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.
Ask, and ye shall receive: that’s the theme of today’s Mailbag. Last week I wrote a column about what makes a good race and asked you readers to give me your thoughts. Well, you responded with the largest Mailbag since I started doing this at the Indianapolis Star in the late ‘90s. And other than a couple of wordy souls, you kept your thoughts concise so we were able to use every letter. There won’t be any Q&A this week, just your thoughts, and as always, I appreciate all of the responses, from the first-time writers to the regulars. It’s your Mailbag, so enjoy it. Thanks, Robin.
Q: What makes a good race? I have been pondering that since you asked that question, and here are a few of my answers. A good race is one that is filled with excitement, drama and action. Large number of different leaders, lead changes, passing all through the field, surprise winners and great comebacks. In your article on the subject, the ’92 and ’94 500’s were mentioned. I thought neither were that great – I am more partial the 1993 500. Now that was a great race – 10 different drivers led. A couple of road course races that get overlooked as great races are Long Beach 1993 (PT coming back from two flat tires to win) and Mid-Ohio 1988 (Mario and Emmo battling it out, in and out of the rain). When it comes to one-sided domination, when your favorite is the one doing the dominating it’s a great race. When your least favorite is dominating, it’s a very boring race. Another reason why there’s all the complaining, moaning and bitching when someone does dominate is that people do in fact have shorter attention spans, than they used to.
Dan in KY
Q: Motorcycles – flat track, road racing, any of it. You haven’t seen real racing until you’ve seen a mile flat track race. The bikes haven’t been spoiled by the dependence on aero that cars have come to rely on, and that’s what’s ruined what used to be some great racing series. The bikes are able to run nose to tail through the fastest corners they don’t need some trickery like DRS or push to pass to bring back draft passes.
I don’t mind a domination race like Rossi at Long Beach this year as long as there’s some good action somewhere in the top 10 Unfortunately Long Beach didn’t have that either this year, but I still didn’t turn it off – you need to see if that driver that’s putting an ass-whipping on the field can pull it off. I totally gave up on NASCAR once they started stage racing, the races are way too long don’t get interesting until the last 50 laps. Don’t get me started on green-white-checker, it’s worse than the NBA. It could take 45 minutes to run the last 10 laps. That’s when I turn it off – if I even turned it on.
Q: I thought of your question about what makes a great race while watching sprinters at the Ventura Raceway last night. It depends on the type of race, I think. On a short track, it’s the frenzy of 20+ cars that quickly stretch out over almost the entire track. Cars running wheel-to-wheel for so many positions you don’t know which to watch. Then the leaders start slicing through lapped traffic, enticing involuntary exclamations from the crowd. The race is often decided by who cuts through traffic best. For a longer race, as a spectator, I watch the longer game. Strategy, tire management, yes, even fuel management is fascinating. And the moments of dueling for position – any position – get the heart racing. One thing makes all racing better: no yellows. Go green, man, start to finish, and let’s see how this plays out.
Tom Hinshaw, Santa Barbara, CA
P.S. Oh, and last night, Troy Rutherford won. But everyone will remember Austin Wilson, who started 22nd and finished second.
Q: I’m 53 and have watched racing from the mid-70s through today: IndyCar, NASCAR, F1 and USAC, mainly. Currently, what I consider good racing happens with the USAC midget and sprint cars on dirt. I want to see passing, and the ability to pass and re-pass a competitor. When a driver in second, third or even fourth has a chance to catch and pass the others and then the driver that was first still has an opportunity to get back those positions, that really grabs my full attention as a fan. The different fast lines on dirt tracks, plus navigating traffic on a quarter-mile track… drivers always seem to have a chance to improve positions until the checkered flag. (As an added bonus, most central Indiana dirt tracks are very affordable entertainment.
Currently, in NASCAR and especially F1, once passes are made there is minimal re-passing at the front of the field. All of the series can and have had races where I’ve been glued to the TV and on the edge of my seat, but a lot of the time, something is lacking. I don’t mind an occasional race that is a beat-down, like Rossi at Long Beach, especially when it is your favorite driver delivering the beat-down. For entertainment, the beat-downs can’t be the norm, in my opinion. For me, the best opportunity to see what I consider good racing occurs on an oval track – dirt first, and asphalt second. I appreciate the skill and talent involved in a road course and can understand why it is enticing for the drivers, however, road courses lend themselves to scenarios offering limited passing and a single driver dominated race. We have seen exciting, close, and passing happen at road course races and those are great races, I just feel the potential is better for those things at an oval track. I rarely change the channel when a race is on, but attention wanders in the middle two hours of a NASCAR race or once the Mercedes duo is at the front of a grand prix.
Allen, Brownsburg, Indiana