Robin Miller's Mailbag for August 14, presented by Honda Racing/HPD

Robin Miller's Mailbag for August 14, presented by Honda Racing/HPD

Insights & Analysis

Robin Miller's Mailbag for August 14, presented by Honda Racing/HPD


Q: I’m finding it very amusing that the “purists” are raising hell and clutching their pearls over IndyCar’s 2022 switch to hybrid engines. These are usually the same people who think the good old days were when we had real innovation in the series. In the last Mailbag, “Joe in California” whined about having “heard and seen it all,” including “Granatelli’s beautiful cheese wedge-shaped turbine cars in 1968.”

Oh, please… give me a friggin’ break! Andy’s turbines were known as the “whooshmobiles” because that was the sound they made on the track, and they didn’t sound anything like an Offy or Ford, let alone today’s Chevy and Honda engines – yet Joe would probably have made a perfect USAC official back then and voted to ban the damn things because they didn’t make enough noise for him.

“Succumb to the showroom’s wishes?” Please. The manufacturers have been a part of IndyCar racing since 19-damn-11! Some people just aren’t happy unless they’re not happy about something. I need an aspirin…

Mark G.

RM: I’m an old-schooler that lives for days gone by and I do think the 1960s and 1970s were the best, so I never chastise anyone for living in the past. But this frenzy over hybrids is unnecessary because nothing of substance (close competition, engine noise and speed) is going to change because of this electric addition.

Q: Having just digested most of your recent Mailbag, I am frankly a bit embarrassed to be a part of its readership after just reading some of the letters that put pure ignorance on display. So many of your “anti” letter writers appeared to have read nothing more than the headline of the announcement as they seemed to confuse all-electric cars with hybrids.

IndyCar has a difficult task of trying to remain relevant in an automotive world that is going electric. This burden comes on top of the difficulties associated with changing demographics and lifestyle of our more youthful denizens.

It may be too much to ask of the four-cylinder Offy, “run what ya brung” crowd to understand this if they indeed can’t even read beyond a headline before they respond. Still, here is at least one person that is part of the unimportant over-40 demographic who appreciates what Jay Frye faces, and is supportive of his efforts to deal with it. These hybrid systems represent no downside for the race fan, upside for the series, and maybe some additional expense for the owners. It will be refreshing when this “controversy” goes away so we can get back to a more relevant Mailbag like when Cleveland is coming back?

Justin, Park City

RM: Good one Justin, I see a doubleheader at Burke Lakefront late next year. Anyway, like I’ve said a few times earlier in this week’s offering, the panic set in because of one word and people must not have read Marshall’s column because it nailed it and made it easy for even mechanical morons like myself to understand. Hopefully, people have calmed down.

If we’re going to have a doubleheader at Cleveland next year, let’s go all-in and have both series on track at the same time. Image by Feistman/LAT

Q: The announcement of the 2022 cars came as a (mostly) pleasant surprise. There’s now a good deal of experience in making MGU-Ks, so reliability shouldn’t be much of an issue. I just hope the drivers are given control over engaging the electric boost – push-to-pass, or whatever they’re going to call it – and only limit its use by what the cars and drivers can harvest. I know the current push-to-pass provides about 50 horsepower, so my concern is that with the engines only increasing in size by 12 cubic inches, the projected 40-50 horsepower increase provided by the MGU-K seems like very little. I thought the new cars were supposed to have a serious power gain, so I’d really like your take on that, Robin.

Included in the chat about the new cars is the possible return of standing starts on road and street courses. I have to say this is a burn point for me. In 2014, Sebastian Saavedra stalled on the line during the one and only attempt at a standing start and IndyCar nixed the starts out of hand. The reason they cited was a problem with the anti-stall program in the cars. Really? Let’s see… F1 and F2 have standing starts with no problem (and they have anti-stall). Are they just better drivers than the IndyCar jockeys? 

I’ve been around the sport long enough to have been in the grandstands and watched Parnelli, A.J., Jimmy Clark and Jackie Stewart do standing starts on the same grid in the same race, and the answer is, “Hell no!” IndyCar drivers routinely do standing starts out of pit boxes so tight the F2 guys wouldn’t recognize them, and the F1 drivers would probably boycott the track. I can’t think of any reason why we should have to wait for 2022 to see some of the best drivers on the planet make standing starts – can you?

John in Sacramento

RM: You don’t want to hear my take because Marshall’s makes a whole lot more sense. “Hi John. Indeed, the increase from 2.2 to 2.4 liters (134 to 146 cubic inches) isn’t much, but it isn’t just capacity that will bring more power – it’s a complete redesign, more robust internals, more boost, and a general shift towards high power/small displacement, which is the opposite of the low-power/small displacement formula that emerged in 2012. Standing starts have come up a lot since the hybrid announcement, but I’ve heard nothing about it from inside the series, and know that after the previous attempts a few years ago, there hasn’t been a desire for a return.”