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: I read your story last week on RACER.com about Honda taking over as the title sponsor of the Long Beach Grand Prix. While it’s great that Honda is willing to step in and sponsor the race, I can’t help but wonder if Honda is overextending itself, and that in turn, the series is becoming too reliant on a single partner? In addition to being on engine supplier, Honda also title sponsors the IndyCar races at Barber, Toronto, Mid-Ohio, and now Long Beach. Add all of that up, and I can’t image how much money Honda is putting into the sport.
What happens if Honda decides to scale back its investment in IndyCar to strictly being an OEM (due possibly to a downturn in its business or a change in leadership that wants to de-emphasize motorsport)? Imagine having to replace title sponsorships for four races in a single year! Now, don’t get me wrong: Honda has been a fantastic partner for the IndyCar series and it’s great that they’re willing to step up and shell out the big bucks to invest in the series. But from IndyCar’s perspective, wouldn’t it be safer to diversify your partnerships? I know that may not be an option in the current economic landscape (Fortune 500 companies aren’t exactly jumping over one another to pour sponsorship money into motorsports), but it still gives me pause. What do you think?
RM: I think of all the race sponsorships Long Beach is the most visible, and therefore, most valuable, for American Honda and a great place to promote Acura. And I think it’s obvious Honda is committed to IndyCar in a big way and always has been, so it must be satisfied with its return. And IndyCar can’t make Chevrolet do what Honda does in that regard, although Chevy does sponsor Detroit. Of course it’s always possible a new boss comes along some day and questions the investment, but it’s been going strong for three decades and I don’t see Honda backing off anytime soon.
Q: Starting with your recovery and added presence on RACER, so much great news coming from IndyCar over the last few weeks! The announcement about Conor Daly just tops it off. Even if only for Indy, to see him get a competitive ride is awesome – I just hope he makes the most of it. Will he have any chances for testing prior to the Speedway opening? Also, just a comment on Hinch: a couple nice appearances by him during the All-Star weekend for my other favorite sport, both on NHL tonight and PK Subban’s special. Nice move by Honda (NHL sponsor) having him involved, and as always, the Mayor was a great interview!
John Weaver, Camp Hill, PA
RM: Yes, Conor and Fernando will both be allowed to participate in the April 24 open test. Its possible Hinch may have a future in front of a TV camera.
Q: First, I want to say that my wife and I are big fans of yours and we both hope you are doing well. Second, with the announcement of the new Indy 500 presenting sponsor, is there any hope that some of the money will go towards the drivers/ teams and give entrants for the race a chance to at least recoup what they spend during the month of May? And finally, from my perspective, it seems as if the series is doing as well as it has in the last 20 years or so, but what do you think? What would you give as an overall grade on the state of the series, and do you see the series continuing its upwards trend?
Brian, Plainfield, Illinois
RM: While Gainbridge (thanks Zach Veach) is a nice addition to the IndyCar family, it’s likely not more than $1.2 million a year, so that’s not what the Indy 500 purse needs – it needs a big money infusion. I think IndyCar is healthier than we could have ever imagined a few years ago, and partnering with NBC is perfect timing. One more engine manufacturer would be golden. So I give Jay Frye an A and Mark Miles a B-plus (he can’t get an A until Indy and the IndyCar purses get a substantial increase), and thanks for your support.