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.
Questions for Robin can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org. Due to the high volume of questions received, we can’t always guarantee that your letter will be printed, but Robin will get to as many as he can. Published questions have been edited for clarity.
Q: After watching the race in Texas it was obvious the track was garbage, which is 100% NASCAR’s fault. I hope people know that. I think IndyCar will have to look into giving the teams more boost. I’m scared that the aero drag on the screen and the extra weight will make it hard – if not impossible – to pass, because when they pull out to pass they just stall out. More power would help this, I think. I know teams don’t want to spend more on motors and they have to last awhile, but Honda and Chevy both have said they can turn the motors up without any real changes other then mapping. Am I right about that? I think it’s worth the risk of blowing a motor here and there, because the last thing IndyCar needs is a super-boring season on top of all the bad things and hard times the teams tracks and NBC has had to deal with. Do you think IndyCar will be proactive on this?
Rick from PA
RM: The lack of passing had nothing to do with horsepower. Between that track compound used by NASCAR, the tires Firestone was forced to use because of the pandemic (there was no testing or development) and the high temps there was very little grip. The drivers I’ve spoken with said it was a combination of those three things, but not much could be done considering the circumstances.
Q: One-groove racing at Texas? They’ve ruined it!
RM: On that particular night I agree, but there were some extenuating circumstances, as pointed out in the letter above yours. It was so slippery that if you got just a few feet off-line, like Felix Rosenqvist did, it was all over. Not conducive for side-by-side.
Q: So here’s my take on the aeroscreen: Couldn’t care either way. The internet told me there was passing. I wouldn’t know, it seemed like NBC only showed Dixon for 300 miles. Not sure if I was let down because I had high hopes for the first race in forever or it was just a ‘meh’ race. Am I wrong?
Shawn in MD
RM: There was some passing, just not what we’re accustomed to at Texas, and our producer always finds the best races on the track so I didn’t think NBC showed too much of Dixon. He made a bold one on the outside to take the lead from Newgarden, but it was a pretty forgettable race for all the reasons we’ve already discussed in earlier questions.
Q: Assuming you were watching on TV like the rest of us, I was equal parts pleased for the series and yet still displeased at what could have been. Great to see the series back in action, on national television, and everyone goes home safe. Kudos to Gossage, Penske/Miles/Frye, the teams, manufacturers, safety team, drivers, and NBC. The aeroscreen seemed to ace its debut as well. I felt Firestone’s pinch and the 35-lap stints were not an issue really at all. What was an issue was that pathetic excuse for a racing surface, courtesy of NASCAR. Now I’m not sure if the lack of a spring Cup race was at fault, but that crud they slapped on the track’s outer groove totally ruined this race for IndyCar. Is that accurate?
Greg from NJ
RM: That’s accurate. Here’s a quote from one driver: “That NASCAR s%$# ruined the track and any chance we had to put on a decent show. We need to make sure that %$#@ is gone before we run there again. And the tires were awful but Firestone was worried about blistering so we get it – just made for a terrible show.”
Q: Can you please help us understand the rule/protocol for lapped cars on restarts? It seems inconsistent. Even Townsend (for what that is worth…) seemed confused when, as he put it, “…there isn’t time for lapped cars to drive down pit lane.” Been a fan since the early ’90s, thanks for being you.
Luke Spencer, Seattle
RM: The standard operating procedure for superspeedways is that lapped cars are moved to the back of the field inside 15 laps to go, but Saturday night threw Race Director Kyle Novak a curveball and he responded with common sense. When Felix crashed there were nine laps to go and a few lapped cars between leader Dixon and second-place Pagenaud. The clock was ticking on NBC’s two-hour, primetime window so a red flag was out of the question, and had Novak moved the lap down cars to the back prior to the restart, it would have flirted with the white flag. Instead, they got four laps of green, the race ended at 9:51 p.m. ET and NBC was able to get a quick interview with Dixon. True, it wasn’t as thrilling as you wanted with Pagenaud offering no threat, but the 2019 Indy winner said afterwards it likely didn’t matter because Scott was pretty much untouchable.
Q: Who in the heck dreamed up that 35 laps of green tire rule? Same for all races, road and street? It really throws a monkey wrench into race strategies, penalizing a driver for being able to nurse tires home when not necessarily fastest. Can you tell me when an accident occurred from worn tires that also involved an innocent driver? It’s probably happened, but so rarely as to warrant another rule change?
Dan in CA
RM: Firestone requested it because it didn’t get to test or develop any tires during the past few months, and with the heat and speeds of Texas it was concerned about blistering. So it went with a hard compound and a mandatory tire window. The great thing about Firestone is that unlike NASCAR, there aren’t crashes every week in IndyCar from tires going down and sending the cars rocketing into the wall. So Firestone has earned the right to have some leeway.