around Mid-Ohio is the best way to watch the race.
Q: Any particular reason Penske went with Rossi for his IMSA program and didn’t stay in-house with Josef or Will? Is it driving, or ties to Honda?
Dino from New Hanover, Pa.
RM: I think it was more of a Honda decision. During the 2018 season it was believed that Honda had a shortlist of drivers it didn’t want to lose – Scott Dixon, Robert Wickens and Rossi – so this is a nice perk.
Q: I just finished reading your piece on Will Power and your line “The road racer who used to hate turning left wanted to savor the moment — and his emotions were as real and raw as they come” reminded me of a headline from Racecar’s (or Formula, whatever it was called then) 1978 report on the Indy 500, “Road Runners Win a Roundy Round.” Any memories/thoughts about how Jim Hall and the Chaparral gang reacted to winning their first time at the Brickyard? Yes, they had Al Unser in the cockpit, but…
Paul Lewis, Macon, GA
RM: Actually it was a Lola chassis, not the Yellow Submarine, and it was a bit of an upset because Tom Sneva broke the track record and appeared to be in a class by himself and Big Al wasn’t enamored with his car. But he led 121 laps and beat Sneva by eight seconds before going on to win Pocono and Ontario – the only Triple Crown sweep ever. I don’t recall much about Jim Hall’s reaction, but John Bernard and Huey Absalom were pretty damn happy.
Q: Not so much a question as an observation. I write racing articles for a sports website, and I wrote one on how winning championships define your career, comparing Scott Dixon with various past drivers and where they would rank in greatness. I am not taking away anything from Dixie because he is one of the greatest drivers of this generation, and I always thought Dixon reminded me of Al Unser Sr. After researching Big Al’s career, mainly in the 80s, I never realized how amazing he was as a driver. Two IndyCar championships with only win each year, and he went one of those years finishing in the points at every race.
Add his fourth 500 win in a car that started the month of May in a hotel lobby. I find it hard to believe he was ride-less. Add that he’s the all-time lap leader at Indy, finished fourth in his only Daytona 500 start, IROC champion, wins in sprints, midgets, etc. He could win in anything. He truly is one of the least talked-about great drivers to ever drive at Indy, or anywhere for that matter. If I had to make a list of great drivers I’d have to put him somewhere close to top five, and definitely in the top 10. Glad you are doing better, and I’ll see you in May.
Kris, Peru, Indiana
RM: I wrote a few months ago that Dixie reminded me of Big Al – smart, fast, aggressive when necessary, and always able to get the most out of what the car had that day. He only cared about leading the last lap. Unser is likely the most under-publicized star of IndyCar’s glory years and, like Scott, it never bothered him because he liked the money – not the glory. At Indy, it’s A.J., Vuky, Parnelli, Mears, Big Al and either Mario (556 laps led), Troy Ruttman (AJ Watson’s call), Bobby Unser or Wilbur Shaw.
Q: Is there any news about Charlie Kimball driving in 2019? Charlie is a great guy, and an awesome driver; I’d hate to not see him in the field next season. I’m guessing that the sponsorship dollars, through Novo Nordisk, he brings to a team are a good incentive for a team owner to give him a ride. However, I haven’t heard anything.
RM: The last we checked with Charlie he’s got some sponsorship from Novo, but not sure it’s enough for the full season with Trevor Carlin. We’ll know more in January.
Q: Just finished watching your interview with Will at the Indy 500 Borg Warner trophy reveal. Great interview, Will seemed so very relaxed and excited! It was also great to see you/hear your voice once again! So, thought maybe the big news you alluded to awhile back but couldn’t reveal was the confirmation of McLaren returning to the Indy 500, followed by the not-so-surprising news that Chevy will be its powerplant of choice! I mean, who couldn’t have seen that coming after the Nando/Jimmie ride swap at Bahrain, then the announcement Fred had joined the Wayne Taylor Racing squad for the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona? But with Will having won this year’s 500, has Honda now shot itself in the foot by letting Fred go over to the other side? Now they’ve got to beat him. Chevy seems to have caught up to Honda at Indy after Will’s victory this year, erasing the slight advantage Honda might have had in prior years. Still remains to be answered if McLaren is going to go it alone or partner with another topline Chevy team. But who would that be? Penske has already said it won’t run Fernando. Don’t think the Foyt’s team in the position to help out. That’d leave only ECR, and Ed’s team always does very well at the 500. I firmly believe next year’s 500 will serve as the test to a run up to a full season in IndyCar for McLaren in 2020, for sure.
Tony Mezzacca, Madison, NJ
RM: I have been writing for the past several months that the only way McLaren was going IndyCar racing was with a Chevrolet because Honda of Japan was still pissed about its F1 criticism from McLaren. So like you said, no surprise there, but unless Andretti is going to help Zak Brown with setups, McLaren is going to need some support. I think it would make great sense to partner with Ed Carpenter because he’s always dialed in at Indy, and Fernando is going to need some direction because he got spoiled in 2017. Might also be cool to have J.R. Hildebrand be Fred’s teammate, because he’s always quick at IMS.