Robin Miller's Mailbag for June 17, presented by Honda Racing / HPD

Illustration by Paul Laguette

Robin Miller's Mailbag for June 17, presented by Honda Racing / HPD

Insights & Analysis

Robin Miller's Mailbag for June 17, presented by Honda Racing / HPD


Q: I am concerned about the number of ovals where lapped cars have restarted at the front of the field. Do you think IndyCar has any plans to change this rule, and what is your opinion of it? Luckily I don’t think anyone would have challenged Dixon in Texas regardless, but I’m frustrated since this isn’t the first time this has happened and affected the race (Indy 2018).

Sam Smith

RM: So it’s happened twice in three years? And both times it was because IndyCar wanted to ensure a green-flag finish? I don’t think that’s a concern, and whenever possible and pragmatic the lapped cars will be moved.

Q: Can you elaborate on the ‘full’ IndyCar simulator? Is it near Speedway, or possibly inside the Dallara factory? This isn’t an iRacing question, or about the public IndyCar simulators. It appears that some IndyCar teams used an IndyCar simulator to practice and refine setups prior to the Texas race. Is it a full-motion simulator; like some airlines and the military, uses? Furthermore, The Captain appears to have a shock simulator somewhere, which may have a different purpose. Some clarification would be helpful.

Bill in CA

RM: Honda has a Driver-In-Loop simulator in Brownsburg that is available for Honda/Acura teams, Dallara has a similar facility in Speedway, and Chevrolet has one in the Charlotte area. There are more (RACER’s Kelly Crandall wrote about Ford’s NASCAR simulator last month) and they’re not cheap to set up or run. As for their effectiveness, Scott Dixon had this to say after winning Texas: “The car rolled off the trailer really fast. We’ve been using the Honda simulator in Indy for the last three weeks, and that was a big help in our preparation.” (Thanks to Honda’s Dan Layton for his help answering this question).

Manufacturer driver-in-loop simulators are on a different planet to even the most sophisticated iRacing set-up that someone might have at home. Image by Mike Levitt/Motorsport Images

Q: Robin, let me start by saying how much I admire you and your column. I flunked out of Ball State too! ’79. Too many12 oz. curls with my mates in Whitcraft Hall, I believe. The tenderloins in the Dugout were to die for. My question: As a Marco fan, (which is getting tougher everyday), I was wondering if at the Indy 500 they would ever consider a 10-minute warm-up session before the start. Marco had all kinds of issues with his center of pressure. It seems he was chasing it all day. Wouldn’t it make for a better show if everyone could dial in for the conditions on race day? Please don’t play the tradition card. Racing has evolved, and these cars are finicky (as you are well aware).

Mark R., Indianapolis

RM: Can’t ever see it happening. Part of Indy’s allure has always been the flying start, the unknown and that first glimpse of everyone at full throttle. USAC tried morning warm-ups on ovals in the ’70s and scrapped them because of the obvious risk: crashes. Can you imagine wiping out a bunch of cars before the race started? Yeah, yeah, I know, look at 1966, 1973 and 1982, but with all the pageantry and pre-race formalities, just can’t see turning cars loose for 10 minutes. Part of a driver’s racecraft is to figure out how to make the car adapt to changing conditions, and that’s also a big part of Indy’s challenge.

Q: Watching Dixie dominate at Texas got me thinking. We all know your Mount Rushmore. Since, IndyCar was devastated by the Split, I was wondering who would be on your Mount Rushmore post-Split. Dixie for sure. Who else?

Chuck K., Fort Myers Beach via Indy

RM: So from 1996-2020. Obviously Dario Franchitti, with four championships and three Indy 500 wins, would be there with Dixie. Then it gets tricky. Juan Pablo Montoya was only here for two years yet won a CART crown and Indy on his way to F1, while Alex Zanardi had three great seasons in his initial go-around in America. Easy to make an argument for Sebastien Bourdais even though he ran minimal ovals prior to 2010, and Sam Hornish was the guy to beat in the IRL’s bread and butter (pack racing) and both became better at their weaker disciplines. Paul Tracy, Helio Castroneves, Gil de Ferran and Tony Kanaan would also merit serious consideration. But I’d put JPM with Dixie and Dario and then flip a coin.

Q: With regards to the CART/IRL split, do you consider the winners of the Indianapolis 500 from 1996 to 1999 as illegitimate? The competition certainly wasn’t the best on the track.

Brian M. Breen, Farmington Hills, MI

RM: One night in 1998 when I worked at Channel 13, Dave Calabro and I hosted a panel with A.J., Big Al and Lone Star J.R. They were all gung-ho for the IRL and I was the antagonist, because I dared to point out that Indy was all about the best and none of their victories would have meant nearly as much had they not beaten each other along with Mario, Bobby, Gordy, Gurney, Ward, Mears and Sneva. During a commercial break, Al Unser said that “Miller has a good point,” and that started a small firestorm with the other two. Then we argued about it in the parking lot until way past midnight. But to answer to your question, all of the best drivers did not participate from 1996-2007. Greg Moore and Zanardi never turned a wheel in IMS competition, while Michael Andretti, Al Unser Jr., Paul Tracy and Bobby Rahal missed several prime years. Obviously, it was much closer to the true Indy 500 from 2003 on after Penske, Ganassi, Rahal, Team Green left CART for the IRL, but ’96-99 should probably have an asterisk.