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: Curious about AutoNation’s involvement in the sport. In your Rossi article, Michael says that AutoNation has been a great supporter of Hunter-Reay and that they really stepped up to make the Rossi deal happen. Then in Marshall’s article about Meyer-Shank’s alliance plans for 2020, Michael Shank says that his discussions with AutoNation and SiriusXM have been very positive. They have not stood out to me in the past as a prominent sponsor in the series, but apparently they have been involved with at least two different team/driver combinations.  Is their participation more aligned with Honda than it is with those teams/drivers? And, as always, please ask Jay Frye to remove the fuel knobs from the cars.

Kirby, Indianapolis

RM: Michael’s confession was a bit of a revelation since he said AutoNation was the deal changer, but it also sounds like Mike Shank is confident about the future. FYI, Jay isn’t allowed to touch the cars.

Q: Hey Robin, I don’t really have a question but more of an observation. If you check out the number of social media shares on in the last two weeks you will notice that at best McLaren news brought in about 4,000 + shares. However, your column on Little Al’s alcohol struggles resulted to a whopping 26,000 shares. Seems like real life human struggle brings out the quiet IndyCar fans out of the woodworks. Going back to McLaren – I hope this team come back swinging next year, with or without Alonso. What they’ll sell next year will be a story about perseverance and success. I’ll be the first in line to get their merchandise.

Jon Litorja, Chicago

RM: I think it shows me how many people still care about Unser; he remains one of the most popular drivers ever and as many people who might have been curious about his status, most are pulling for him. McLaren merchandise will be back next May and hopefully it will be in the race this time.

Q: Great article on Al Jr. and his battle with alcoholism. Please let him know we’re all pulling for him to beat this disease. As Roger said, “We have an ill-handling car, let’s fix it.” Come on Al, pull in the pits and let your friends help fix it! You can beat this demon. We know you can!

Jerry King

RM: I’ve received more than 75 emails and texts from Unser fans expressing your thoughts, and I’ve sent some of them to Al and he was very appreciative.

Q: Just read your story about Al Jr. on As I am the same age, he’s my all-time favorite driver. Sad to hear of the recurring disease and its consequences, but glad to hear he can face and hopefully conquer the demons within. I’ve only had the pleasure of talking to him one time at Community Day (Danica’s rookie season), but the memory will last forever. Because of him, I still eat Domino’s Pizza! The gesture from The Captain was heartfelt. And I’ll never forget that day in May, in the Media Center, that god-awful look on his and Emmo’s face when they did not qualify for the 1995 Indy 500. Junior if you’re reading this, many of us are wishing you well in your fight to recovery! One day at a time, buddy.

Dave Zilai

RM: As much as everyone is pulling for him, we all know Al is the only one who can beat it or at least neutralize it, and it’s a daily battle. Let’s just hope he’s up for the fight.

Little Al is facing a big fight, but has a lot of support from within the community. Image by Levitt/LAT

Q: Longtime reader, first-time writer! My wife and I celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary earlier this year. My wife was working for a large pharmaceutical company in Wilkes Barre/Scranton when we had our first date at the Pocono 500 in 1989. I have attended a few more IndyCar races over the year with my wife. We aren’t able to make this year’s race, so my question: What are the chances there will be a Pocono IndyCar race next year? We have two daughters and I was hoping to bring them and introduce them to this great sport! Thanks for all you do for the sport!

Bob Markley, Jr., Export, PA

RM: Honestly I thought a couple months ago it was 80-20 this weekend would be it, but I keep hearing both sides are interested in keeping it going if details and dates can be worked out, so let’s say it’s upgraded to 60-40.

Q: Could give us an explanation on dampers? I am 74 years of age, have followed IndyCar for at least as long as you have and I understand about springs and shocks, but what the heck are dampers? Thanks, always enjoy or videos, live Sports Gold appearances and your columns. Great job. Longtime fan.

Steve Smyser, Frendsville, TN

RM: No Steve, I’m not nearly smart enough, but thankfully I’m friends with Craig Hampson, the respected engineer for Sebastien Bourdais, and he graciously responded to your request:

“A damper is a device which dissipates the energy of a vibration, specifically in our case the movement of the spring in the suspension. The damper slows the movement of the spring by converting the energy to heat – which is a by-product of squeezing oil through controlled holes or ports or gaps. ‘Shock absorber’ is more slang and the shock absorber is the damper, but more correctly the energy of the shock of going over the bump is “absorbed” and controlled by a combined unit of a coil spring plus the damper.

“Inerters are also a device to store and release suspension energy. In IndyCar, the inerter, if utilized, must be built inside of the shock absorber unit. A damper reacts to the velocity or the spring movement, while the inerter reacts to the acceleration of the spring, meaning its change in velocity.”

As usual, he took the words right out of my mouth. Thanks Craig.