Robin Miller's Mailbag for March 6, presented by Honda Racing / HPD

Robin Miller's Mailbag for March 6, presented by Honda Racing / HPD


Robin Miller's Mailbag for March 6, presented by Honda Racing / HPD


Who else is in Robin’s current top 10? Image by IndyCar

Q: Assuming Will Power, Simon Pagenaud and Josef Newgarden for Penske; Ryan Hunter-Reay and Alexander Rossi for Andretti; Scott Dixon for Ganassi, all “contract drivers,” who are the next six most talented drivers today, regardless of contract or ride buying?

Lynn, VA

RM: Seabass, Rahal, Hinch, Rosenqvist, O’Ward and Herta. T.K. and Ed on ovals. And I still think Marco has plenty of talent, it just needs to manifest itself before he turns gray.

Q: Everybody is optimistic about IndyCar and says it’s on an upswing. But, what are the most pressing concerns with it that need to be fixed? This can be the racing itself, or the business side.

Dan, Atlanta, GA

RM: Get major upgrades in the purses so it’s not such a financial loser to own an IndyCar, and try to maintain three or four solid oval-track races. Finish the season at a racy place that draws a good crowd.

Q: I was watching the PBA tour on Sunday and noticed Norm Duke won $25,000 for first place. I remember in the last Mailbag that you said an IndyCar race normally pays out $30,000 for first. Seems to me that something is off here. Can’t wait for St. Pete this week.

Eric Rife, London, OH

RM: And Norm’s biggest risk was a blister. Yes something is way off and needs to be fixed, because IndyCar competitors made more money in the ‘70s and ‘80s than they do today.

Q: Just read the article about the Long Beach GP possibly being displaced by a ball stadium. That would be a shame, as the series lost a great venue in Vancouver when what was once a seedy part of town near the bus station became gentrified with resultant development. The Indy Go Home banners were unfurled on the condo balconies around the track, and the cancellation of the event to prepare for the winter Olympics were the final nail in the coffin. Many will point out that street races are a poor substitute for a purpose-built road course, with narrow concrete chutes, little passing, no run-off, poor access, poor parking and sparse on-track facilities, and little opportunity to see the action from anywhere but a grandstand. But dang, nothing beats the atmosphere of a street race! I hope this venerable race persists.

Trevor Bohay

RM: I would say ‘no chance’ considering the tight confines of downtown, but the only concern I have is that Long Beach evidently approached the Angels. To lose Long Beach would be devastating.

Q: If IndyCar is going to test at Sebring in winter, then work to create a Sebring season-opening race. A twin 200 with a Saturday and Sunday double-header. A Florida sponsor should be possible, and the practice, qualifying, and pair of relatively short races should prove beneficial to the teams. You’d still have a gap to St. Pete, but this could possibly be a doable event. Race fans unite and support racing. You want to grow the sport, then take some new folks to an actual race and get some other folks to watch a race with you on TV.

Morris Wynn, Mt Pleasant, SC

RM: Champ Car looked at running Sebring in front of the 12 Hours, but decided the big track was way too rough for an open-wheel car. And the small course wouldn’t be much of a race, so don’t think it will ever happen.

Q: There was a question in the Mailbag from last week regarding Sage Karam. I have not seen or heard much about him in many months. Based upon Mailbag questions and answers from the past, my sense is that you think of him as a competent/talented driver. However, Sage has now been around for many years and has not had what might be considered a “glowing” or “complete” career, for lack of better terms. My sense is that he has struggled to maintain rides when he gets them, and he now has trouble even getting a one-off Indy 500 ride (yes, that’s difficult period, but Sage has demonstrated skill there).

He had a ride with Gentilozzi in the IMSA Lexus for one season and was apparently let go. The reason may have been his ungracious maneuver to dump Katherine Legge at VIR, I believe it was, in 2017 by brake-checking her for which he subsequently blamed her – any info on that? I read an article several months back in which Ryan Eversley was describing the assets necessary for a driver to get and keep rides at the professional level today. While he didn’t mention a name, he pointed out an example of a particular driver that while being perhaps a couple tenths faster than Ryan, that driver was prowling the paddock at that time looking for any ride due to what was considered his poor attitude and interpersonal skills. Karam was the guy that came to my mind due to his absence from the 2018 Lexus team.

This is no longer the era in which a driver can tell the media or anyone else to, well, “go fly a kite” except for very rare exceptions like Tony Stewart (and he might not get away with it if his career was beginning today). Why can’t Karam secure a ride? Is it all about funding? How is he thought of by owners, drivers, crew chiefs, etc. of which you are aware?

Ron N

RM: That’s a great question, and I wish I knew the answer. Sage won at every level and it looked like Michael Andretti was preparing to bring him up to IndyCar when they had some kind of falling out. Karam’s Indy 500 debut in 2014 was nothing short of spectacular (charged from the back to the front three times and finished ninth), and we all thought he’d found a home with Chip Ganassi in 2015 but it only lasted one season. Dario Franchitti thinks very highly of this kid, and he’s got that cocky moxie that’s prevalent in good racers. And I don’t think his run-in with Legge has any bearing on his employment in IndyCar. I think if Dennis Reinbold had the budget he’d run Sage full-time, so right now it’s a matter of funding. Not sure what the paddock’s overall impression is, but Sage can race and he’s yet to have a two- or three-year shot to get a fair assessment.