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.
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Q: A well-known motorsports journalist located in Toronto has suggested that the entire 2020 season should be cancelled for all major forms of racing. As a huge fan that attends many events each year, and does freelance photography at a few of them, I was initially disappointed and resented the suggestion. However upon reading his opinion, I think there is some merit to it. Given the current postponements and rescheduling of events, and realizing that each event may have to be cancelled eventually anyway (nobody knows), perhaps this will save many teams significant cash. I would rather cancel 2020 events in their entirety now knowing that such decisions will likely ensure strong fields in 2021! Would love to hear your thoughts on such a suggestion.
Joe Photo from TO
RM: Well nobody knows when racing will start, if at all, but I don’t see how postponing the season would help the teams. They would likely lose all their sponsorship money, or at least a big chunk of it, and probably have to lay off all their employees. Yeah, that saves the owners money, but it also might make them shut the doors. And why would anyone think the fields would be stronger in 2021 if all of 2020 were canceled?
Q: Have you talked to team owners about what the world is going to look like after this is done from a money perspective? I don’t get the feeling that the marketing dollars from manufacturers and money from dealers that run teams is going to be there. Plus, there is going to be a big stigma in regards to going to large events, even after the virus is brought under control. Attendance is going to be down. It kills me to believe this, but I think it’s so. I’m wondering if IndyCar is going to be running with some no-name engine manufacturer and garage-built chassis again, since all the infrastructure needed to build these pricey cars might go under.
RM: How could anyone make that determination based on what we know, or don’t know, right now? And why would Honda, Chevy and Dallara bail unless all the teams are gone? I don’t know the specifics of sponsorships for teams, but without any racing it can’t be good, and who knows if spectators will be allowed in sporting events by July?
Q: Since it seems there will be a second race on the Indy GP course, can they run the second one backwards, meaning come down the front straightaway the correct way? If I remember right, when they built the original F1 layout, it was designed so you could go either direction. Is this still the case? Might be a little twist not avoid having the same race twice.
Mark in Cincinnati
RM: I’ll ask The Captain, but it’s kind of got a flow to it the way it is now.
Q: Hope you are well. How long does it take to build a street course, ie Detroit, Toronto? Toronto has canceled all permits for events until the end of June.
RM: Well, Detroit was supposed to start construction at Belle Isle on April 20, and that can’t happen because of the lockdown so those two races are canceled. And Toronto would need at least a month to get ready, so I’m sure that’s in jeopardy. It’s a long process with lots of moving pieces to put on a street race, and St. Pete might end up being the only one that gets run in 2020.
Q: Of all the changes in the schedule including cancellations, etc., there is still one item that I can’t follow the logic of. Why in the world would Barber not want to reschedule into the fall? It is not like they have a lot of other races, and October-November would be a beautiful time to race down there.
Forrester, Myrtle Beach, SC
RM: College football. End of discussion. Barber isn’t about to go up against the biggest thing in Alabama.
Q: If Penske running a max of three cars in the 2021 series is a given, then who is making way for McLaughlin? Tricky, but my vote is Simon.
RM: Well if Simon signed a two-year deal last May then he’ll still have a contract, and I think Willy P. is good through 2021 and I imagine JoNew is due to re-up. So who says they won’t all be back and The Captain might have to run four cars for a year?
Q: Running an Indy 500 in the third week in August must present some Herculean challenges to tire engineers and the teams. The average high temperature in Indianapolis in May is 73 degrees Fahrenheit in August, the average high jumps 11 degrees to 84 degrees F. Temps could be much higher. Setups will be a crapshoot for aero even without the added heat factor, but keeping tires on these cars that might reach 235mph before going into Turn 3 will almost certainly be challenging at best. I doubt compounds/pressures currently used fit the bill.
How will the tire engineers gather data? How do local, state, and federal guidelines with respect to COVID-19 give them time to test? Indy in late August might be very interesting if we have a higher than average temperature.
John Del Rio, TN
RM: There have been several Indy 500s run in hot weather during May and Firestone has the wherewithal to adapt to any temperatures. They likely only need two days in early August to test at IMS to come up with a proper compound, so I don’t know that it will be a concern.
Q: I realize that watching other people play video games is popular with a large global audience even in normal times, but it never appealed to me until this weekend. The IndyCar Barber iRacing event was much better viewing than expected, and it was particularly satisfying to see Robert Wickens get behind a virtual wheel. I noticed Ryan Hunter-Reay, Takuma Sato and Marco Andretti did not participate. First, I hope they are all healthy. Assuming they are all OK, why would any driver choose not to participate? Seems like a great way to engage fans and sponsors when there is no alternative.
William in LA
RM: All I know is that Marco didn’t have a sim but is borrowing one from Sage Karam, and I can only guess that Mr. Sato and RHR found something more interesting to do.