Robin Miller's Mailbag for March 4, presented by Honda Racing / HPD

Robin Miller's Mailbag for March 4, presented by Honda Racing / HPD

Insights & Analysis

Robin Miller's Mailbag for March 4, presented by Honda Racing / HPD


Q: So you and I are in agreement, right? Zak Brown likes to talk to the media and seems to crave being asked questions so he can give quotes or provide answers. How is it that we have someone who loves to chat with the media, and yet nobody has been able to pin him down on additional races for Alonso in 2020? The most appealing part of the Andretti/Alonso deal to me this year wasn’t the 500. It was the potential to see him run at Road America or Iowa. Confirmation that he is participating in either event would prompt me to buy tickets for them.

I know it is great for IndyCar that he’s in the 500, but I didn’t miss him last year. What I would love to see is Alonso get a taste for wheeling one of these cars around Road America for 200 miles without power steering. You’ve nailed the why. It’s his attitude. The sound bites he could provide the series would have real value. On the topic of value to the series, as an IMS ticket holder, it is worth mentioning they sent out a blast email after Alonso was confirmed.

Ryan in West Michigan

RM: I expect Alonso to run the Indy GP in May, and I sent Zak an email last Sunday asking him to confirm. He said nothing is finalized and it is still a work in progress, but I promise you that Fred will sell an extra 5,000 tickets because of the very reason you wrote – we want to see him in his element. And I do think he wants to run Road America as well as a short oval, but it’s probably all about sponsors and manpower.

Q: I agree with your statement that it would have been better for the 2019 running of the Indy 500 if Fernando Alonso had been in it. However, I think the overall story of Alonso facing failure is a better story. Imagine if he had had his successful rookie year, then went on to win the Indy 500 in his second attempt. While there would have been a lot of press and attention, it would have made winning the Indy 500 look easy.

The way the story is playing out now, his successful rookie year was followed by a year where it showed that the Indy 500 is not so easy to conquer, after all. It is not just another race where you show up, get in your car, go fast, and win. Even one of the best in history has struggled mightily. Now if he wins, it looks more like he has paid his dues and earned it; that the Indy 500 is a steeper mountain to climb than anyone thought. The Indy 500 will have truly eared Alonso’s respect, and also, maybe, the world’s. Agree?

Rob, Ringwood, NJ

RM: He made it look pretty easy in 2017 because of his quick adaption to speed, ovals and traffic – a direct result of his ability, and Andretti Autosport making him comfortable and giving him a good car. But last year had nothing to do with Alonso, it was all about McLaren’s shortcomings. And he respected Indy instantly.

Q: I was wandering the restaurants and bars of Barcelona the day Fernando led the Indy 500. All of them were tuned to the race. He’s good for our sport.

Ed Lawrence

RM: Yes he is Ed, thanks for that report.

We need Alonso to come back to Indy so that we can get some new shots of him, because frankly, the well is starting to run dry. Pretty sure we haven’t run this one yet. Image by IndyCar

Q: I couldn’t agree more with your article about Fernando and his third attempt at the 500. He is an all-important addition to the field in regard to gaining an international audience. I could never understand some fans’ reluctance to embrace his efforts. In an era where people complain about vanilla drivers who always spout the company line, he’s a refreshing throwback. Do they expect British reserve from a Spaniard? And he’s one of the few F1 drivers who could take an uncompetitive car, and by force of will, make it a challenger. I remember David Hobbs once likened Fernando to a terrier; an apt comparison. If not for a strategic blunder by Ferrari, Alonso would be at least a three-time world champion. The fans here should cheer his old-school ambitions.

Steve C., Ithaca, NY

RM: To be fair, the ovation he received in 2017 after his car broke down was pretty impressive, and I think the majority of fans appreciated his presence. I heard a few media types chuckling when he missed the show last May, and it totally escapes why anyone wouldn’t want a world-class driver in the Indianapolis 500? Especially one that has shown a great affection for the whole month.

Q: While I agree that Alonso missing the 500 last year was bad for the series and the race from an international perspective, I feel that it is one of the best things that could have happened, both obviously for Kaiser and Juncos as underdogs, but also for Fred. I honestly believe that being bumped has only made him hungrier, and yet added to his respect and appreciation for the traditions that are a part of the 500. With him now knowing first-hand that even a driver with his merits is not immune to being unable to qualify for the biggest race in the world, we could possibly see an Alonso this year who is not only more prepared than ever, but who is also one of the most loose and relaxed drivers in the paddock, and that could put him in the optimum underdog position where could thrive. Is that accurate?

Alan Bandi, Sarver, PA

RM: I don’t think he had to miss the show to have great respect for Indy’s walls, speeds and mental toughness required, but he did admit not running made him extra motivated to return. And, yes, I would say he’s a bit of an underdog because Arrow McLaren SP has struggled the past couple years, but I think Craig Hampson will make him a contender before it’s all over.

Q: Congratulations to Janet Guthrie for her coming induction into the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Hall of Fame. Can someone remind me of exactly what she did, besides simply being female, to earn such an esteemed honor? Is the first male who qualified for the Indianapolis 500 in the HoF, too? What about Gary Bettenhausen? Is he to be inducted for simply being the first schmuck to qualify for the 500? Just wonderin’.


RM: It’s a fair and interesting question. Yes, Janet faced a lot of obstacles and didn’t drive the best car when she qualified in 1977. And she did even better in 1978 when she qualified 16th, and 1979 when she started 14th. Qualifying was her forte but not racing, because I don’t recall her ever passing a car. She finished ninth in 1978 and was 10 laps behind winner Al Unser, but claimed to have “beaten” Rick Mears, Johnny Rutherford and Mario Andretti – who all either dropped out or had 20-minute pit stops to try and fix something. Compared to Sarah Fisher, Danica Patrick, Katherine Legge and Simona de Silvestro, Guthrie was a driver while they were racers. So maybe erect a nice plaque or statue in the IMS museum to honor her achievement, but not the HOF.

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