Robin Miller's Mailbag for June 3, presented by Honda Racing/HPD

Robin Miller's Mailbag for June 3, presented by Honda Racing/HPD

Insights & Analysis

Robin Miller's Mailbag for June 3, presented by Honda Racing/HPD


Q: Your column on sim racing was spot-on. Drivers and teams using true simulators to test car setups, learn tracks, comparisons against previous year dynamics, etc., make sense and serve a purpose. Agreed? Out of curiosity more than any recognition of the importance of it all, I tuned in for a couple of events. If you are not manipulating pedals, multiple video displays, chats with your engineers and monitoring all manner of electronics at your fingertips, these events are seriously boring for anyone who is a true fan [of real racing] and don’t reflect reality. Cars flying through the air on a video screen belongs in an arcade. Congratulations on speaking out.

Dennis D.

RM: Thanks, Dennis. Obviously simulators serve several purposes, as you stated. I remember Alonso spending hours running IMS on Honda’s back in 2017, and they help rookies learn tracks, so there are benefits. But I loved Tony Kanaan’s quote to his fellow drivers in the column I wrote on Monday.  “Be thankful you can put your helmet on and be glad you’re not racing a sim the rest of your life.”

Q: We’ve seen an uptick regarding televised sim racing since people around the world have been staying home and motorsports events have been cancelled or postponed. It reminds me a bit of the Daytona 500 of 1979. It was the first live beginning-to-end coverage, had the Cale-Donnie-Bobby fight, and a captive audience due to a major snowstorm in the East and Midwest. Have you seen any information or numbers that suggest that something similar has happened for sim racing?

Don Hopings, Cathedral City, CA

RM: IndyCar’s inaugural sim race on and iRacing’s website reportedly got 500,000 viewers, but it was down to 120,000 on NBCSN by the fourth race, so I’d say fans tuned out. But NASCAR’s numbers were always over one million from what I saw before it resumed real racing at Darlington, and captured almost seven million people.

Q: I read McLaren’s revised IndyCar plans for 2020. Is today’s IndyCar racing so different from years ago that today’s non-regular would find it difficult to, and I quote, “hop into a car Friday morning and practice at a track they’ve never been at and be competitive.’ I know Can Am isn’t in your normal writing, but George Follmer would argue with that: Porsche 917/10 Road Atlanta 1972. And I’m sure you can remember other Indy examples. Thanks for all your no B.S. straight talk over the years.

Rick Koressel, Evansville, IN

RM: Tony Stewart agrees and says you cannot just jump into an IndyCar these days and be competitive, but Townsend Bell finished fourth in 2009 as a one-off, Kurt Busch dropped in and took sixth in 2014, and Fernando Alonso almost stole the show in 2017. I think if Smoke got into an Andretti car at IMS he’d be right there – up front.

Fact: Kurt Busch did a great job in his Indy 500 one-off in 2014. Also a fact: Indy’s the only race where a one-off driver gets two weeks of practice. Image by Abbott/LAT

Q: With recent news from McLaren and now Williams that both F1 teams are in difficult financial straits, are there any IndyCar teams possibly also in financial difficulty due to the cancellation of early-season racing? How did you spend your Memorial Day? And where were you on Memorial Day? Must have been a strange day, indeed, for you not being at Indy.

Bruce Philbrick, Sheffield, MA

RM: There have been some salary cuts, but thankfully all the IndyCar teams have kept the doors open through this pandemic and it appears the sponsors are hanging in there, but it’s 2021 that concerns me. I watched the Indy 500 replay on NBC and then the NASCAR race, and won $600 on Kevin Harvick. It wasn’t that strange because it never seemed like May all month.

Q: Loved all the PLN stories you’ve been telling recently. You indicated that PLN never minded having his picture taken, he just didn’t believe in signing autographs. In fairness to PLN, I have to say that several years ago at Laguna Seca, I was fortunate enough to be standing next to a young fan (maybe 10-11 years old) and PLN came driving by on a scooter. The youngster stopped PLN and asked for his autograph on (I think) a program he was carrying. Newman responded to the effect of “Son, I don’t sign autographs at the race track. If I stopped to sign that, there would be a crowd here soon that you wouldn’t believe. If you send that to me at my home, I’ll be more than happy to sign it and return it to you.” Makes perfect sense to me.

Dennis, Irvine, CA

RM: That sounds like PLN, but you know his anti-autograph stance was accelerated by the time he was taking a leak and a fan asked him to sign a program. “You want to hold this?” asked Cool Hand Luke.

Q: Since Penske owns the series and IMS, will Gerald Forsythe make a return?

Kevin, Long Beach, CA

RM: Highly unlikely. I call Gerry about once a year and ask, and he has no interest. But maybe I should ring him up now that R.P. owns everything.

Q: Now that The Captain is in charge, I request clarification on the separation of financial and operational interests in Speedway. (Outside of his IndyCar team).

The top level seems to be: Penske Entertainment Corp followed by IMS, IndyCar and a TV production studio. Which one negotiates and collects the IndyCar sanctioning fees?

The museum probably falls under IMS. What about the IMS radio network? Would the new Robin Miller wagering palace have betting windows, or just be online?

Bill in CA

RM: Everything is under the Penske Entertainment umbrella except the yet-to-be-established RMiller wagering palace. But if we get to bet on the Indy 500 it will all be online – no betting windows at IMS. Roger owns the IMS Museum but not the cars, and we’re all hoping he gives it a facelift. He also owns IMS Productions and I think he’s got some cool things planned. I believe The Captain and Mark Miles negotiate the sanction fees.