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: Robin, what do you expect for IndyCar front-runners, fringe competitors, and non-comers as it relates to the championship? I believe Rossi will be a front-runner, while Penske might struggle without The Captain’s daily hands on. Can you give us your estimate of your Vegas odds of each driver for the championship, race winners, and rookie of the year?
RM: Well, how about we just focus on the contenders? I picked Power to win the title last year and obviously he was only third on Team Penske in points. But he’s still going to be one of the favorites in 2020 and R.P.’s new daytime job won’t have any effect on his team’s performance. To take the title, let’s put Rossi, Newgarden and Dixon at 5-1; Pagenaud and Power at 6-1; Herta at 7-1; Hunter-Reay and Rosenqvist at 10-1; Rahal and Sato at 15-1. Penske and Andretti will each win six races, Ganassi four and Ed Carpenter is finally going to capture Indianapolis. Veekay and Askew will have a great fight for Rookie of the Year.
Q: With R.P. running the show at IMS, is there a chance that he would move the GP to another time of year? I know they like the attention it draws leading up to the 500, but I think if you had Texas on TV before the 500 instead of the GP it would draw more national attention. It also seems to me that the GP will never be more than a local event attendance wise if it stays in May. Most people aren’t going to spend the cash to travel to Indianapolis twice in one month, but if it was another time of year they might make the second trip.
John Downing, North Salt Lake, Utah
RM: I think there’s a better chance he simply removes it from the schedule some day and finds another venue rather than moving it. R.P. is all about success and growth and the IMS road race is pretty much a non-event in terms of attendance, atmosphere and prestige. People come to the Speedway to see speed on the oval and breathtaking passes — most loyalists don’t care about a road course. Having said that, the GP still dwarfs the pole day crowds from 1996-2015 and it’s on national television, so it might always have a place on the schedule right where it is.
Q: So along with others, my first reaction to seeing the aeroscreen back in the autumn was “yikes,” despite the obvious benefits to driver safety (which we all welcome). However seeing the new liveries in the last week and the way it has been incorporated into them I think gives Indy cars a totally unique look — and actually makes them look more dramatic than ever before. Both these facets can only be good for the marketability of IndyCar. What have you heard from teams, drivers and third parties about their thoughts on the new look?
Chris Herbert, North Yorkshire, UK
RM: I didn’t go to COTA so I haven’t talked to any of the drivers but I think the aeroscreen is a work in progress that will undoubtedly grow on everyone after it runs for a few races. It takes a while to get use to — like Paul Tracy in a coat and tie.
Q: While I am very happy to see the aeroscreen installed, I am disappointed in the evolution of its appearance. When it was first introduced it appeared to be just the protective transparency fitted around the halo bars. In the latest pictures of the installation that I have viewed it seems as if it is now becoming a structure in which to hang more aerodynamic fairing. The net effect is that the driver is becoming more invisible and the area has become another flat panel for advertising. The comparison to the appearance of today’s midget comes to mind where more and more ugly sheet aluminum is quickly overtaking any hint of there being an actual driver in there.
Am I the only one who is seeing this trend in appearance? Are there any rules in the works limiting this bodywork that you know of?
RM: I think most fans are upset the driver has vanished even more but the trade-off is protection and I guess it’s the same for midgets and sprints. I think IndyCar held off as long as possible but succumbed to the ways of the world today. But I don’t think it’s going to hurt the racing so we’ll all adapt. As for your second question, we just have to wait and see how things play out in the first several races if and when anything is refined about bodywork or the aeroscreen itself.
Q: I have to applaud the IndyCar Series and the adoption of advanced windscreen protection. Now that they are integrated into the liveries, they look pretty good, especially from the side. I bet the cars will be faster too. When the next Dallara is developed in few years, it can be integrated even better and will look even more appealing. Also, aerodynamicists will have their way and we might knock on the door of Luyendyk’s record. Much better than F1. This will be a big story in front of St. Pete and even Indy, but by the first third of the season, it will all be accepted.
Mark Lamontia, Landenberg, PA
RM: They do look much better painted and integrated and, I agree, the side view is the best. I’m told the cars might be a tad slower at IMS but we’ll wait and see what May brings.
Q: There may not be an easy answer to these questions! However, if Fernando Alonso, wants to go to Indy again, why doesn’t he? I know he has a poor (to say the least) relationship with Honda, but doesn’t the Arrow McLaren SP team use Chevrolet engines? He did Dakar with Toyota, do they still have a relationship?
RM: It appears that Arrow McLaren SP might be his lone option, depending on whether he wants to go there and they want him. Not sure about his Toyota connection but obviously that doesn’t help his Indy situation.