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: With so many of us fans upset about the potential loss of popular IndyCar drivers such as James Hinchcliffe, Sebastien Bourdais and Spencer Pigot, would it be possible for IndyCar to organize a crowdfunding project to annually provide a seat for a selected driver left without a ride?
The figure tossed about is $5-6 million for a season’s budget. Maybe we couldn’t get all of that, but perhaps half. How many people attend the Indy 500? Every race, combined? How many people subscribed to IndyCar Pass on NBC Sports Gold? Could IndyCar get $10 extra from those people, per vote, to supply a budget to the winning driver? Could they get $100 from 50,000 diehard fans? I’d do it. Would the new owner of the series match the fan contribution? He’d better start getting creative and dedicated to the success of the series more than his team.
Domm Leuci, Binghamton, NY
RM: I think maybe the fans could try and start some kind of GoFundMe page for a deserving driver, but IndyCar isn’t going to get involved, and what would be the determining factor? How do you pick from Seabass, The Mayor and Spencer? I think if Canadians rallied like you suggest they could raise some money to help Hinch get in a car for Indy, but getting $750,000 would be a real challenge.
Q: Someone should inform Mr. Dalton Kellett that he’d be better served “representing Canada in IndyCar” by forwarding his money towards Hinchcliffe’s efforts? His record makes him seem like he’ll be the second coming of Marty Roth.
Steve O in Ontario
RM: Well if he ends up splitting the No.14 car with Tony Kanaan for A.J. Foyt I’m sure all the money he can raise will go to his effort, and he’s been running Indy Lights for three years without a win, but is he any less qualified than some of the field-fillers before him?
Q: Been a follower of the sport since the ’90s, when we first got TV coverage here in Catalonia (that’s how I learned English, listening to music and CART). Greg Moore was my first hero and obviously then I moved onto Servia and I’ve followed Oriol all I’ve could. I heard that fellow Catalan Alex Palou was being considered for the Coyne drive, so I’d like to know how are things on that front and on Oriol’s May front? I’d love to have a Catalan driving full-time again!
Jordi Domenech, Manlleu, Catalonia
RM: I think Palou is still in the frame at Coyne, and it’s way too early to worry about Servia. He’ll likely find something for Indy like he always does but nothing full-time.
Q: Thank heavens for your column to get us through the winter. So much lately about drivers getting rides based on money. A while back there was an article talking about many Indy drivers who are driving for free. I guess if they win enough they’ll get a contract, maybe. So, how does a driver make any money, if they don’t get a salary and have to bring sponsors? Do they just get a percentage of the purse (which, incidentally, I never hear about anymore, in IndyCar or NASCAR), or what? It’s hard to understand what makes a guy want to stick his neck out.
RM: Conor Daly drove for free a couple years ago because he knew it was important to stay on the radar, and now he’s getting paid by Ed Carpenter so it was worth the risk. Most guys take a percentage of the sponsorship they raise because you couldn’t buy a good steak if you only took a percentage of the purses. And some drivers get a good salary and a percentage of sponsorship/purses, but I think they’re few and far between.
Q: Quick observation. This year, the top 10 drivers in the championship all have rides next year. All are paid drivers. Past the top 10, those that drew a salary (Seb, Hinch, Pigot and TK) are out of a full-time ride and all the other drivers outside the top 10 are bringing their own money/sponsorship. Seems to me that while things could be handled differently that IndyCar is a meritocracy — if you perform you get paid; if not, find some money.
Chris from Colorado Springs
RM: I guess the thing that’s most frustrating is that if you’ve been a past winner or champion like Seb, T.K. and Hinch, there is no guarantee your track record can keep you employed or at least give you a safe landing zone for an off-season. That’s the part that really sucks, but it’s not going to change.
Q: What is your assessment of the schedule? Specifically, adjustments to the green flag start times? We all got our wish with Iowa! I am excited as all hell for the night race at Richmond (taking my family including three daughters who want to see an IndyCar race, and I am in full recruitment mode). What about the other adjustments such as St. Pete, COTA, and Mid-Ohio? Marshall openly hinted that there is a possible landing spot in the IndyCar paddock for French Fry . . . where would that be? Foyt? Carlin? Rahal?
R.I. Brown, Smithfield, VA
RM: I’m with you, Iowa needed to be a night show again, and Richmond will look good under the lights. As for late starts at St. Pete, Barber, COTA, IMS road course, Detroit and Toronto, it’s television, but I’m glad Mid-Ohio is starting early. Street races don’t bother me starting late but road courses usually require a long drive so 12-1 p.m. like Road America is perfect. Wish Barber was early, too. I know A.J. and Larry talked to Seb but don’t think anything is going to happen, and the other two need money.