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: How do the drivers really feel about Pocono? Even though some may enjoy the challenge of the track and the speed, do they ultimately want the series to be there? Would most of them agree with Wickens’ feeling that IndyCar and Pocono should consider a divorce? I have attended for several years and I don’t think I’ll return. If nothing else, there’s bad mojo there. With the likelihood of a car going into the fence, I don’t want to see the drivers seriously hurt or worse. And even from the best seat in the grandstands there isn’t a whole lot to see other than cars screaming by on the straight. Watching qualifying with a paddock/garage pass might be worthwhile, but race day is better enjoyed on TV. (Kudos to NBC).
RM: I think most have mixed feelings, and Graham Rahal’s response in our pre-race show pretty much nailed it. He said he’d be lying if the drivers didn’t think about Justin and Robert and the bad mojo that Pocono seems to have developed. But he also said he loved driving at Pocono, while Power and Dixon both were lobbying IndyCar to stay after the race.
Q: I know a lot of fans want to know if Pocono will be back. Let me rephrase the question. Do the drivers and teams want to come back? Three drivers with actual on-track experience immediately took to social media after the Lap 1 incident and said Pocono just doesn’t work. I asked Sage Karam why Pocono is different than Indianapolis and he basically said the track width creates a different racing dynamic that invites disaster. In the past five years at Pocono we’ve had multiple hospitalizations and a fatality.
Ryan in West Michigan
RM: I don’t think the teams care one way or the other, and the drivers seem pretty divided. Carpenter, Power, Dixon, Rahal, RHR and Kanaan were pro-Pocono in interviews prior to the race, and T.K. even said something like “of course it’s dangerous, that’s why we get paid the big bucks.” I know that Ferrucci was a big fan after his initial try, but I can certainly understand Wickens’ viewpoint.
Q: I just saw Robert Wickens’ tweet about the Pocono race: “How many times do we have to go through the same situation before we can all accept that an IndyCar should not race at Pocono. It’s just a toxic relationship and maybe it’s time to consider a divorce. I’m very relieved (to my knowledge) that everyone is okay from that scary crash” I have to say, my thinking has always been the same when there is a bad crash – IndyCar racing is dangerous, especially at the start, and everyone knows this as a fact. Sato could have made the same mistake on any oval, and if he would have pulled that stunt going into Turn 2 at Indy it would have been the same result or worse. As much as we as fans hate to see deaths and injuries, it could happen on any track at any time.
Jack, Ft Myers, FL
RM: Why are A.J., Parnelli, Mario, Rutherford, Johncock and the Unsers still so revered? Because they thrived and survived the most deadly era in IndyCar history. A big part of the attraction was cheating death and they were the gladiators of the day with a mindset that fascinated the common man. Racing is 1000 times safer than it was in the ’60s, but it’s still open-wheel cars going 200 mph and that’s always a recipe for big crashes.
Q: I’m torn. I love IndyCar, I love ovals and I love super-speedways. However I hate crashes, I hate injuries even more. I don’t want to see Pocono go. Is it the track, or was it Sato? I get up at 6 a.m., drive over 200 miles, drop a few hundred bucks, sit on the surface of the sun to see half a race, sit in the parking lot watching it rain for two hours trying to get out (couldn’t imagine that egress if the grandstand was full), and then drive another 200+ miles home to get up and go to work the next day. Just to see all the drivers complain about having to go there.
Well, hate to sound like a heartless SOB, but no one made them be there. It’s their choice. They could all be like Chilton and sit out of the ride his daddy bought him. I’m sure there’s a list of guys, helmet in hand, 500 miles long ready to jump in. Racing can never be 100% safe until esports takes over and we just watch people play video games. Then they’ll probably complain about Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. Nothing in life is 100% safe. Driving almost 500 miles across Pennsylvania roads had me, statistically, more in harm’s way. Which I guess is all my choice, too. I could just stay at home and watch it on TV. Which, since I’m in grumpy old man mode, I’m already paying to have NBCSN, a premium sports channel on my TV, now they want me to pay more to watch IndyCar on my phone so they can show yet another episode of Mecum.
RM: You are spot-on Shawn. Nobody holds a gun to anyone’s head to race midgets, sprints, stockers, sports cars, motorcycles or IndyCars, and danger is part of the job description. But I didn’t hear any complaints about racing there before the race, just a little trepidation from a few veterans. But thanks for making that long drive and hanging in there. And you are correct – the Pennsylvania Turnpike is a lot more dangerous than the Tunnel Turn at Pocono. Especially on the weekends.