Robin Miller's Mailbag for April 24, presented by Honda Racing / HPD

Robin Miller's Mailbag for April 24, presented by Honda Racing / HPD

Insights & Analysis

Robin Miller's Mailbag for April 24, presented by Honda Racing / HPD


Team owners like Roger Penske believe full-timers should get guaranteed spots on the Indy 500 grid. Mailbag readers like Bill from Vista argue otherwise… Image by Abbott/LAT

Q: There is quite a storm brewing on social media over “the Big 3” advocating series regulars get guaranteed spots in the 500. Mr. Ganassi himself told me to calm down, that the owners are just discussing ideas. I am opposed to this idea and feel that it is rather hypocritical that at least two of the big three owners fought the 25/8 rule in 1996, boycotted the 500 and went on to race their own race over Memorial Day in Michigan (I applauded them for doing it!). I also feel that when I hear people say they “deserve” something, I think of participation trophies, orange slices and juice boxes. Nobody deserves anything. What happened to hard work, and if you fail, come back stronger next time like Penske, and more recently, ASPM? What’s the answer? Add more cars? Then there goes bump day. Your take, please…

Bill, Vista, CA

RM: Well, good news, Bill, you’re in the majority of the fans who have written this week. For a few Mays we had Fill Day instead of Bump Day because IndyCar had to scramble to find 33 cars. It didn’t affect the race, but suddenly it’s Armageddon because we’ve got a couple extra cars and people are talking about guaranteeing spots for 22 full-timers. As difficult as it is to find sponsorships these days for a full season, race fans need to focus on what’s important – and that’s not whether 14 drivers are going for 11 spots, it’s trying to keep IndyCar’s line-up intact and grow it. We lose a couple of teams, and you don’t have to worry about bumping.

Q: I guess let’s throw in the Andrettis to the group of fools. These owners, who do not care about fans, make it tough to be one. Wish Indy was just a standalone race at this point. Let the series die if these are people keeping it afloat.

Jake M.

RM: Let the series die, hmmm, now that’s a progressive thought. And Michael Andretti is the reason we still have Indy Lights and full-time Americans in IndyCar.

Q: Will we ever see qualifying races replace four-lap single-car runs for Indianapolis 500 qualifying? It might encourage more entrants, draw a larger crowd and help spice up the month of May. I understand tradition is important at the Speedway, but they race Indy Lights there and built a road course. Everything changes.

Geoff Eighinger, Ashland, OH

RM: The qualifying tradition at Indianapolis died in 1996 but the only way to have something like you’re proposing would be big money for a qualifying race. And since the Indy 500 purse has been the same, lame number for a decade, I wouldn’t count on it.

Q: I am 22 and became an IndyCar fan in 2007, so I never got to experience the magic of Bump Days in earlier years. But man do I love the drama that is created, even if car counts aren’t what they once were. I am absolutely appalled with Penske, Ganassi, and Andretti lobbying for locked-in entries at the Indy 500. Let me quickly bring up two Bump Days from the last 10 years.

2010: Tony Kanaan crashed twice on qualifying weekend, and just 90 minutes from the gun was still 3mph too slow in his backup car before making it. Takuma Sato didn’t get in until 20 minutes remained on an edgy run, and Mario Romancini had the guts to withdraw from the bubble and requalify to get himself safely in the field. Two of those are now 500 champions. Full-timer Milka Duno DNQ’ed.

2011: Alex Lloyd pulled off a miracle run with less than 10 minutes to go to get the Dale Coyne No. 19 in the show. Full-time cars that failed to qualify included James Jakes and Sebastian Saavedra.

Here are four examples of full-time drivers that cut it close but made it, and they received great publicity for their efforts. From a fan’s perspective, they delivered a highly entertaining, pressure-packed session with real stakes.

Furthermore, look at those three full-time entrants I listed who missed the race. Guaranteeing these teams in would be a disgrace, when in both years there were clearly more deserving, more competitive teams at IMS. I vehemently oppose this idea, and I hope the fan base is vocal enough that it doesn’t come to pass. And one more thing, if Penske and Ganassi with their mega budgets can’t make the Top 33 of the 36 cars expected this year, they should absolutely pack up and go home with their tails between their legs.

David, Daytona Beach, FL

RM: Like I said earlier, I think their concern is being caught out by something sinister and not having time to recover since it’s only one day of qualifying, But who is to say you still can’t have drama going for the last three spots regardless of whether 22 full-timers are guaranteed a spot?

Q: OK Robin, time to see how you feel about tradition at Indy. Just read Indy Star article and Mark Miles’ comments on possible changes to guarantee entries to owners (Penske, Andretti, Ganassi). I was optimistic in that he said it didn’t run off sponsors like Arrow last year when Hinchcliffe failed to get in. Penske and Rahal never left the sport, either. Now is not the time to do a 25-8 rule from IRL days. Let the fastest 33 and only 33 battle it out. What do you think, my friend? Have you gotten too close to the owners? They could make that argument any and every year. The sport is strong; don’t cave and water it down.

Love the Andretti livery dayglo ’69 Mario look. That and orange McLarens again… I am in heaven. Now qualify your way in like real racers do.

Crag Bailey, Palm Bay, FL

RM: I think we got lucky that Arrow took such a pragmatic view of the situation, because there is no guarantee other big sponsors would have reacted accordingly. Miller and Marlboro didn’t leave because CART was big at that time and sponsors were rolling in money. But please don’t preach to me about tradition. You mean nine chances each day to qualify instead of three for the whole month? Or run the same speed as one engine manufacturer and be granted a spot? You mean one day of qualifying instead of four? Too close to the owners? Don’t insult my intelligence.