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.
Q: Another good broadcast by NBC, if you ignore losing the feed. A toast to the director who made the call to go to the in-car camera of Marco Andretti on Saturday after he switched to slicks. That drive had us all on the edge of our seats. People can dog on Marco all they want, but he kept it out of the wall in really tough conditions, which can’t be said of other drivers in dry conditions.
Watching on Sunday, I was happy for Ericsson and the ASPM team. It led me to think about the performance of the rookies. When you look at the rookie class this year and the equipment they have, I think it really highlights how special Robert Wickens is and the performances he put on last year. What are your thoughts on this year’s rookie class and their performance to date?
RM: Like I said in Monday’s column, this rookie class may not rival 1965 (or 1963, which was also stellar) but it’s the youngest, fastest and most promising in a long time. Just look at Ferrucci lately. He and engineer Mike Cannon have obviously clicked and he’s giving Dale Coyne a great ride. I told Juan Pablo Montoya that Pato reminded me of a young JPM, and Colton’s collective cool and savvy is hard to fathom for 19 years old. Felix and Marcus have a lot of experience, but the battle for rookie of the year is shaping up to be a dandy.
Q: I often wonder why they don’t do an oval race the weekend after the Indy 500. I like street courses and road courses, but they can be a bit boring in my opinion. Weren’t IndyCars originally designed to be race cars on oval tracks? Do you see them changing what track they race at on the weekend after the Indy 500 in the future?
RM: I beat that drum for several years to no avail. Yes, IndyCar should be on an oval right after Indy because you’ve got the momentum of “must-see TV” and a street race just doesn’t keep people engaged. It’s great that Chevy has a home race and R.P. has made Belle Isle a real event, but flipping Texas and Detroit would be my druthers. But, no, it’s not going to happen anytime soon.
Q: So 200 points have been awarded in the last eight days. Who have you got for the title, Miller? I’ll take Newgarden. I loved you putting the question to Roger about a fourth car for Rossi on the NBCSN qualifying show. I know you’re a betting man, so what’s your bet on where Rossi draws his paycheck in 2020?
RM: I picked Rossi to take the title before the season, and I’m saying he stays at Andretti with Honda and engineer Jeremy Milless.
Q: Why did IndyCar agree to a 75-minute timed race with the engines firing at 3:55 p.m. CST if they knew the NBC TV window ended at 5:00 p.m. CST? If they knew they would have to switch channels because 75 minutes would go beyond the TV window and a channel change to CNBC would be required, why not run the full race distance? Would the fans of Undercover Boss reruns be more upset than IndyCar fans? I think the Belle Isle circuit puts on an entertaining street race, but as good as race two was, I feel equally confused by race one.
Jim Sarow, Whitefish Bay, WI
RM: The weather obviously played havoc with everything and the lightning kept forcing 30 minute delays in any decision, so IndyCar and NBC simply tried to out-guess Mother Nature.
Q: Why was there no pack-up that caused Marco Andretti to drop to 20th? Marco should have cycled to the lead since he pitted for dry tires before the rest of the field. Townsend Bell said on the broadcast the field should have been packed up to prevent cars going too fast under a yellow flag. Why the change in procedure?
Rob Peterson, Rochester, NY
RM: Statement from IndyCar: “Race Control was reviewing data and closing rates and based off the information the pack-up was developing. The goal was to get the pits open as quickly as possible for the competitors and fans, but given the circumstances that included cars on different tires and a cold track, it did not occur as expediently as was envisioned.”
Q: At the risk of sounding like an old-fashioned grump, as much as the end of the first race this weekend was fun to watch, I was annoyed that Tim Cindric was able to tell JoNew what Rossi was doing with his push-to-pass. It’s a great addition to be able to use tactically and is much better than F1’s DRS. But if the team has the information on what the others are doing, then the drivers don’t have to do anything but push it when the team tells them to do, and you may as well not bother with the concept. Also, surely such coaching pisses the drivers off?
Jordan, Warwickshire, UK
RM: I agree, and I wish IndyCar would go back to not giving out that information because it defeats the purpose of push-to-pass. I’m sure it pisses off the drivers – just like you viewers.
Q: Why no penalty for Sato when he lost it and crashed O’Ward in Race 1? Same question for Newgarden spinning in front of Hinch and Rossi in Race 2? I understand neither was intentional, and Newgarden came out the worst for his error, but Sato benefited from his and it really hurt O’Ward. Seems as if Race Control is afraid to pull the trigger.
Rick, Marengo, Ohio
RM: I think both were simply racing incidents. Sato slid in wet conditions and used Pato as a buffer from the wall, but it wasn’t intentional. Josef’s penalty was fairly obvious since he was out of the race, but again, it was aggressive driving and going for it and he paid the price.