Robin Miller's Mailbag for January 22, presented by Honda Racing / HPD

Robin Miller's Mailbag for January 22, presented by Honda Racing / HPD

Insights & Analysis

Robin Miller's Mailbag for January 22, presented by Honda Racing / HPD

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Q: I’ve heard comments from a few different people who believe that 2020 is going to be like starting from scratch on the setup sheet. What do you think, Miller? Will this even out the playing field, or will the rich get richer because they’ve got more/better people? I realize the playing field is already quite even, but the better teams started to rise and the lesser teams have been falling back since the introduction of the UAK, and maybe even in the past few years of the manufacturer aero kits. On that note, do you think there is anything creative the teams can do with the aeroscreen within the rules (or outside of them without getting caught) to gain an advantage?

Ryan in West Michigan

RM: I’ve heard both opinions. A couple respected drivers and engineers claim it changes everything and it’s back to square one, while a couple other drivers said it didn’t make much difference when they tested. We’ll see after a couple races. I’m not smart enough to answer your last question.

Q: I was reading Chris Medland’s piece on Haas’ F1 team. For the money he’s throwing at that program, he could field a four-car team in IndyCar and be competitive right away. According to Medland’s article, “The Haas team owner wants to be competing on a level playing field.” Anyone in racing knows that’s not F1. Do you know if he has ever been approached about owning an IndyCar team?

Vincent Martinez, South Pasadena, CA

RM: Not sure, but that quote cracked me up, too. Level playing field? It couldn’t be any more slanted than F1 today, but I guess Haas enjoys being part of the scenery rather than competing in a spec series where you have a chance to win. But I don’t know that he’s ever considered IndyCar, and I’ll try to remember to ask Stew next time I see him.

Q: I remember back in the day SPEED would run a F1 show on F1 weekends called Formula 1 Decade. Basic premise was Bob V and David H would watch a race from a decade before and talk about it. I think a show like this would be great for IndyCar, and could be hosted by you and Mario. Plus NBCSN could put it on in the middle of the night and everyone could DVR it. Wishing you good health, and a happy racing season!

Tom Ross, San Luis Obispo, CA

RM: I like your idea so I’ll pitch it to NBC for the Gold package. But Mario calling an old race would be entertaining and historical as well.

Q: Been watching a lot of old IndyCar videos on YouTube from the old Ontario speedway. I remember back when I was a kid, how it was such a big deal up here in NorCal… go watch the California 500 on closed circuit TV at the local arena. Looked like a great track for Indy cars back then. I know the story — high real estate prices and shrinking crowds meant its downfall. I guess my boggle is, driving from NorCal to Arizona once a month, I drive right by where the old track used to be and where Fontana is now. They are very close.

Why would someone (Penske) build a track so close to another track where IndyCar failed, and now has also failed at Fontana? In an area of 20 million people, I just don’t understand how you can’t get at least 60,000 or 70,000 fans once a year to come there. Marketing? Weather? And why didn’t they know this when one track had already failed just right down the highway?

Mel in Oakley, CA

RM: Ontario opened to massive crowds,and then moved from Labor Day to March and that was the beginning of the end. Plus, it wasn’t run efficiently. Penske built Fontana 15 years after Ontario folded, and told me once he wishes he could have just bought OMS instead of building a new track because it would have saved him millions. But he got a sweetheart deal on the land, so that’s why he wound up in Fontana — which also started off with big crowds. I think the NASCAR race still draws OK, but IndyCar’s last try came on a 95-degree day on a Saturday in June and had zero chance to succeed. Could it work on a Saturday night in October? It might have a fighting chance, but I doubt we’ll ever know.

Q: Perusing the gallery of photos celebrating A.J.’s 85th… Happy Birthday to one of my heroes. It was hard to miss the full-grown, male, African lion. C’mon Miller. You gotta spill the beans on this one? Or as A.J. would put it; please ass@ole.

Tom Patrick, Lake Arrowhead, CA

RM: It was at DuQuoin in 1969, and they wanted A.J. to pose with the lion, and for some reason he started running and the lion chased him and knocked him down. Nobody was injured, but I do remember Tex saying he was scared S%$#less. He’s laughing in our photo, but I think it was nervous laugh.

A.J. getting mugged by a lion. There’s no point even trying to spin a caption out of this one.

Q: You have been a huge proponent of bringing Milwaukee back to the schedule, and I thank you for that. Being a resident of West Allis, I can say that it is a travesty that our track sits largely unused, save for some track day and racing school events. Are you aware of any ongoing efforts to get the track the race and support it needs to survive much longer? Rumor here is that the city is looking to buy the track from the State of Wisconsin, rip it up, and develop the property for retail/condos. The clock seems to be ticking faster. With Road America (great) and Chicagoland (no comment) both within a very short drive, I fear the end of the Mile is near.

Todd McKee

RM: I know Bob Sargent staged an ARCA show there last year and it did OK from what I was told, but unless someone like John Menard would get behind it and spend millions on the facility and promotion – it’s likely doomed.

Q: Just wondering if you have any updates on how John Andretti is doing? I was always a big fan, and felt he never got the credit he deserved for being such a diverse driver.

Tom, Allentown, PA

RM: He’s still battling cancer, and nobody has more resolve or fight. He won in IndyCar, NASCAR and USAC, and that’s a pretty exclusive list.

Q: Strike up the band!  Wasn’t that a tremendous win by Kyle Larson, or what! When he passed Christopher Bell two thirds of the way in the race, I stood up and cheered. I then held my breath hoping that Kyle would continue in the lead. I thought his restarts were excellent, and he stayed out of trouble, too. Kyle this time sounded much more confident in the interviews I read or saw on TV. I loved what Kyle said in his post-race interview about the importance to him winning the Chili Bowl! A great quote! I am still smiling broadly this morning, and not just because Kyle won. My other two faves (C. Bell and Rico) were in the top five, and I was introduced to two very young warriors, who I think will be important to the sport – Cannon McInosh and Buddy Kofoid. Thanks for your coverage on RACER.com of the entire week’s events. I greatly appreciate it.

Deb Schaeffer

RM: I think everyone (sans Chris Bell and his fans) were happy for Larson, since it was the one victory in a midget that had eluded him. I’ll admit when CB jumped out to a two-second lead I figured it was all over, but Kyle battled back and it was great racing.

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