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: Since 1979 I’ve noticed a lot of IndyCar drivers in the Daytona 24 Hour race and also some F1 drivers as well, with this year being no exception. I think we’ve got at least a third of the Indy 500 field in it. Other than A.J. Allmendinger, no NASCAR drivers. Why do they shun this race?
Doug Ferguson, Debary, Florida
RM: Other than Chip Ganassi, who often ‘invited’ his Cup drivers to compete at the Rolex 24 (‘invite’ is a nice way of saying ‘instructed’…), most Cup regulars now pass on the race due to the short offseason they have between the end of The Chase in November and the Daytona 500 in February. Jimmie Johnson is a perfect example of this; he did a number of Rolex 24s, but ultimately cited the need for more downtime between Cup seasons for stepping back. On the flip side, IndyCar drivers are so dang bored by January, they’re taking anything they can find at Daytona just to stay fresh.
Q: Correct me if I am wrong. A few months back, Will Power met an Australian politician and Surfers Paradise was brought up. She said we want it back, Power said so do the drivers. Next thing we hear after IndyCar had a meeting with the Australian reps is that it’s maybe on next year’s schedule. That sounds way too easy, but if that is all we need to get tracks back on the calendar, maybe we can ask Bobby or Graham Rahal to drive up to Cleveland and talk with the mayor. Zachary Claman DeMelo (bad example) can talk with the mayor of Montreal, or TK with a mayor in Brazil somewhere, or…
RM: Ah, if it were only that easy. Evidently this all happened because Australia initiated it and obviously found money – the key. It takes a lot of money to stage a race, especially if you have to bring in fencing and grandstands, and without a major sponsor and a promoter, a city doesn’t have a prayer. We always heard the Queensland government lost millions on the CART races but didn’t care because it was good for the local economy. But I do think Montreal could be back in play by 2021.
Q: I was listening to Marshall Pruett’s podcast with Graham Rahal, and I struck by Graham’s business acumen. He owns a performance shop and seems to be quite good at finding sponsorship. Has Graham ever mentioned to you an interest in becoming an owner after his driving career is over? He seems like a natural.
Brian Henris, Fort Mill, SC
RM: Never asked him about it, but he’s a smart kid and he learned a lot the year he put together the Big O Tire deal for his ride with Ganassi. He spent months driving all over the country and meeting with people, and admitted it was quite an education.
Q: Can you provide any more detailed info on Conor Daly’s 2019 plans? Last info was he had some leads and options. Is anything developing here?
Dave, Sylvania, OH
RM: Spoke to him Monday after hot laps at the Chili Bowl, and he said he’s definitely going to run the Indy 500 and trying to roll it into another race or two. But the Indy ride sounds like a good one, so let’s hope so.
Q: I think it is great that IndyCar is going to finally get some great coverage on prime time television with NBC. But I noticed one thing on the schedule that puzzled me. Why would they not televise the Long Beach Grand Prix (probably the biggest race outside the 500 – and one of the biggest in the nation) on prime time Television? They are going to show it on NBCSN. This makes no sense to me.
Fernando Diaz, Torrance, CA
RM: Unfortunately, Long Beach is locked into its April date and who could blame them since it’s never rained on race day in five decades. But that also happens to be the same time as NHL playoffs on NBC, and it’s doubtful anything is going to change, either way, down the road.
Q: I hate to compliment ABC on anything. But NBC won’t have Indy 500 qualifying on either network? That is not a good move. Qualifying coverage was a good infomercial to remind people that the Indy 500 is coming up. Not only did it change stations, the 500 also lost network coverage.
RM: Indy qualifying will either be on NBC or NBCSN both days, and the details will be announced at a later date.
Q: Should we read anything into Alexander Rossi’s drive for Penske at the 24 Hours of Daytona? Is this possibly a sign of things to come?
Jonathan and Cleide Morris, Ventura, CA
RM: The Captain started eying Rossi in 2017 and I’m sure he’ll make a play for him when his contract is up with Michael Andretti. But Honda is a big player in this and it loves Alex, so I think it’s going to do whatever is necessary to keep him. And the fact R.P. runs an Acura in IMSA and a Chevy in IndyCar shouldn’t confuse the issue, I’m sure Honda “suggested” the 2016 Indy winner would be a good fit.
Q: What happened to Helio? Is he still racing? If so, where and when? He was my racing guy.
RM: He drives full-time for Roger Penske’s Acura program in IMSA, and he’ll be suiting up for this year’s Indianapolis 500 with The Captain.