Robin Miller's Mailbag for January 29, presented by Honda Racing / HPD

Robin Miller's Mailbag for January 29, presented by Honda Racing / HPD

Insights & Analysis

Robin Miller's Mailbag for January 29, presented by Honda Racing / HPD

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Q: It’s been very quiet from Carlin this off-season. Do you expect them to be on the grid in 2020? Last we heard was Chilton and Sette Camera and someone for the ovals. Any news on Juncos?

Sean St. Louis, MO

PS: I talked to Kimball’s spotter at Laguna and he said that Carlin would have a vet driving the non-Indy ovals for Chilton in 2020. Servia?

RM: Yes we expect Carlin, and Juncos reportedly made some strides in sponsorship last month and was hopeful of regaining his place on the grid rather than only two appearances like 2019. Oriol Servia would be a smart choice for the ovals for Carlin.

Q: Do you really think Charlie Kimball can find the two-tenths that Tony Kanaan couldn’t? No offense to Charlie, but he’s never been a front-runner and Tony has a lot more experience. Don’t get me wrong, I want A.J.’s team to run at the front, especially at Indy. Why has Tony been cast aside to a part-time role? Money?

Jim Doyle, Hoboken, NJ

RM: I guess we’ll find out, but Charlie has some chassis savvy, and with Mike Coliver and Mike Pawlowski heading up engineering it’s a fresh start and some fresh ideas. A.J. still thinks T.K. can be a factor on ovals (especially Indy), but Seb could really give them some direction on road and streets.

Q: Charlie Kimball has done very little in IndyCar for the past decade except get in the way. Sure he brings money, but other than showing up, what is achieved by either Kimball or Foyt in this paring of a mediocre driver with a consistently poor team?

Anthony Jenkins, Mono, ON

RM: Charlie did win at Mid-Ohio and always runs pretty well at Indianapolis, so I wouldn’t say he was in the way (although JPM and Willy P. might disagree), and he gives A.J. the ability to keep two cars in play.

Q: With the new sponsorship for the No. 4 car with Charlie Kimball and Novo Nordisk, what do you think the car livery will look like? Is there a chance we can get that late ’80s black and red two-tone car again?

Larry

RM: Not sure, but we’ll likely find out next month at Spring Training when the paint scheme is unveiled at COTA.

Q: You mentioned that Sebastien Bourdais is likely, or at least a possibility, to drive the first four races of 2020 for Foyt. Is there any chance he drives in the 500 for Foyt or any other team? And the Indy GP? I come to Indy for the week of practice and qualifying every year. I will miss SeaBass if he’s not on the pit lane.

Adam, North Carolina

RM: That’s Marshall scoop, and I imagine if they can have some success in those four races that A.J. would want to run Seb in a third car at Indianapolis.

Q: I started explaining racing to my son and sold him on Hinchcliffe, which didn’t take much as he instantly noted how great a speaker Hinch is. I showed him Hinch’s resume, which made it confusing to explain how a guy like him has no ride and others do. I told him it happens, and I tried explaining what happened to Bourdais with Coyne, and I realized I couldn’t. Can you help clarify the business arrangement he had with Dale Coyne, Jimmy Vasser and James Sullivan? Were Vasser and Sullivan cutting checks to Coyne for providing the hardware and support, and Coyne was cutting checks to Bourdais? Was Bourdais’ arrangement contingent on SealMaster? Or was his deal with Vasser-Sullivan and Vasser-Sullivan’s deal was contingent on SealMaster? Or, better said: Who employed who, and who fired who?

Dan W., Ft. Worth, TX

RM: I don’t know the details of the partnership, but I don’t buy that Seb’s salary was the breaking point. I think Alex Palou’s sponsor locked up No. 19 and Santino’s deal with Cly-Del, plus his resplendent rookie year, shoved Seb out of No.18. But Jimmy and Sully are both listed as co-owners for Ferrucci in 2020.

The only thing you can say for sure about the Bourdais/Coyne split is that it’s a bummer. Image by Abbott/LAT

Q: I was wondering: with Pippa Mann’s recent announcement that she has been unable to secure sponsorship for Indy, what does this mean for the Clauson-Marshall Racing team? Is there a chance they will compete at Indy with one of the veteran drivers that’s without a ride, or even a short-tracker? They were a great story last year, and I’m hoping they are back for another try.

Gregg Rauscher, Port Colborne, ON

RM: I’ve tried emailing and calling Tim Clauson, but no response as yet. I imagine they would love to take Sunshine (Tyler Courtney) to the Speedway to carry on Bryan’s legacy and keep USAC in play at Indianapolis, but it’s all about money. Power Ball is big again so I’m buying $20 worth of tickets and if I hit, I’ll fund Courtney with Clauson-Marshall.

Q: In the new R.P. era of IndyCar our favorite series has two major problems for R.P. to solve. Increase manufacturer interest, and increase the fan base, particularly on TV/streaming.

The series has failed to bring in a third manufacturer, and Honda has even publicly said it would jump to NASCAR from IndyCar under the right spec deal. Yikes. We also have to note that manufacturers are quickly morphing their road vehicles to electric power away from ICE, and we see the increasing manufacturer push into Formula E as a result. Only problem with FE right now is that it is underpowered and boring racing. But it may be the future… eventually. I therefore think it is imperative for an IndyCar electric-powered support series to be planned by 2022 latest.

Perhaps IndyCar itself needs to transition through spec (inexpensive) hybrids, or encourage the use of inexpensive spec manufacturer engines such as used by the Aussie S5000 series. Decision time is in the next 6-12 months. I note IMSA has the same problem going forward, and I would encourage IMSA and IndyCar to talk about their engine future re crossover of manufacturers and an aligned spec, with IndyCar getting 100+ more HP and IMSA going for less HP but reliability.

Increasing the fan base is hard, as today’s racing product is already so entertaining that only another 100 HP would make it even more interesting on track. IndyCar needs to attract new younger fans/viewers. i.e. under 30 and those into the burgeoning business of eSports. Some kind of mutually beneficial linkage between and eSport series and IndyCar, with IndyCar drivers competing in a crossover eSport series with pure eSport young guns – perhaps with winners eventually getting a ride in an electric IndyCar support race? I am just one of those who for many decades has enjoyed motorsports, and wants IndyCar to survive and prosper for the next decade. We have got to make changes and be a leader as a series.

Ian Jardine, Charlotte, NC

RM: Roger Penske hasn’t officially been in charge of IMS or IndyCar for a month, so why don’t we give him a few months or maybe a year to sort out all of the pressing problems and address them, not to mention secure a third engine manufacturer? I don’t profess to know enough to predict the future of how auto racing as we know it will be powered in the future, but I imagine The Captain has some pretty good information at his disposal. As for your eSports suggestion, I sent your letter to Greg Penske and Bud Denker.

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