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’m sure you’ve got a million and one emails about the changes R.P. has made to the 500. I think they’re great, I imagine you think they’re great, everyone thinks they’re great, so I won’t ask you about all of them. I want to focus on the purse, which I’ve heard you talk about many times as being pitifully small.
Now, $2 million is a lot of money. But do you think adding that much to the purse is going to make a meaningful impact? The way you’ve told it in the past, the base amount that the teams get for turning up isn’t even enough to cover them for the month of May. So, let’s just say that every penny of this $2 million goes towards boosting that base amount. The $2 million split between, let’s say, 36 teams gives a bit more than a $55k boost per team. Is that really meaningful? For comparison I have heard that the Daytona 500 purse is somewhere in the $21-23 million ballpark. I certainly hope that this is a first step to increasing the purse and not the final one, because to me there needs to be more investment there. Though to reiterate, I love what Penske is doing in his first year at the helm and I think the changes for the 500 are great.
Max Camposano, Bethlehem, PA
RM: The $2 million is simply being added to the Leader’s Circle pot – not the overall purse – so it basically affects 22 of the 33 starters. And while it’s not nearly enough, especially when Daytona is boasting $23.6 million, it’s a good start and I think R.P. will eventually find a title sponsor and get the purse closer to $20 million. If it paid $500,000 to start, that’s a lot more enticing and realistic in terms of trying to make a little money.
Q: What a perfect Valentine’s present The Captain has given to all of us IndyCar fans! I knew he would make changes and am happy it was sooner than many thought. Increasing the purse for this year’s 500 is a long-needed step, and I have no problem about the money being given to the full-time competitors. Don’t you think this figure will continue to increase in the next few years? The other area that should be noted is modifying the last row of qualifying by allowing multiple attempts and increasing the session. I am glad to know that the entire session will be shown on NBC. It has been exciting, and more importantly, it will give drivers a better chance in making the show.
RM: I think if there is a corporation out there willing to put its name (and checkbook) on the Indianapolis 500 then The Captain will find them. Not sure how he feels about a title sponsor, but as I’ve constantly said, I don’t care if it’s the Menard’s Indy 500, if it gets the purse to where it belongs I’m all for it.
Q: R.P. was pure class last week, and I haven’t been this excited since Mansell came to town. Speaking of that, will Honda of Japan budge on Alonso? It’s not fair! He needs to be with Michael. Would R.P. intervene? Also, man where did Scotty Mac come from? I mean, I root against the Yankees (Team Penske) but, I’m in love with this kid! So much excitement!
RM: Japan isn’t budging, and R.P. said last week he is talking to Honda and Chevrolet about extending their contracts so the last thing he’s going to do is anything to alienate Honda. McLaughlin opened a lot of eyes at COTA but here’s what The Captain said when I asked about looking at a hard-top driver: “Robert Wickens and Dario came from the same kind of discipline and they were successful, so why not look at him?”
Q: I know you’re probably tired of hearing about Alonso by now, but I’ve been thinking: if Alonso suddenly proclaimed his interest in running a full season of IndyCar, would a ride materialize? Would he need to bring sponsors? What team would he most likely run with? I know it’s a silly hypothetical, but it’s a big “what if?” in my mind.
Josh Fromer, Tannersville, NY
RM: I think if he made the commitment early enough he might have several options, and IndyCar would likely help find him a home. But he’s said time and again that running full-time wasn’t on his agenda.
Q: Another question from the Cali Peanut Gallery. I got this is off the Brickyard.com website on the schedule for Sunday May 17. Do we have zero on-track activity between 11:15 a.m. and 4:30 p.m.? Or will the cars which are locked in to positions 10-30 a.m. be out practicing?
Rick K, San Diego, CA
RM: Here’s the latest info from Doug Boles: May 17: 10:15-10:45 a.m. is Last Row ShootOut practice; 10:45-11:15 a.m. is Fast Nine practice; 12:30-1:45 p.m. is Last Row Qualifying; 1:45-2:30 p.m. is Fast Nine qualifying; 3:30-6 p.m. is all Indy 500 starters practice.
Q: Last year, the fastest 33 qualifiers did not start the race, just as the prophet Chip Ganassi said was a possibility. Looks like same thing is very possible this year. So if you qualified in the top 30, you’re guaranteed a spot?
RM: That is correct, and the unfortunate reality of this system.
Q: Great to read about Roger’s updates for the Speedway! I can hardly to see what he and his team come up with after they have had more time! One thing that’s missing is, I’d really like to see a substantial fence dividing the front straight and pit road. We’ve been lucky so far that we haven’t had a car get launched in that area. The outcome would be devastating – people, fuel, etc. I’m sure that this is much easier said than done, but it would be great if we could do something before next year’s 500. Count me among the other Mailbaggers who are begging you to write your book!
Wally, Eden Prairie, MN
RM: That was one of my top 10 suggestions for The Captain and I think it’s something that will be addressed in the next year or so, but in the meantime just keep your fingers crossed. How about a book called “No Momma’s Boys,” and all it has is opinions and stories from A.J., Uncle Bobby, Johncock, Parnelli and Rutherford?