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: So all I remember is that you say there are no good spots for passing at Laguna Seca. I have seen quite a few insane passes this season at other tracks that I don’t remember seeing before. The way the red tires fall off, and the blacks lasting longer… and you throw in the P2P, and I am stoked for the weekend. Do you think anything can change your mind? By the way, BBQ, no-host bar and possible poker game up in camping near Turn 11. See you there.
RM: Nothing would delight me more than to see mass passing on Sunday, and I suppose you can’t discount the chance of some surprises with Dallara’s race-able package. But I’ve been to every IndyCar race run at Laguna Seca and I’ve seen two passes for the lead – Bobby Rahal passing Mario entering the Corkscrew in 1986, and Zanardi’s off-track banzai in 1996. In the 22 previous races, 14 winners have come from the pole and four others started second – 18 out of 22 from the front row. That’s why, unless there’s a lot of chaos and cautions, the finish is usually dictated by qualifying – except in 2001, when Max Papis started 25th and pitted four times in the first 13 laps, but never passed a car on the track and won the race.
Q: OK Miller, let’s forget about the point gap between the top four. Of them, which driver would be the best to help IndyCar in the overall picture? A few years ago Newgarden was a great story, being a young American, and Rossi still kinda has the bad boy feel to him. Scott is the chiseled veteran, while Simon is a great character, but I don’t know if he moves the needle at all. My order here might be right, but I am pulling for No. 2, so I’m probably too biased on this one.
RM: That’s a good question. Because he hasn’t won one yet and the fact he came out of nowhere three years ago, I think Rossi is probably the best story for the media. Like many drivers that get strained through the F1 system with no real shot at being competitive, Alex showed that a driver can make a difference in IndyCar if paired with the right engineer and team. Where would he be today if Bryan Herta and Michael Andretti hadn’t plucked him out of no-man’s land? And Josef and Simon are also good storylines, as well as great reps for IndyCar. Dixie is pure class and one of the all-time greats, but really doesn’t have a chance.
Q: Is the Bomarito that drives in IMSA connected to the Bommarito that promotes the St. Louis IndyCar race? Such an unusual name; just wondering.
Bob Gray, Woodland Hill
RM: No. Jonathan Bomarito is no relation to John Bommarito, and they don’t even spell their last names the same. Bomarito was a winner in Toyota Atlantics who found a home in sports cars, while Bommarito is the title sponsor at Gateway and easily one of IndyCar’s top allies.
Q: My dad and I purchased tickets for Laguna Seca after being told by the track that there were screens and a scoring tower. That’s why I bought seats in the grandstand, so we can see what is going on around the track. However, I am watching the IMSA race and do not see either. Is this what we have to look forward to – just being able to see the front stretch next weekend? We knew visibility might not be the best at a road course, but at least when we go to Long Beach they have screens up to view the rest of the track. Any information that you can provide would be helpful.
RM: I spoke with track communications manager Brandy Falconer and she had it confirmed that there will be one big screen at the Turn 4 grandstands and another across from the stands on the front straightaway, so it sounds like you should be set.
Q: By all accounts, there has been an increase in interest in IndyCar over the past few years. Just curious — has there been a corresponding increase in the number of letters that are sent to the Mailbag?
Jim Amerian, Santa Monica, CA
RM: It’s really a flow of hard-liners that consistently contribute and first-timers that get inspired or angry depending on the topic, and obviously the mail is much heavier during the season. But to answer your question, there is probably more volume the past couple years because of the good racing, Alonso, McLaren, Rossi, the aeroscreen, the schedule and whether Indy should reserve starting spots. I started doing the Mailbag in the late ’90s at The Indianapolis Star, continued it at ESPN and SPEED before it became a weekly staple at RACER with sponsorship from Honda, and thankfully, it’s one of RACER’s most popular features throughout the year. I’m always amazed at how many open-wheel fans take the time to write, and it always makes me think there are more fans out there than we imagine.