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 just read the firm statement from Mr. Roger Penske that there will be no automatic qualifications for the Indy 500. I don’t know if he ever reads the Mailbag, but I wanted to express my sincere gratitude that Bump Day is safe. I started flying out to Indy for qualifying weekend last year and I am elated that it looks like that will get to become an enduring tradition.
Victor, New Haven, CT
RM: Oh yes, R.P. reads it and I send him some of the longer letters from fans that don’t make it but are pertinent to the feedback he seeks. I think he believes that full-time entrants deserve some kind of a guarantee, but he’s not going to mess with it in his initial year of ownership.
Q: Since Roger Penske now owns IndyCar and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, should he stop competing in the series? Do you think IndyCar will return to both former Penske tracks, Michigan and Fontana?
Bruce Beckwith, Claremont, CA
RM: Not at all. He will separate church and state and let Tim Cindric run the show. R.P.’s efforts will be towards improving the fan experience, landing a third engine manufacturer, finding more sponsors and growing the purses. He’ll still care about his racing team, but he knows he now represents everyone. Both those tracks would appear to be long shots.
Q: All of the Indy 500 ticket holders received a message from The Captain letting us know to expect to see changes when we come to the track. Any idea what they are, and is it to early to guess what may be on his list for the future?
Matt in Lansing
RM: Upgraded restrooms, paved parking and improved seating would be my guess, but he’s going to tell everyone his plans on Feb. 14.
Q: I am wondering if, with the purchase of the IndyCar series and IMS, R.P. plans to relocate his race shop from NC to Indy?
RM: I would doubt it. It’s perfect for his NASCAR teams, and Charlotte has plenty of non-stops for the IndyCar crew.
Q: Now that Roger Penske has cleared all legal channels, formally making him the owner of IndyCar, do you foresee any changes to the product as a whole? I do see one and that would be scheduling, since September is early to end a season when it could go to October with one or two more races on an oval or good road course that yells ‘proper season finale’.
RM: As thorough as R.P. is about everything, I’m sure he’ll study the schedule, its pluses and minuses, and might look at extending the season if it made sense. But, obviously, don’t expect any major changes and/or additions until at least 2021.
Q: Recently saw a video about a tweet that Jenna Fryer of the Associated Press put out that says “Kyle (Busch) says he has approval to run Indy with a Chevy team. He doesn’t have a deal or anything, but can do it if something was put together.”
First of all, do you know anything about this? Beyond the tweet and the video I watched reacting to it, I have not found anything recent that claims Busch can/would run Indy. Personally, I would love it if both Busch brothers came to Indy and raced, maybe even for the same team (yes, I know it’s wishful thinking). But can you see anything like that coming together? And if so, what team do you think Kyle would run with?
I know that it is very early to be doing Indy 500 predictions, but this is one that not only is super-interesting to me, but also doesn’t make much sense to me. Can’t see how Toyota would let the face of its American racing division go race for Chevy (its competitor in NASCAR) or Honda (its competitor in literally everything). But what’s your take on that? Beyond Kyle, any chance we get Kyle Larson, Kurt Busch, or someone else from NASCAR to come do Indy?
Max Camposano, Menlo Park, CA
RM: I believe Jenna reported that it had to be a Chevy team so I already asked Tim Cindric, and he said Team Penske would not be running five cars at Indianapolis. If Kyle was to run, Ed Carpenter Racing would be the obvious choice considering how well they always run in May. Not sure how wild Toyota would be about GM, but no way they’d let their star in a Honda. And Kyle wants his best possible chance and that only leaves one option (ECR) in my mind. Larson – some day hopefully, but not in 2020.
Q: Reading Marshall’s story on piecing together the 2020 grid, I see that he mentions Hinchcliffe as a possibility for a DCR third car for Indy. I seem to recall that when James was ousted from AMSP as a full-time driver, that they did say he had an Indy-only seat. Can you confirm? I’d love to see what Kyle Busch can do at the wheel of an IndyCar, and if Alonso goes to Andretti, I’d expect Zak Brown to be savvy enough to recognize that the exposure alone is worth taking a chance on KyBu, notwithstanding his obvious talent.
Trevor Bohay, Kamloops, BC
RM: I think Arrow McLaren SP originally hoped to run Fernando in its third car at Indianapolis, but I’m sure they would be open to Kyle Busch if he chose to try it this May. But I’m thinking his best fit would be with Ed Carpenter, given ECR’s prowess at IMS.
Q: Is Alonso going with Andretti for 2020?
Harry From Ohio
RM: That’s what my story said last week, and it sounds like Michael is just waiting on the official confirmation from Alonso.
Q: So who would have the biggest impact on this year’s 500 if they were to show up: Kyle Busch or Alonso? What are the chances for each in your mind?
RM: Kyle would be the bigger story in America, but Fred would still draw a lot of international interest. It’s 100 percent for Alonso and 50-50 for Busch.