Robin Miller's Mailbag for May 8, presented by Honda Racing / HPD

Robin Miller's Mailbag for May 8, presented by Honda Racing / HPD

Insights & Analysis

Robin Miller's Mailbag for May 8, presented by Honda Racing / HPD


Ben from Toronto points out that battles like that between Spencer Pigot and James Hinchcliffe at Iowa last year probably wouldn’t happen in F1. (And not just because Formula 1 doesn’t race at Iowa). Image by Abbott/LAT

Q: As someone who has watched racing (IndyCar, IRL, CART, three levels of NASCAR and F1) since I was three years old, I have a strong opinion on what makes a good race. This has changed over time. In the 80s and early 90s, a driver lapping the field was considered a good race because we marveled at the speed and ability of the car and the driver. Now, the speeds have peaked (and come down in the name of safety, which is a good thing), and more and more drivers have raced their whole lives and possess a lot of talent.

With that said, in today’s racing world I think a good race is one that is competitive. One where passing is possible throughout the field and at the front, where the cream rises to the top but an upset is still a possibility, and where drivers are challenged and can show their ability, whether that is mentally like the race at Talladega where they had to be on their game door-to-door all day, mindful of big runs and whether or not to block; physically like Bristol two weeks ago; or Toronto’s bumpiness; or where there is so little downforce that they fight the cars, track, strategy and each other to prevail, like Indianapolis.

I break it down by series, too. F1 has been garbage for years. There are between one and five cars that can win on a given weekend, and unless there’s a mechanical issue, the race is usually decided in turn one. NASCAR has put on great shows on short tracks, superspeedways and road courses because they meet the criteria I mentioned, whereas mile-and-a-halfs are snoozefests, especially this year, because there’s no challenge and minimal passing.

IndyCar almost always puts on a great show and is the best all-round series right now. Races are usually competitive – you have a few guys who win a lot (Dixie, JoNew, Power, Rossi, RHR) but upsets and surprises happen, too (Herta at COTA, the Hinch-Pigot battle at Iowa last year). Drivers are clearly challenged mentally, physically and by the cars, tracks and each other, and races always feature a lot of passing! That is excitement! So if you want to know what makes a race exciting, it is hard to pinpoint exactly one thing, but when many of these factors come together – competition, passing, favorites with a chance at upsets, and challenge – that’s what makes a race exciting!

Ben from Toronto

Q: Not to be trite, but a good race is one that entertains me. Full stop. That being said, what entertains me? When I watch a race and I really don’t know who will win while I’m watching. It’s like a good murder mystery where you are entertained throughout the mystery and are rewarded at the end. I do enjoy watching the pack further back to see who gets second, thirrd, fourth, etc, but I often don’t get to see those that much because of coverage on TV.

Doug B.

Q: I been following racing since I was a kid. I never got to see the Clark, Foyt, Gurney, or Mario race – or I don’t remember them racing, I am only 31 now, so I might have been to young to see some of the greats. But for me, what makes a race good and exciting is going into a race weekend and not knowing who is going to win the race, where majority of the drivers have a possibility to win. Heck, even last year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans had a little suspense going into it, even though Toyota had the field covered – it is a 24 hour race, so anything can happen. Also though that same thing that made last year’s Le Mans makes exciting, it can make F1 races somewhat boring for me; basically wanting a mechanical failure or a crash to make a race exciting. That’s just my two cents and I will watch cars race on anything, so sometimes it doesn’t really matter to me.

Vinny, Florida

Q: What makes a good race is knowing the specifics. It’s knowing the technical hurdles both the teams and drivers are trying to clear in order to finish as high up on the grid (or win) as their hard work, and fate, will allow. It’s in the very process of racing that interests me most. The results are variable, but the efforts and struggles associated with racing are always the constant and most entertaining.

Take last year’s 500 and the radical aero changes (reductions) made to the ground effects; the challenges associated with just that one change alone was a handful all month long for all involved. Come race day’s heat, we saw the masters of their craft struggling to keep all four tires under them and a few of the greats completely lost control, which was unprecedented in their 500 careers. Come May 2019, we’ll have a newly revised aero package with a plethora of brand new combinations for the teams/drivers to discover what’s best for their setup, weather and track conditions. All of which makes for a good (and fascinating) Month of May and race day. The devil and entertainment value is found in the details. The more the fan knows about the specifics of their sport, the more they’ll understand what those teams and drivers are struggling to overcome, and, within that process, a greater appreciation is gained for those teams and drivers. What’s taking place before our racing eyes is nowhere close to being as easy as they all make it appear.

Jesse, Franklin, IN

Q: I have been watching motorsports since the mid-1970s. The noise, power, and speed have always been thrilling. I am always happy and satisfied with any race that goes green the entire way because the winner fully deserves to win, and it allows all the teams’ strategies to play out through the totality of the race without artificial interruptions (yellows). To use a music analogy, a motor race should be like one uninterrupted piece of music that develops and then comes to a nice conclusion. A motor race should not be like a concert with 10 or more separate songs and an intermission. Thus, I change the channel when the yellow or red flag comes out. Because of my philosophy, I’ll continue to advocate for virtual safety car as the best way to keep the race free of artificial interruptions and to ensure that the fastest driver with the best strategy wins the race (and doesn’t get screwed by closed pits from an ill-timed yellow). Let’s hope there’s a way it can be implemented in the future.

Marc, Orange County, CA