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.
This will be the last week we print any questions or rants or declarations about the possibility of Indy guaranteeing starting spots. It’s not going to happen next month, and it may never happen, and I’m not spending another minute on the subject, so please don’t waste your time writing about it. To quote Danica’s boyfriend to the Packer faithful: ‘R E L A X.” – Robin
Q: After reading last week’s Mailbag, I think people need to relax a bit about guaranteed spots. While I respectfully disagree with you on the subject, I do understand where you are coming from. If we do go to guaranteed spots in the 500 I will 100% bitch about it, but at the end of the day my butt will be in the same seat it has been in the past 22 years for qualifying. This place and this race are too important to me. Race fans just like to bitch.
As someone who became an IndyCar fan in the IRL days, I bitched about the addition of road courses to the schedule. I have since come to respect them as a different type of racing. IndyCar and the 500 have a lot of positive things going for them right now and we can’t afford to lose die-hard fans to something so trivial. Traditions have to start somewhere. For example, I cannot remember a sprint car without a roll cage – to me that is normal. With enough time, all new things become normal. Fans can feel free to bitch, but they need to keep coming to the Speedway. Bring their kids and grandkids, buy them garage passes and get them engaged in the sport. Then, when they are hooked, feel free to educate them about the “good old days.”
Michael, Hartford City, IN
RM: There’s nothing wrong with a healthy debate about the pros and cons of guaranteeing spots for the Indianapolis 500, and it’s obviously been a hot topic for The Mailbag. But to your point, is whatever happens in qualifying going to ruin the race? I would hope not.
Q: I’m a traditionalist as far as the Indy 500 goes, but I think it is time for a change. I’m probably in the minority here, but I’m in favor of guaranteed spots for the full-timers. I never thought I would say that, but its time has unfortunately come. IndyCar desperately needs big-time, full-season sponsors, and it isn’t good business to penalize them for coming up short one or two days because of equipment failure or something. Thank goodness Arrow didn’t bail when Hinchcliffe didn’t make it. The sport can’t afford to have a full time rider/sponsor miss the biggest race of the year. That is the reality of racing in 2019.
Tom, San Diego
RM: The early onslaught of letters were mostly anti-guarantee, but the past few days it’s really evened out because I think people like yourself have looked at the big picture. Car owners aren’t making money in IndyCar, and we’re damn lucky to have 10 full-time teams with Mike Shank waiting in the wings and Ricardo Juncos trying to make it happen. The Indy purse hasn’t gone up in a decade and the Leader’s Circle has actually gone down, so what exactly is the incentive to run full-time? I’m not sure, but guaranteeing a spot for the 22 full-timers is about good business and taking care of the people who support this series.
Q: Et tu, Brute? The only reason we are now discussing the return of the 25/8 rule is because of the influx of talented teams and drivers with sponsors into IndyCar, many by way of the Indy 500. Just as NASCAR hated it when Mario, A.J., and Gurney used to get quality rides and school the regulars on their own playground, Roger, Chip, and Michael are afraid guys like Alonso will push one of their cars out. With all of the advantages they already have over a one-off effort, it is laughable that they are also demanding guaranteed starting spots for the one race per season in which they actually have to qualify. Babies! We have already gone down this path. More cars, drivers, and sponsors at Indy is a great thing. Bumping is good. International interest is good. Stories of giving it all for that one shot at Indy are good. Don’t take my word for it, read everything you wrote for the last 25 years.
PS: Hinch missing last year was a bigger story than Power winning.
John Masden, Georgetown, IN
RM: You may be discussing the 25/8 rule, but as I’ve tried to explain the past two weeks, guaranteeing 22 spots to full-time entrants is completely different. The 25/8 hammer was supposed to knock out CART, but as we know, it didn’t, and open-wheel was torn apart. As for the babies, if it wasn’t for Andretti, Penske, RLL, SPM, ECU, Carlin and Coyne running extra cars next month, there wouldn’t be close to enough cars to have bumping. Then you wouldn’t have anything to bitch about.
Q: I am disappointed at the disrespectful tone which many of the email contributors adopted when voicing their opinions about guaranteed starting positions for established IndyCar teams for the Indy 500. Robin, no one has shown more integrity and loyalty to IndyCar over the years than you have. To voice a counter opinion is fine and expected. To impugn your motives and dedication to what is best for the future of IndyCar is out of line, for none have shown more commitment to the series than you have. I was truly saddened to read some of the accusatory slurs hurled your way. So keep up the good work, Robin, and don’t let the bastards get you down.
Randall, Citrus Heights
RM: Thanks for the kind words. It’s always amusing to have some “experts” tell me what I wrote or what I think or how I’ve flip-flopped. Really? I lost my newspaper job, radio show and TV gig because I dared to point out in 1996 that May was being ruined and Indy’s credibility and popularity would suffer, which of course it did, big-time. Tony and I worked together on the merger story in 2008 and he put things back together, so today there is some real optimism between car count and Jay Frye’s five-year plan. If Mark Miles and Frye decide to guarantee spots for full-timers, it’s not anything more than good business in my mind. This isn’t a war, it’s about survival.