Robin Miller's Mailbag for December 4, presented by Honda Racing / HPD

Robin Miller's Mailbag for December 4, presented by Honda Racing / HPD

Insights & Analysis

Robin Miller's Mailbag for December 4, presented by Honda Racing / HPD


Q: Since there are only three IndyCar events that conflict with IMSA — all three ovals — and Sebastien Bourdais now drives for GM again, what are the odds he could fill in for Carpenter in the No. 20 for road course events? I’m still pissed, and wish nothing but the worst for Dale Coyne — especially in light of the fact Hinch and Seb could have just swapped rides and made everyone happy. I hope Seb wins the IMSA championship and sends the trophy to Dale.

Paul H.

RM: I think we’ll find out about the driver of the No. 20 car this week, but don’t think it’s going to be Seb. But he would be a logical candidate if ECR didn’t need sponsorship.

How ’bout Seb as driver for ECR’s No. 20 on road courses? Image by Galstad/LAT

Q: I usually watch the F1 races with a group of guys in the suburban Detroit Area. Mostly the same guys and mostly the same BS every race. Yesterday I heard repeated complaints about Indy situation and specifically what I believed was unfair criticism of Dale Coyne. I have always believed Dale was 100 percent racer, and the SeaBass termination seemed more about losing a sponsor than look for a ‘rent-a-rider’?

There hasn’t been any comment on the SealMaster sponsorship, or any comment from Vasser/Sullivan. Can you fill us in on the specifics of this sponsor and the DCR with Vasser-Sullivan relationship for next year?

Also, one of the guys here works for a big Tier 3 OEM who has one division that does prototyping for Cosworth and Ilmor. He believes that McLaren is simply contracted by Arrow to manage the IndyCar team in the same manner that Ganassi was contracted to manage the Ford GT Program. Is this your take on that team now?

Jon Clarke, Harrison Township, MI

RM: Dale has always done what it takes to field a car or cars, he’s a racer to the core and this was business. Having said that, Seb didn’t deserve to be treated like some rent-a-driver and get booted with no chance to get another ride, and that’s why most people are pissed off at DC. As for McLaren, all I know is that they made the call on the drivers and I think Gil de Ferran and Zak Brown will make the major decisions even if McLaren is “only” a sponsor.

Q: While watching the broadcast of F1’s season finale from Abu Dhabi, Fernando Alonso was quoted during an interview as saying he would be running in the Indy 500 again. Would you please to give us fellow degenerate gamblers the odds on what team Fred will team with come May?

Steve, Indianapolis

RM: If Honda gives Mikey the OK, he’ll run for Andretti. If not, a Chevy with Zak Brown and Arrow McLaren SP. I’m leaning towards Fred in a Bow Tie.

Q: Just how bad are things in IndyCar? If guys like Seb and Hinch can’t get sponsors to fill the gap that Honda put up then there’s a really huge underlying problem. They finished 11th and 12th respectively last season. That’s mid-pack. It’s not Honda’s fault because they’re already spread thin sponsoring many of the races and teams. It’s not even Dale’s fault: You can’t run a team without money. This is depressing. I thought things were looking brighter for the series.

Jon L., Chicago, IL

RM: Racing in general is scrambling for sponsorships and don’t forget that even Roger Penske paid for one of his own cars when he was running four a few years ago. I imagine that with his personality, Hinch could probably find a sponsor but not in November because the budgets are set back in late summer. I keep saying people don’t realize how lucky we are to have 22-23 cars given the economics of IndyCar.

Q: Love reading your Mailbag every week. Your insight and access to all things IndyCar is unparalleled in all of motorsports. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the drivers that have come and gone since the development of the DW12 — Aleshin, de Silvestro, Huertas, etc. I was going to ask what your dream team of drivers with recent IndyCar experience would be if you could fund three or four full-time rides, but I think that answer would pretty obvious in light of recent news.

So my question now is this: Is there a specific third OEM that you think could be immediately beneficial to IndyCar? I would think a Ford or similar could partner with Cosworth for 2020-2021, build up a team or even two, all for minimal cost while developing their program for the 2022 ruleset. But the question is which OEMs, if any, can give IndyCar a boost in terms of marketing, exposure, or simply funding some of the many talented drivers who have been left out?

Ed in Dayton

RM: I would put Kyle Larson, Chris Bell, Bobby Santos, Tyler Courtney and Kody Swanson on my Indy 500 team and find some wheels for Aaron Telitz in IndyCar. Obviously, Ford or Toyota would be ideal since they’ve got the wherewithal to promote IndyCar in addition to building competitive engines. And thanks for being a loyal reader.

Q: Why is development of shocks and dampers different than the way they do engines? Right now, the competition in engines is between Honda and GM. Granted, the changes are not every year (are they?). Though the teams participate in the development of engines with whichever manufacturer they are partnered with, it’s the manufacturers that carry the development cost burden and not the teams. Why can’t we move the competition of shock/damper development to the actual manufacturers of of shocks and not the teams? Let the teams buy their shocks from a set of pre-approved shock manufacturers that are all competing for the best shocks and dampers.

Doug B.

RM: We’re going to ask RACER’s Dr. Damper (Marshall Pruett) to handle this one:

“Hi Doug. Best note I can offer up front is that ‘dampers’ and ‘shocks’ are the same thing, similar to how ‘soda,’ ‘pop,’ and ‘soft drink’ all describe the same beverage. As for moving damper competition from the teams to the damper manufacturers, that would have to be a decision those manufacturers made on their own. So far, they haven’t found value in funding such a thing; they make products to be purchased by the teams, and that’s their business model.

“It’s also worth mentioning that, in most cases, teams buy dampers from a vendor and perform customization of the internals to meet their needs. Think of it like buying a crate motor from GM and swapping out the pistons, cams, and crank to change the power and torque characteristics as desired. I do like the idea of IndyCar requiring damper vendors to register with the series and make their products available to any and all teams who want to buy their goods. At present, there’s no formal link to the series, nor are the vendors required to serve the paddock in an unbiased manner. Here’s how important dampers have become: Some drivers won’t consider a team unless they have the dampers that driver wants; and if the team can’t get the vendor to sell them those dampers, which happens, the team is out of a driver and possibly out of the series. It’s a broken system.”