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: If you exclude the first race of 2013 in Formula 1, just three teams have all the wins in the past six and a half seasons. Your article about Andretti toying with the idea of moving to Chevy again got me thinking about the Honda teams you seem to have dismissed. I did some digging, and I went back only as far as 2015 as the landscape in IndyCar has not changed much since then.
There are two winning drivers that switched teams, and one of those teams folded (Newgarden to Penske and Bourdais from KVSH to Coyne). From 2015-2019, eight different teams have won at least races. Andretti has 14 (I’m lumping Herta in there), Ganassi eight, RLL seven and SPM three. From 2017-2019, Penske has all the Chevy wins (34 dating back to 2015). In 2015 and ’16, ECR and KVSH each had three. Newgarden leads all drivers with 13 wins. Power is second with 11 and Pagenaud and Dixon tied for third with nine.
The surprise on the list is probably Rossi with six. It wasn’t until 2018 that he won his first IndyCar race on speed. I’m not taking away from his Indy 500 win, but it took him two full seasons before he turned into the title-challenging force he now is. What did I learn from this exercise? If Andretti really does switch to Chevy, then Ganassi doesn’t win as much as you would think based on Dixon’s title results, but the other Honda teams are no slouches. If Andretti does make the switch we will find out if Penske is just that much better than everyone else, or if Chevy has been giving them the edge.
Given the lackluster performances by the other Chevy teams, I’m leaning towards Penske being that good. Which is all the more reason for the sake of IndyCar that they find a way to keep Rossi with Andretti. And for the sake of parity in the manufacturers’ title fight, Honda better keep Andretti in the fold. It might not hurt Chevy to lure SPM or RLL away from Honda, though. What say you?
Ryan in West Michigan
RM: I’ve said forever that General Motors would be satisfied if Team Penske was their only client in IndyCar, and I’ve said for the past several weeks that we need Rossi, RHR and Andretti to stay together with Honda to keep the balance of power. The last time Honda lost two big stars was when Pagenaud and Newgarden went with The Captain, so if Michael would go with Chevrolet it really stacks the deck. But Chevy certainly wouldn’t need RLL or SPM if it gets Andretti.
Q: In the past the storyline always seemed to be that IndyCar/Champ Car, need more Americans. It progressed to we need them fighting and winning the championships. Now that we have Americans fighting for the championship and winning, what do you think the next American progression will be? (Stop NASCAR from taking them?) Herta is very impressive, and extremely aggressive. Do you think that it would be good if he was reigned in a little, or do you think this type of aggression could lead to a championship in years to come?
Paul Hirsch, Erie, PA
RM: I can’t think of anybody that NASCAR has snatched from the Road to Indy series, and Colton, Zach Veach and Spencer Pigot have all graduated – to be followed soon by Oliver Askew (and Aaron Telitz if he had a backer). Reigned in from being fast everywhere and making daring passes? I would hope not. You can’t teach what that kid’s got, and he’s going to be on top for a long time.
Q: I’d like to throw another log on the fire regarding the one-man IndyCar silly season. It seems some people are overlooking the current state of unrest at Red Bull in F1. With Verstappen possibly jumping ship during the off-season and Gasly’s underperformance, any rumors of Rossi getting at least a test with Red Bull or Toro Rosso? Seems possible given the Honda connection. Does he still even have his Super License?
Mike, South Dakota
RM: Why would you think Red Bull is interested in Rossi, or why he would want to leave his current lot in life? I have no idea if he’s still got a Super License but I don’t think F1 holds any interest for him right now, and vice-versa. Like I said last week, if it’s Mercedes or Ferrari, of course he would likely be interested. But that’s not going to happen, and Verstappen won last Sunday so hold his defection.
Q: Alexander Rossi has cemented his place in IndyCar, regardless of which team he drives for next year. I don’t see him attempting a return to F1, but what about a part-time gig in the World Endurance Championship? It’s hard for me to believe that top-tier LMP1/LMP2 team managers haven’t watched his dominant races at Long Beach and Road America. A trophy from the 1000 Kilometers of Spa or the 24 Hours of Le Mans would look very cool next to the Borg Warner Trophy….
Jonathan and Cleide Morris, Ventura, CA
RM: Depending on who he’s driving for in 2020 I’m sure sports cars are high on his list, but IMSA might be more feasible than the WEC simply because of the schedules.
Q: First, let me gloat: back when Haas F1 was looking for drivers, I suggested in a RACER chat to consider Rossi. I was savagely rebuked by the thumb-clicking know-it-alls, who favor a hurtful tweet over thoughtful conversation. Take that, Techno Trolls.
RM: Gloat on David, I imagine Alex would love to show F1 he had the skill set to succeed, but I don’t think Haas would be the answer, even though your suggestion was certainly valid.