Robin Miller's Mailbag for July 24, presented by Honda Racing / HPD

Robin Miller's Mailbag for July 24, presented by Honda Racing / HPD

Insights & Analysis

Robin Miller's Mailbag for July 24, presented by Honda Racing / HPD


Q: Just what we need – another Penske 1-2-3! How is this any different from F1? I admit the racing is better, but who has won most of the last championships, who has won most of the last races? Any driver they get rid of who could compete, they force into contracts where they can’t race for anybody else. You can’t tell me that if Juan Pablo Montoya or Helio Castroneves were with another decent team, they wouldn’t be challenging for wins? Even though they both wanted to race in IndyCar, they were offered deals they could not refuse. I don’t think that’s fair.

Something needs to be changed, because Penske dominates this series. Now they’re going for the only driver who can really challenge them in Rossi? It’s not a balance of power, it’s a domination of power by Penske. Every time I find a driver I like that’s doing well, they get scooped up by Penske. After that, I can’t root for them.

What changes do you think could be made to correct this? I know you definitely don’t want to tick off Penske because he puts so much money into this series. Just makes me sad there are so many good drivers in this series, and only a few of them have the opportunity to win unless Penske has a bad day.

P.S.: Don’t say it’s been a year since they had a 1-3 pole run, either, because what other team has ever had that?

Tim B.

RM: The most successful team in IndyCar history with the most resources and experience is going to be tough to beat, so winning seven of the 12 races so far is hardly a surprise. I understand your point, it was more fun cheering for Newgarden when he was the underdog with Ed and Sarah, and that’s human nature. And Mercedes’ dominance in F1 has made it pretty boring, but at least in IndyCar it’s not a given that Team Penske is going to win. Sure they were 1-2-3 in qualifying at Iowa and JoNew was unchallenged most of the night, but that also happened at Long Beach and Road America with Rossi and at Barber with Takuma Sato, so it’s not just one team every weekend. And, sure, Colton Herta got a good break with a caution at COTA, but he held off Newgarden for the win and that would be like Haas or Toro Rosso winning in F1 (which, by the way, could never happen) because the driver and his team have a much better chance to show his skills in IndyCar’s spec formula.

There are three Penske cars too many in this photo for reader Tim’s liking. Image by Abbott/LAT.

Q: Why would any team (other than Penske of course) want to run with Ilmor-built Chevrolet engines? For example: at Iowa, the worst of the Penskes qualified at 179.449. The best Honda was roughly two mph down on that, and the next best Chevrolet was Kanaan, down in 13th at 174.848 mph. That’s five mph slower with supposedly the same engine the Penskes are running. Do dampers and car setup get you five mph? Roger Penske is an owner in Ilmor Engineering (you know, that company that never gets any mention or credit for Chevrolet’s success). Does it not seem a little fishy that no Chevrolet team has won a race in three or so years other than Team Penske? Are the other teams just so awful, or is Penske getting the cream-of-the-crop choice of engines? Or perhaps, something a little more sinister, is Penske juicing their fuel (nitrous)?

Rob, London, Ontario, Canada

RM: Watching the Penske cars negotiate the bumps at Iowa is a lot more impressive than how fast they went in a straight line, because it’s about handling, not horsepower there. And both of Ed Carpenter’s Chevys were fast in the race as well, so again, more about getting your chassis right. Yes, dampers are key to success nowadays. No doubt Honda has the better teams right now, but I’m always telling you that Chevy and Ilmor really don’t care as long as they’ve got The Captain. He’s the only reason they’re in IndyCar. Are his engines different from other Chevys? Maybe. Probably. But if so, that’s not why they win. And I’ve heard the nitrous theory for a couple years now (and especially at the end of this year’s Indy 500) but between great pit stops, top engineers and three of the best drivers in the field, would they really need to cheat? And why would IndyCar let them? This isn’t USAC circa 1970.

Q: I am a huge Rossi fan, and previously, like you and many others, agreed that a Rossi move to Penske would be a lateral move only. Andretti Autosport is certainly his right now. However, after watching Penske’s domination and Rossi’s inability to run with them, I sickeningly now have to say that I believe he must move to The Captain if he is ever going to win a championship. What are your thoughts? I pray you can shed some light that will my conclusion wrong!

Dan, Placerville, CA

RM: Nah, he dominated Team Penske at Long Beach and Road America, and he’s still very much in the title hunt. He predicted it might be a long night before the race, and it’s Josef’s best track. My thoughts are that he’s staying with Andretti and Honda because I think loyalty means something to him, just like it did Ryan Hunter-Reay.

Q: I realize Will Power won the 500 last year, and that usually cements a driver’s tenure with Penske for several years, but I can’t help but wonder if he might become the exception.  He’s thrown away good runs the last two weeks with two incidents in Toronto and the pit miscue in Iowa, and it seems like he’s been making more and more of these type of mistakes as time goes on. I know you’ve been saying you’re starting to think Rossi will stay with Andretti in 2020, but is there a possible scenario out there where Rossi would replace Power at Penske instead of expanding to four cars?

Vincent Michael, Sunbury, PA

RM: No, Will has another year on his contract, and obviously he’s pressing, but he’s still plenty quick and has done a lot of good things for Team Penske. He’s obviously pressing right now since he’s winless but I don’t think R.P. would bump him if Rossi came on board. It would just be a four-car effort.