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: I think it is accurate to say that RP was always an owner staunchly against a spec type of series, especially when he has the money to do anything and everything with regard to testing and development. With him now taking over the series, is it likely that he would try to change that fundamental aspect of IndyCar? There are some who claim they “know” that Hinch will sign a full season deal with Carlin – a Chevy team; at least for now. This, to me, sounds far-fetched. Do you hear any such scenario, and if so, does Carlin stick with Chevy, which takes out Hinch’s Honda personal services/spokesperson gig, or does Carlin become the Honda team that takes on the Hondas that were used at Arrow SPM?
There are some quotes, one from a driver, that the aeroscreens are really not to the drivers’ liking and are full of problems from a ventilation and glare standpoint. In addition, a RACER article said that the teams are just going to start getting them this week. Are the drivers satisfied with these, or are they towing the line on these publicly even though they don’t really like them?
Forrester L Morgan, Myrtle Beach, SC
RM: As much as RP loved innovation, I think he knows this is a different economy and I don’t foresee any major changes to IndyCar’s program in the near future. Please give those people who “know” Hinch is headed to Carlin my address so I can bet them whatever they want to wager. I haven’t talked to any drivers that have tested the aeroscreen, so let’s wait and see how COTA’s test goes before anyone is willing to share an opinion.
Q: Do you have any idea what Penske paid for IMS and the series? Any of your sources have a figure?
Dan, Buffalo, NY
RM: Somewhere between $250 and $500 million seems to be the best guess. The only people who actually know the price aren’t going to tell anybody.
Q: Just a quick question about RP buying IMS – did the sale also include the Museum that was owned by the Hulman Foundation?
Harry from Ohio
RM: R.P. owns the museum but not the cars (other than his).
Q: Got in a very good argument with another die-hard fan tonight over Indy 500 qualifying. I say if you run the series full-time you can’t be bumped, but if you are the fastest you win the pole, and if you’re the slowest you qualify 33rd. Only the one-offs get bumped. We want to grow the series, right? His argument is still good. Open qualifications for all 33 spots, but I feel that you punish the full-time drivers. And don’t do it by car qualifying, do it by driver. Then, you can’t switch a driver into a better-qualified car.
Dan, Lima, OH
RM: Where was all the hand-wringing about tradition when IndyCar had to come up with a couple cars just to make sure there were 33? And four laps at any speed and you were in. Yes, the full-timers should be guaranteed a spot in the Indy 500, and there can still be bumping for those last 11 positions.
Q: Happy New Year to you, and thanks for keeping us fans informed. What is the latest with race engineer Kate Gundlach? I know she left Ganassi and went to Arrow McLaren SP and now may have left them as well? First of all, why did she leave Ganassi, and if she left Arrow McLaren, why to that as well? I’ve met her a couple of times at the track, and she was always gracious with her time and the results from Dixie’s car shows she obviously knows her stuff.
Bill R., Vista, CA
RM: Here’s Ganassi’s Mike Hull:
“Kate did a terrific job for us. She unselfishly made herself, and the team, better through her tireless participation. With the new growth opportunity with SSM’s expanded resource, would expect that she will move to a higher station. We wish her continued success.”
Q: IndyCar revamps field ordering. Well, that’s clear as mud. Just let the chips fall where they may, like they used to do in the old days. If you get screwed by a crash and race stoppage? Tough luck! Otherwise it just takes too long. What we have had for the last few years was just a fiasco. The more rules you make, the worse things will get.
RM: Can’t think of any instance where someone got “screwed” by the re-order, certainly not in the long run of the results, and Portland was an isolated instance that turned out to be a bit of a fiasco. But spending more than two minutes thinking or discussing this is a waste of 90 seconds.
Q: Larry Foyt should’ve gone after Hinch! Charlie should retire! It does Larry no good. James could’ve given Larry a high-profile driver, which Charlie is not!
I try to put myself in Larry’s shoes. He should’ve gone to Michael for a technical alliance to get competitive again. But that would mean Honda. We need Ford back! Call Edsel!
RM: Hinch is a Honda guy, so Foyt was never an option. And Charlie has had some good runs the past few years (especially at Indy), so not sure why you think he should quit. Give RP a little time to work on Ford.
Q: Your recent comments regarding the issues that Foyt experienced with its shaker rig testing brings to me the question: Why does IndyCar let so much ride on such an invisible factor; namely shocks and dampers? Fans don’t care about shocks and dampers, they care about drivers and teams. That last half-second of lap time (that covers most of the field) from shocks and dampers has been made expensive, and can mask who the best drivers really are.
If IndyCar did something like have one manufacturer (like tires, which is something fans see and buy regularly), and have IndyCar (teams) pay that manufacturer to do the only allowed, extensive testing and provide the data to all teams (it is only one chassis after all), it seems that would reduce total costs and make the field even more competitive. On a different but related competitive note, it still seems to me that overall harder compound tires (that create fewer marbles), could combine with a unified shocks and damper program, to further put the racing in the hands of the drivers.
Finally, if driver skill increases in importance, “buy a ride” guys will quickly be weeded out.
RM: That was Marshall’s story about the Foyt team and the shaker rig, and IndyCar asked the owners if they wanted a universal damper and they voted no. I’ll agree it does nothing for the fans, but it’s the one area where teams feel like they can make a difference, so it’s not changing. I think today’s package is a pretty good yardstick for a driver’s ability, and the tire options makes for some interesting strategy as well as racing.