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: As I’m sure you’ve heard from just about everyone, the race at Laguna Seca was a hit. Plenty of passing, plus another sensational win by Colton Herta. And while there wasn’t much drama in the championship battle, Josef Newgarden is a great racer and a good spokesman for the series, so him winning a second title is far from a poor outcome. Overall, IndyCar couldn’t have asked for a better showing.
However, there’s one thing that I think as been lost in the discussion. I think it’s remarkable that Harding Steinbrenner Racing, the little team that has had a troubled existence since it first showed up at the track, managed to win its final race as an autonomous operation before being absorbed by the Andretti behemoth. Now, I know that HSR will still exist in name going forward (as “Andretti/Harding/Steinbrenner Autosport”), but it’s just a technicality. The fact that this scrappy little team that had trouble finding together the funds to show up at the track each weekend managed to take the win at their final race as an independent organization is something to celebrate.
Racing is a tough sport, and what these guys managed to do with what little they had should be recognized by the motorsports community. I know that ideally we all would like to see HSR continue in its current form and be the “little team that could.” However, business is business, and it makes perfect sense for HSR to join forces with Andretti. But while new owners aren’t exactly lining up to join the series, it’s good that one who actually did sign up and take the plunge managed to go out on a high note.
RM: That’s a great observation, and I mentioned in last week’s Mailbag that their pit stops were excellent in that victory and helped keep Colton out in front. To beat Andretti, Ganassi and Penske requires the best of everything – driver, engineer, mechanics, pit stops and strategy – and for a small team that’s disbanding to pull it off was even more impressive. I hope all those guys find jobs with Andretti, and it’s too bad Mike Harding couldn’t make it work. I think his heart was in the right place but without a major sponsor it’s only a matter of time until money becomes an issue. Marshall wrote a good story on Monday detailing what happens to a team that’s disbanding.
Q: As a lifelong motorsports fan, long-time Mailbag reader and active trauma surgeon, I am excited to see the success of the new aero-screen test and the way it is being embraced and heralded by the drivers. Regarding severe trauma, there are three injuries that have irreversible (in the current state of modern medicine) and life-changing effects: severe brain injury, major burns, and spinal cord injury (Robert Wickens is thankfully an incredibly rare exception to the rule).
Professional drivers face these risks each and every time they step into the car, and any initiative to reduce the risks of these injuries is not only welcomed, but a moral imperative. For those armchair fan critics of the “looks” and “loss of the risks of the glory days”, I invite them to visit the nearest Level 1 trauma center to see the devastating effects of these injuries on patients and their families. My question is, what is the plan for the final aero screen challenge yet to be described by RBAT and IndyCar? Rain. Do you have any insight into the current working solution (hydrophobic coating, aero tricks, ect.) and testing plans regarding wet weather racing? Thanks for all you do for the sport.
Scott Brakenridge MD, Gainesville, FL
RM: The screen will have tear-offs as insurance, but the rain is supposed to run right off the screen due to its shape and it seemed to pass its first test with flying colors on Monday at Barber. Here’s a shot of RHR testing Monday at Barber in the rain. He and Simon Pagenaud gave it big props.
Q: I saw the video of Robert Wickens and his bride, and Robert standing from his wheelchair. I was thinking about how he got injured so badly even though the DW12 stayed intact. Two ideas come to mind for protecting the spine: could the drivers wear a kind of ‘corset’ that then attaches to the car? This would reduce movement during the crash. The other idea is something along the lines of a jetfighter pilot’s G-suit with air bladders that could inflate to protect the spine/neck. Has anyone brought anything like this forward in the wake of Wickens crash?
Earl McKenzie, Edmonton, Canada
RM: Not my knowledge. The HANS Device and SAFER walls are the two biggest breakthroughs in racing safety during my 50 years, and now the aeroscreen has been added. There’s very little room in today’s cockpit, so not sure anything like you propose could even be realistic.