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: I am a first-time writer to your Mailbag, although I have enjoyed following your raves and rants for several decades, especially back when you were with the Indy Star. I guess you can call me the Rip Van Winkle of IndyCar racing. The last race that I attended was Bourdais’ win at Road America in 2007. I “fell asleep” after that. I won’t get into the rants and rages on that, since you yourself were on the front line of that bloodbath. I turned fully to Formula 1 – fervently. But for the last five years or so, they too have done everything possible to bring on the Deep Sleep for me as far as that sport is concerned.
But recently, I did wake up, turned on the TV to actually watch an IndyCar race, and as I rubbed my eyes, I noticed, hey, I must have missed nothing! A highly competitive series, road and street courses, short and long ovals, an international cast of drivers with a good mix of American and Canadian drivers, a car that looks like a short evolution of the Panoz DP01 or the other cars of the early 2000s… so what happened? I would have thought this was all just a long dream until I watched the order to start engines at the Indy 500, and no, I guess it wasn’t. Was it worth it? What was gained? What was lost? And is it worth my while to head back to my beloved Road America this weekend?
Wiscowerner, Cedar Grove, WI
RM: Welcome back. The Split did irreparable damage to open-wheel, but the last few years have sported some of the best and most competitive racing ever thanks to Dallara’s racy DW12, Firestone, the depth of the teams and Jay Frye and his staff at IndyCar. Road America remains the great American road course and I’d pay to go there.
Q: To clarify, when you buy any ticket at Road America for IndyCar it includes pit and paddock passes – the “camping wristband” is not needed. There is no weekend I look forward to in the entire year more than IndyCar at Road America. However, I must agree with “Justin in Indy” from last week’s Mailbag. I camp there with my brother and the “camping wristband” charge is ridiculous. I do feel the $100 early bird ticket is a great value if you go all three days.
Bob Rundgren, Villa Park
RM: Thanks Bob, it always seems like the paddock is packed and that’s a good policy to let people roam.
Q: I have been reading you since you started at the Indy Star. You have mellowed with age, as most of us do. Your complaint about the Indy purse is on the money. The Star ran a graph of winner takes through the years and listed 1916 as the low mark with a payout of $238,337. Adjusted to 2019 buying power, that would be equivalent to $5.6 million. Pagenaud’s $2,669,529 was certainly well below this. I wonder how the fan cost compares. Can you find out what a ticket cost in 1916?
RM: In 1915 a ticket in Grandstand A went for $2.50 and today it costs $125. The Daytona 500 purse was over $19 million the last time NASCAR announced it, but the Indy 500 has been stuck on $13 million for a decade.
Q: It looks like the future of IndyCar is going to be dominated by Rossi and Newgarden. I hope they don’t become teammates in the future. It’s nice to see Chevy vs Honda and Andretti vs Penske. Who do these two remind you of from the old days? Great story on NASCAR and IndyCar sharing a weekend. I think it would benefit both. Time to put the feud away for these two series and grow motorsports as a whole. NBC could be the main driver for all of this.
Eric, London, OH
RM: I suppose Mears and Sneva on ovals and Little Al and Michael on road courses. NBC is interested, and that should be the impetus for both sides to find a track and a date that works.
Q: The fact that Pagenaud has squashed any rumors of being replaced by Rossi as well as Penske stating that he would not field a fourth car… do you see any potential chance of Ganassi wanting to snatch him up to pair up with Dixon?
Alan Bandi, Sarver, PA
RM: I don’t think Chip could afford him, and besides, why would Rossi leave Andretti for Ganassi? That’s a lateral move and it’s Dixie’s team, while Andretti is looking very much like Rossi’s if he wants it.
Q: So maybe you can help me with the problem I have with IndyCar. I can’t find anybody to root against in our series. I can’t identify who my favorite driver is anymore. Always been a Scott Dixon fan. TK is a great guy. So is Ryan Hunter-Reay. Loved the emotion from Will Power when he won Indy. Takuma Sato has a great personality. They say that the French are rude and grumpy, but I guess that Sebastien Bourdais and Simon Pagenaud didn’t get the memo, they both are terrific. JoNew. The Mayor. Love ‘em. (And we are all for nicknames in this camp. Tom Sneva is The Gasman forever.) Now I am going crazy over Rossi and Herta, too. Damn exciting to watch them. I could go on and name every driver. Seriously, I can’t find anybody to root against. Any suggestions?
RM: That is a problem, because they’re all good guys who get along. I was hoping Rossi might be the man in black at the start of 2018 but he really didn’t seem to want it, although his ’60s attitude and take-no-prisoners style at least gives fans an option. Until he signs an autograph or poses for a photo or makes a bold pass, and then you’ll like him.