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 have been reading postings on other sites about guaranteed spots, one which had a link to a certain local newspaper. All I hear from you is crickets. Also seems most viewer/spectators hate the idea, including me. Go fast and don’t crash. That how racers get into a race. That’s tradition. Hint, hint, many viewers/spectators will head for the exits if this happens. Someone telling you folks what to think?
Jim, Ft. Pierce, FL
RM: Yeah Jim, I don’t make a move unless I get my orders from Chip and R.P. Then I write my story and send it for their approval before we can publish it. Been that way for 51 years. I wrote a story last May with Bobby Rahal wondering if it was time to guarantee starting spots for full-timers and I’ll weigh in next month, but you aren’t going to want to hear what I have to say. And don’t give me that crap about how racers get into Indy. Remember 1997? Oh that’s right, Nissan was going to miss the show so IMS/IRL had to give them two spots so we started 35. Or those years when all you needed was a car and four laps at any speed and you were in the show. Yeah, that’s tradition.
Q: So Roger, Chip and Michael are scared that one of their drivers might not make the Top 33? Give me a break. Does IndyCar really want to venture down the 25/8 road again? Hey R.P., Chip, Michael, this is not what the majority of fans want, and when you keep pushing away an already fragile and niche fanbase, you won’t have to worry about a series or guaranteed spots because there won’t be a one to worry about these kind of things. Grow up, race, stop being politicians and focus on the big picture you big whiners.
RM: If the fans are so passionate about this “tradition” then how come no more than 5,000 show up for qualifying?
Q: So, is it kind of ironic when Tony George started the IRL, he locked in 24 positions for the full-time teams for the Indy 500. Back then, everyone bitched and moaned about it. Now, all of a sudden the big dogs want to see that happen. TG took a pounding when the IRL started, but personally I thought it was a great move to reward the full-time teams for the 500 and trying to lower the cost of IndyCar. Maybe, just maybe, TG wasn’t as stupid has everyone thought!
Brian Lancaster, West Lafayette
RM: The IRL’s 25/8 edict was a weapon of war, and TG figured CART would cave and at least show up for one of the two races to earn points because there was no way they would miss the Indianapolis 500. Of course they staged a race in Michigan instead, and the month of May took a beating in attendance, ticket sales and credibility that took more than a decade to recover from. You can call that smart if you like, but open-wheel will never get back to what it was in 1993-95.
Q: I read about R.P. and Chip saying that full-timers should be locked in to the Indy 500. I personally agree with them, mainly because Indy is a championship race like all the others, but it stupidly pays double-points. So if a driver who’s in with a shout misses the show like Hinch did last year, their season is unnecessarily derailed because they’ve effectively missed two races. What’s your view on their comments?
Jordan, Warwickshire, UK
RM: Obviously the Big 3 aren’t going to miss the show unless something freaky happens, and that’s always a possibility with just one day of qualifying. I’ve got no problem guaranteeing the 22 full-timers a spot, and there can still be bumping. I said start ’em all when there were 34 and 35 cars. Who cares? It pays $200,000. And I hate double-points at Indy and the season finale. But the bottom line is that this isn’t 1965 or 1995, and we don’t have 50 cars going for 33 spots. Amazingly we have 22 full-time cars in a series that pays squat, and Indy’s traditions were trampled a long time ago, so why not protect the key players? We’re trying to get people to watch the races, and sending a couple of big names home does what?