Robin Miller's Mailbag for March 13, presented by Honda Racing / HPD

Robin Miller's Mailbag for March 13, presented by Honda Racing / HPD

Insights & Analysis

Robin Miller's Mailbag for March 13, presented by Honda Racing / HPD


Here’s one clue to Hanley’s background: A shot from Renault’s 2008 F1 launch, where he was included (just to the right of Alonso) as part of the team’s young driver program. History now shows us that he’d be the only driver in this photo NOT to start a grand prix – but he’ll be one of two at this year’s Indy 500… Image by Renault F1

Q: What do you know about Ben Hanley as a driver, and what do you think the DragonSpeed team will do this season in their five races?

Paul Fitzgerald, Indianapolis

RM: Don’t know anything about him, but he did a tidy job in his debut at St. Pete and his team owner, Elton Julian, is a racer to the core who will undoubtedly struggle this year, but I think he’ll figure things out and hope he stays for many years.

Q: Robin, please assure your many readers that Firestone and the Tampa Bay Times did a great job publicizing the St. Petersburg Grand Prix. And Savoree Green gave all general admission ticket holders full access to both the paddock and all grandstands on Friday for $20.

John R Sims, St. Pete

RM: Will do John, glad to hear about that $20 deal on Friday and I thought the crowd was larger than usual. That’s the kind of thing that makes fans.

Q: I keep seeing reports that Roger Penske believes that full-season cars should be guaranteed spots in the 500. What gives? Has he forgotten the 25-8 rule?

Tom O.

RM: I’ve not heard The Captain say that, but it wouldn’t surprise me because things are much different today than in the mid ’90s when big sponsors were plentiful. Arrow had a great attitude last May after Hinch missed the show, but not sure others would be as understanding so I wouldn’t be against 24 guaranteed spots for the full-timers and 13-14 going for the other nine positions. Of course the most dramatic day in Indy qualifying history was 1995 when Team Penske failed to qualify, but again, different times and a helluva lot more cars.

Q: In the history of motorsports, Is there anyone you can think of that can compare to Roger Penske and his accomplishments?

Todd Broeker

RM: Dan Gurney and Colin Chapman left their mark in IndyCar and Formula 1, and The Big Eagle also soared in sports cars, but nobody can match The Captain’s success at Indianapolis, in IndyCar or NASCAR. R.P. didn’t design his own cars like Gurney and Chapman, but he was a constructor who never hesitated to change chassis if his wasn’t working, and his drive to get an advantage speaks for itself in the record books.

Q: Has the paddock passed Graham Rahal by? Past couple of years, the collective narrative has been that RLL’s performance is what’s holding him back from contending on a weekly basis. I’ll read about a change here, a change there, but when looking at practice speeds he’s bottom half most weekends leading into Sunday. Is it the team or driver? Do you have any insight/feeling that results will be any better in 2019?

Denny, Dallas, TX

RM: Bob threw his son a lifeline after the Ganassi experiment failed, but Graham responded with good seasons in 2015, 2016 and 2017 as a one-car team. Last year was the first time in four years he didn’t win a race, but I think with Allen MacDonald as his new engineer they’ll be formidable – especially at Indianapolis. But as far as the paddock passing him by, I don’t think anybody even considers hiring him because he’s signed up with RLL and he’s not going to the big three, so what’s out there that’s better?

Q: I was watching qualifying on Saturday and have a few questions. First, why doesn’t the clock stop during a red flag? I went to the IndyCar website and couldn’t find an explanation in the Qualifying Procedures section. I’m just curious as to the rationale behind that policy. I don’t watch qualifying regularly so I’m not aware of an example, but couldn’t an entire session be wiped out by a red flag? Would they revert to practice times or points under this circumstance?

Second, why was Scott Dixon not penalized for impeding Matheus Leist in round one? When he got back going after his spin, it looked like Leist had to slow down because Dixon got back onto the track right in front of him. I think one of the commentators made a quick mention of this when it happened, but nothing ever came of it. Was Leist not on a flyer, resulting in race control overlooking this situation?

Edmond from Milwaukee

RM: From Race Director Kyle Novak: “Both Groups of Session 1, as well as Session 2 are time certain, meaning the clock continues to run during a red flag. The Firestone Fast 6 is the only segment during qualifying in which a red flag would stop the clock. The rationale behind time certain segments are two-fold; first, guaranteed green time in every segment can severely disrupt the weekend schedule and impact the ability of NBC to fit the entire qualifying session into the TV window should there be multiple stoppages. There was a time where segments were up to 15 minutes long, however most cars would sit for the initial five minutes of the session, which is how segment 1 & 2 evolved into the current ten-minute format.

“Second, an entire session could not be wiped out for a red flag because should there not be enough cars with a timed lap to fill the advancing positions in each group or segment (six), IndyCar would extend the session just long enough to allow each car the opportunity for one timed lap. In the case of group 1/segment 1 on Saturday, there were six cars that had posted a time, so that particular procedure was not implemented. The No. 9 was not penalized for causing a local yellow in T4 because although the No. 4 passed through the local yellow zone, the No. 4 was on an out lap and off the pace.”

Q: So let me let this straight: Under IndyCar’s qualifying rules it’s possible to not have a single driver complete a single green flag lap in a clear/dry qualifying session? Not stopping the clock on a red flag is completely asinine. If a red flag comes out before the first car completes a timed lap, the entire session can be compromised. We all but saw that on Saturday. (I also don’t understand why it was more than two minutes from Marco getting cleared from pit entrance to the drop of green again.) I get it, it’s about TV scheduling. But R1G1 viewers were left with bewilderment instead of excitement. We can do better.

Aron Meyer, Tucson, AZ

RM: First off all, see Kyle Novak’s explanation in the question above yours, but I agree that even though TV does dictate certain situations, what happened last Saturday robbed the paying customers and television audience. It looked pretty unprofessional but it was by the rulebook, which needs to be downsized or redone – or both.

MX-5 Cup | Round 2 – Daytona | Livestream