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. Views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of RACER or Honda/HPD.
Q: Granted, you cannot draw a trend line with one data point, but the July 4 Xfinity race at the IMS road course was infinitely more interesting than the IndyCar race that preceded it, and I am not a NASCAR fan. Did some light bulbs go on at NASCAR and IndyCar? Is this a better NASCAR event than the longish, boring Brickyard 400? It’s not a Watkins Glen-type legacy course, but July 4 it provided some excellent tin-top racing.
Should IndyCar now reconsider the wisdom of using the road course, especially when the tin-tops are running the same day), and should IMS reconsider bringing back the original F1 layout? Even if F1 returns to IMS, surely the F1 tire boys can by now figure out how to manage a high-speed corner (the Parabolica being a semi-close approximation to IMS Turn 1 taken backwards)? I think it would add to the racing in both series to have that high-speed corner.
Richard in CA
RM: NASCAR’s best racing for the past few years has been Watkins Glen and Sonoma, but the Xfinity show last Saturday had to be a pleasant surprise because it was the best of the three when it could have been a crash-fest. IMS has suggested that Cup move to the road course, but from what I hear it’s always been rejected because NASCAR doesn’t want to look like it failed on the oval. But it has in terms of attendance over the past several years, and IMS is just not a good track for stock cars. But why would IMS change the layout? There are three places to pass.
Q: With the Indy Grand Prix, Pennzoil 150 Xfinity and Brickyard 400 going on July 4th weekend at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, when will we see those three series scheduled on the same weekend and the same speedway again? And where?
Chris Fiegler, Latham, NY
RM: If NBC’s Sam Flood and IndyCar’s Jay Frye have their druthers, 2021 for sure, because both are big fans of a doubleheader and I think NASCAR embraced the concept as well. Roger Penske was very pleased with the first one at IMS, so IndyCar may keep its road race for Brickyard weekend next year, but I think an oval would be the preferred track for another one – maybe Richmond or Texas.
Q: After reading your July 4 story ‘Cockpit heat a brutal challenge in Indy GP’ I wonder, since IndyCar has already jumped the shark with the aeroscreen, essentially eliminating the open cockpit aspect of this type of racing? I know it’s an important safety innovation, but with it the unlikelihood that we will hear those famous words at Indy “It’s a new track record” ever again, do you think it makes sense, or at least wouldn’t hurt, to go ahead and add horsepower-robbing A/C so that at least we don’t have a driver succumb to heat exhaustion?
Kirk Whitacre, Ft. Myers Beach, FL
RM: I don’t profess to know if air conditioning is even a possibility because the cockpits are so tiny, or if it would have any affect on the horsepower, but I think IndyCar will look at ways to help cool the drivers.
Q: I was wondering why, with all the engineers and mechanical brains that are involved in the sport, that they can’t find an answer to the heat problem. Doesn’t someone build a coolsuit that drivers could wear? How about some bigger vents on the car? Aero issues there, I guess. I guess it’s not simple, but there’s got to be an answer.
Phil Stone, West Hartford, CT
RM: Well, the engineers and mechanics didn’t design the aeroscreen and there was hardly any testing, so it was more or less dropped in everybody’s lap. Having said that, let’s give IndyCar a chance to make some adjustments (if possible) to try and help with the cooling. But it won’t be a coolsuit. The four veterans I asked all said they were too heavy and bulky for the cockpit.
Q: After the comments on how hot and miserable it is in the cockpit, they better figure something out or these stupid windows are going to cause more crashes and injuries from people possibly passing out or losing control of their body from heat exhaustion. There were a terrible idea in the first place, and I’ve never been alright with them. IMS proved that.
Eric, London, OH
RM: Well, nobody passed out or crashed because of overheating, but obviously there is a major issue that needs attention. The drivers I spoke with afterwards said they’d never been so exhausted, but all of them credited their workout routine for helping get them through it. And there may be limitations on what IndyCar can do to help, but I know it will try.
Q: After reading your article ‘Cockpit heat a brutal challenge in Indy GP’, I have been reflecting on the discussion leading up to and during the development of the aeroscreen. I don’t want to rehash the issue of whether it should be there or not. Having said that, I would like to call BS on everyone that said that a halo will not work on an IndyCar, as there is clearly a halo-like structure under the screen. My question is, why would IndyCar (or anyone for that matter) say that a halo does not work when there is, without question, one there? Just my $0.02, but there would be no heat issue if they used the foundation of what is there and not the casing around it.
Jeff Reso, Orangeville, Ontario, Canada
RM: IndyCar did a lot of testing with only the halo but found it had limited effect with flying frontal debris, and it wasn’t applicable on high-banked ovals when the driver had to be looking far ahead. IndyCar said the aeroscreen was designed as a solution for total cockpit safety, and I guess what was good for F1 doesn’t necessarily fly for IndyCars.
Q: After watching the Heatstroke Grand Prix this past weekend, I have to wonder if the tech boys don’t overthink things sometimes. Add a small scoop to the side of the cockpit, feed an insulated box that holds a piece of dry ice, add a small electric fan to guarantee constant airflow to the driver. I’m not an engineer, but I’m guessing the whole thing could be put together for less that $100. I’m sure there are all kinds of reasons why a simple solution won’t work. Or, really, are there?
Bill Carsey, North Olmsted, OH
RM: Nor am I an engineer, and in previous answers I think I’ve addressed the fact it may not be an easy fix because of the confines of the cockpit. Simon Pagenaud said he was going to call on Team Penske’s experience (maybe in sports cars) to try and get more air circulating, and I imagine they’ll figure out something that maybe everyone can copy.