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: Four races before the two at IMS, and none of them are on the bigger NBC stage. St. Pete on NBC would bring excitement to more eyes to start the season, and the iconic Long Beach race would build the momentum a month later. Only one oval, albeit the oval, gets shown on NBC all season. Texas could be a great second helping, and in prime time no less. The ‘Indy’ in IndyCar screams oval track racing, yet most of what the masses see are road and street courses. Sports wagering. It’s legal in Indiana now. Any word on whether there will be win, place and show betting on the 500? Would IMS get a cut and, if so, that’s a potentially large recurring revenue stream that could fund a lot of initiatives. If you were to box a trifecta, who would you take?
Brian Balint, Mishawaka, IN
RM: The start of the IndyCar season is right in the thick of the PGA on NBC, and golf’s rankings (especially with Tiger back) dwarf any race except Daytona. The other four ovals are all night races, and NBC isn’t going to show an IndyCar race on prime time. And to be honest, the road and street courses are much better-attended than any oval except Gateway. Eight races on network is a nice bonus. Not sure what the gambling landscape will look like, but IMS and NBC are working on it. Andretti-Penske-ECR, but I’d box them.
Q: R.P. taking over IndyCar has had more people talking about bringing Ford in as an engine manufacturer. I realized this weekend that BMW already has a relationship with two IndyCar teams: RLL (GTLM) and Andretti (Formula E). Should there be more talk of BMW coming in as a manufacturer? Should someone from IndyCar be courting BMW at this point?
Dustin, Birmingham, AL
RM: I don’t think The Captain needs any advice or help on this subject, and I’m sure if there is any interest from BMW he will know about it. I’m pretty sure he’s fairly well-connected.
Q: Every year I hear about IndyCar wanting to expand its race season and am yet to hear a viable solution. Early or late season tracks are in super-high demand, and yet Sebring is ignored. I’ve worked as a race marshal at Sebring and at a number of other North American tracks, and I simply cannot find any reason why Sebring isn’t on the schedule. Yes, the track is super-bumpy. Yes every bolt on an IndyCar is loosened. So why not grind it or pave it? If it’s too expensive, just do two corners per year. You’ll have a brilliant racetrack in three-to-five years. The WWII bombers and the winter frosts aren’t factors, and nothing compares to a Green Park Saturday night with the massive crowds. So let’s go. I don’t understand the problem.
Jason, Toronto, ON
RM: As long as St. Pete opens the schedule a week before the 12 Hours of Sebring, there will never be an IndyCar race there. And the track needs work to accommodate IndyCar and, to be honest, why would Sebring spend a bunch of money when it draws a monster crowd for sports cars and still serves as a mainstay in testing for IndyCar?
Q: Was the 10/31/19 Toronto Star article on Hinch accurate? If so, and Hinch drives for any non-Arrow McLaren SP teams in 2020, does he forfeit his $500k salary?
Mike C., San Francisco, CA
RM: I didn’t see the story, but I know Hinch hasn’t spoken on the record about his contractual situation because he was advised by his lawyer not to discuss it. He had a contract with Arrow McLaren SP and they put him on the sidelines, so I would hope he gets some compensation, but who knows what that might be?
Q: Now that Hinch has a sponsor, but no team, it appears we will see him in some races this year. If I recall correctly, this SPM/McLaren contract dictated that we would be fully paid so long as he didn’t join another team. If he did race with another team, he would get nothing. So my question is this: is it possible he’s actually going to be earning less money by racing this year than by just waiting until next year?
RM: I don’t know where this information came from, but it wasn’t from Hinch so I’d say it’s all speculation about what he may or may not be entitled so if he drives for another team. But I do think that by Arrow McLaren SP not running him full-time will have financial ramifications related to PSAs (Personal Service Agreements) that will cost Hinch substantially. And maybe the deal with Honda of Canada would have even topped his retainer. Either way, he gets screwed.
Q: Looks like the 2020 starting grid is mostly complete, but haven’t seen any information or heard any noise lately on Carlin. Are they going to be at St. Pete? Read some rumor a couple of months ago that they may sell their equipment and get out of IndyCar, but I thought the Carlin team said it would be at St. Pete and doing the full season. Would be disheartening if it closed up after two years. Do you see any last-minute announcements for any additional cars from teams for a full or partial season? Twenty-four full-timers if Carlin sticks around?
Rod, Fresno, CA
RM: From Marshall Pruett’s Silly Season update earlier this month: “Although there’s no indicator as to who will drive its pair of Chevy-powered entries, a team spokesperson confirmed those cars will be participating at the February 11-12 Spring Training event, and the full season afterwards. Everyone from Max Chilton to Formula 2 race winner Sergio Sette Camara to former Williams Formula 1 driver Sergey Sirotkin have been suggested as options for the team.” So it looks like 24 full-timers.