MILLER: Random thoughts from a busy few weeks

MILLER: Random thoughts from a busy few weeks

Insights & Analysis

MILLER: Random thoughts from a busy few weeks

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Likes, dislikes, news, rumors and some fast takeaways from the last few weeks:

  • The rookie class of 1965 was pure gold with Mario Andretti , Gordon Johncock, Al Unser, Joe Leonard, Billy Foster and George Snider, and with three future Indy 500 winners, it will likely never be topped. But this year’s lineup of talented kids continues to impress. Santino Ferrucci, fresh off his seventh place at Indy and ROY honors, led 19 laps at Detroit and was on his way to another good result when he got caught out by a yellow flag. Marcus Ericsson earned the first podium of his IndyCar career with a splendid drive in race two, and Felix Rosenvquist finished fourth in Saturday’s show. Colton Herta, stung by four straight DNFs, bounced back to qualify fourth and fifth, and Pato O’Ward probably passed the most cars of the weekend as he overcame an untimely yellow, a long pit stop, being squeezed into the wall Saturday, and then crashed on the opening lap Sunday, only to roar back and take 11th in the finale.
  • Not going to print my annual rant about the pathetic purse at Indianapolis where a third of the field made $200,000 and change, but let this number sink it: Eldora Speedway is paying $175,000 to win the 36th annual King’s Royal in July. That’s 50 laps on a half-mile dirt track in front of 20,000 spectators. That should be embarrassing to IMS, which raised all the ticket prices this year and has had the same purse for a decade.
  • It’s great to have IMSA and IndyCar share a weekend, but it should happen more often than just Long Beach and Detroit. Mid-Ohio, Road America, Portland and Laguna Seca would be great additions, and would help both sides. There was a good turnout on Saturday for IMSA, and a lot of the fans enjoy both series.
  • Trevor Carlin suffered through what he called “the worst month of my career” at Indy, but the respected car owner vows to try and keep O’Ward despite the expected competition from Red Bull. “I’m working on it,” said Carlin over the weekend.

O’Ward had an eventful weekend in Detroit. But can Carlin hold on to him long-term? Image by LePage/LAT

  • Always refreshing to hear a champion owning up to a mistake. Points leader Josef Newgarden, who won Saturday’s race, was trying to pass James Hinchcliffe and stay ahead of Alexander Rossi when he lost it going into Turn 3 in Sunday’s race. “(James Hinchcliffe) checked me up and I had to go down a gear, and then we were in a bad situation with (Alexander) Rossi behind us,” he said. “I can’t blame anyone. It’s my fault. It’s ultimately my fault with the way this happened. I thought (Hinchcliffe) didn’t have to come straight across the track and I got held up. It’s still my fault; I should have made a better decision there. Obviously, it’s not the right thing that I did, and that’s on me.”
  • I despise single-file starts like Saturday’s. It screws the fans (just like counting yellow laps to start a race) and the track was treacherous but not impassable. This group of drivers has been racing hard and pretty damn clean for the past couple years and they’ve got a throttle and a brake, so let them race.
  • Felix Rosenqvist is fast and has a great future, but he’s got to quit crashing because Chip isn’t known for his patience.

Rosenqvist’s pace is not in doubt. Image by IndyCar

  • Watching Zach Veach’s in-car camera during qualifying at Detroit was as good as watching Marco Andretti’s wild ride on slicks in the rain.
  • My other annual Soapbox Sermon is the schedule. Indy GP, Indy qualifying, Indy 500, Detroit doubleheader, Texas and then a test at Elkhart Lake. Ludicrous, and brutal for the mechanics. IndyCar needs to give the teams a break after May.
  • Lots of complaints about the first 100 laps of Indy being processional and not very exciting because everyone is saving fuel. So a very smart racing man I know has an idea to try and remedy that: incentives. Pay $50,000 to lead lap 50, $100,000 to lead lap 100 and $150,000 to lead lap 150. Get sponsors for all three and promote it.
  • Michael Andretti on Rossi’s future: “He wants to be here and we certainly want to keep him. I’ve just got to find the money.” Methinks Honda will help.
  • I asked Roger Penske during our qualifying show on NBCSN if there was any chance of moving Belle Isle back a week to give the teams a little breather, but it didn’t sound like that was an option.
  • Pretty cool to see the elation in Marcus Ericsson’s face after his first IndyCar podium, and it’s easy to see he made a good decision to come to America.
  • The Captain did confirm four cars in 2020. “For Indianapolis,” he said.
  • Speaking of Indy, Andretti would welcome Fernando Alonso back if they can get Honda of Japan to bury the hatchet.
  • How about The Menard’s Indy 500? After four decades of trying, John Menard finally made it to Victory Lane with Simon Pagenaud and Team Penske, so why not ask the billionaire who loves IndyCars to become the title sponsor? Have him throw in $10 million and it goes directly into the purse. A five-year deal. Trust me, he wouldn’t miss it, and he’d be a hero to all of open-wheel. Save Big Money and Give It To Indy at Menards.
  • A lot of people want Rossi to go to Penske, but why? We need to keep the balance of power – Dixie at Ganassi, Rossi and RHR at Andretti and Willy P., JoNew and Simon at Penske. But I’ll bet The Captain has his eye on O’Ward or Herta. How about a Rick Mears-type deal to get started next year?
  • A former NASCAR official accused IndyCar of “manufacturing” the outcome at Indy because it used the red flag after the Lap 178 crash. That’s almost too funny to comprehend.
  • Best crowd I’ve ever seen at Detroit. If there are still 20,000 seats and if all those chalets were full, it was north of 30,000.
  • After Dixie crashed on Saturday, our stat guru Russ Thompson figured out the last time the five-time IndyCar champ did that on his own was 2014. That’s almost as astounding as this: in 311 starts, the Kiwi has only had 25 accidents total (and most of those weren’t his fault). Oh yeah, if you hadn’t noticed, Sir Scott is pretty good at bouncing back from a rare bad day.

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