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: It is great that we have what sounds like a minimum of 36 entries and maximum of 40 for Indianapolis. How many engines can Honda and Chevy produce? Is a 20/20 or 21/19 split at the limit if we have 40? Will there be any changes on Bump Day?
RM: The way I count it would be 20/19 as we speak with Honda (Andretti 6, SPM 3, Coyne 3, RLL 3, Ganassi 2, Steinbrenner/Harding 2, Shank 1) providing one more than Chevrolet (Penske 4, Foyt 3, ECR 3, Carlin 2, McLaren 2, Dreyer & Reinbold 2, Juncos 2, DragonSpeed 1).
Q: Any chance that with real bumping a reality at the Speedway again, we see a return to a more traditional qualifying format this year? Pole Day on Saturday and Bump Day on Sunday would be nice.
RM: I think it’s been discussed, but doubt it could happen for 2020. The biggest flaw is the waste of money and effort on Saturday, so I think everyone with any skin in the game would prefer the old format you mentioned. One concern is television and making sure there is something dramatic at the end of each day for NBC, but having Pole Day on Saturday usually had last-minute action so it could work. And nothing was more riveting than Bump Day when there was actually bumping.
Q: The Mailbag is a great Wednesday treat, and here’s is to a healthy 2019! I grew up in Speedway with a family full of IMS fans. I now call Denver home, but still make the yearly pilgrimage back to the Indy 500. This year we have a group of IndyCar fans traveling to Long Beach. What is your recommendation for tickets? GA vs grandstands? Are there paddock access? What are the best viewing/passing corners? We also grew up on Mug-n-Bun and Workingman’s – any good food advice around Long Beach? Thanks and keep up the great work!
RM: The hairpin leading into the last corner and front straightaway seems to be popular, but the best place to watch overtaking would be going into Turn 1 (the grandstand at the end of Shoreline). Tickets range from $98 to $147 for three days and there is also a junior price. The three-day GA ticket is $95 and good for unreserved seating on Friday and Saturday but not Sunday, while the three-day paddock pass is $65. There is also parking available and you should go to GPLB.com to check out availability. Lots of restaurants by the track, but King’s Fish House, The Yardhouse, Gladstones and the 555 East steakhouse are very popular.
Q: Have there been any rumblings about a new sponsor for Ed Carpenter Racing yet? Fuzzy’s must be tough to replace.
Russ in Indy
RM: Not to my knowledge, but I think Ed is going to make a deal to help McLaren so that could help ease the pain of losing Fuzzy’s.
Q: I’m hearing a lot of rumors that Carlos Sainz Jr. will be the driver of the second McLaren car and Alonso’s teammate for the 2019 Indy 500. Is this true, or is McLaren even going to have a second car for Indy?
Landon, Crawfordsville, IN
RM: I ask RACER’s F1 man, Chris Medland, about your rumor and here’s his response:
“I’ve been wrong before, but I really can’t see that one happening. If McLaren is going to go for a second entry, then it will want a more experienced driver alongside Fernando, one that can help bring Indy 500 knowledge to the team it is putting together. Don’t forget how inexperienced Fernando is in an IndyCar despite how well he performed in 2017, and the McLaren Indy team will have a lot of learning to do as it is. Even if McLaren surprised everyone by going for a rookie, I can’t see how it would be Carlos because that would leave the team without its F1 driver for the Monaco Grand Prix, and the whole IndyCar project is designed to not impact on the F1 team this time. Seeing as the likely replacement for either Sainz or Norris if they missed a race would be Alonso, it really wouldn’t make sense to put itself in that position.”
And here’s my answer: Yes, I think McLaren is going to field two cars, but I’d be shocked if it chose somebody with zero oval experience like Sainz. Fernando needs a veteran to help him. I know J.R. Hildebrand is putting something together for Indy and he spoke with Alonso at COTA about the possibility of being teammates, and that makes sense – especially if ECR is involved.
Q: OK Robin, here is the perfect chance. Get Curt Cavin in on this. Conor Daly is going to the Chili Bowl. Perfect opportunity for IndyCar to set up a booth. Hand out 2019 schedules, give away old 2018 merchandise from the IndyCar store. I am sure a few of Conor’s IndyCar buddies will come to support him. Maybe have them available for a few minutes to give autographs? IndyCar can’t cry poor on this. I am sure the cost would be minimal, and it would be at a necessary target market.
RM: I pitched an IndyCar booth with JoNew, Graham, Marco, Conor and Hinch signing autographs and giving away IndyCar swag a few years ago and had Newgarden lined up to be teammates with Bryan Clauson, but it fell on deaf ears. I was told the Chili Bowl crowd wasn’t IndyCar’s demographic. Now, the person who told me that is no longer around, but I’m afraid it’s way too late for 2019. All the primo booth spaces are already sold.