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: I want to thank IndyCar, NBC, and the great people at Road America for putting on two of the finest races we’ve ever seen at this great track. I sat glued to my TV both days, and seeing the fans made me forgot about the stupid virus that has controlled our lives over the past five months. Race 1 was excellent, and it wasn’t a surprise to see Scott Dixon make his way to the front for another amazing win. Of course, the story of Race 2 is the rookies. O’Ward and Rosenqvist put on an amazing side-by-side show at the end. And all these young guys raced like veterans, with fast laps, bold passes, and very few mistakes. If Power isn’t careful, he may have a future in sports cars after Roger puts Palou in the Verizon car. Finally, I’m wondering whatever happened to the use of local yellows? They seemed to work with no issues back in the CART days and also in other series.
Rick Schneider, Charlotte
RM: I was just happy that NBC got a great finish after such a terrible start, and hope some people stuck around. There are still local yellows, but when cars are either disabled after a crash or stuck in the sand trap, a full-course yellow is always going to be necessary due to safety vehicles being on the track. Conor Daly’s and Graham Rahal’s wrecks had to be cleaned up, and nobody should be allowed to be running at speed.
Q: What a fantastic Race 2 at Road America. Bravo to the young guns for an outstanding show. I can’t help but wonder who will be the next driver Penske poaches from another team. Who was the last rookie driver Penske introduced to the series? Frustrating to see him steal talent from teams after they invest time to groom a young driver. Why doesn’t Penske invest in the Indy Lights series like Andretti or Juncos by forming a team and promoting a driver to IndyCar? Don’t get me wrong, his investment into IMS and the series is invaluable, but it’s getting stale seeing Team Penske, Andretti or Ganassi win 17 of the last 20 Indy 500’s.
Wylie McIntosh, Brownsburg, IN
RM: I guess you have to go all the way back to P.T., who only ran one race for Dale Coyne before being snatched up by The Captain, so technically he was a rookie. But that’s the way of the world – show talent and move up the ladder, and you can’t blame the driver or the team. I do think R.P. is planning something for Lights, and hopefully his team will be part of it for 2021.
Q: When was the last time you saw a race dominated by teenagers? That race sure beat watching the F1 parade and the taxi cabs in Kentucky.
RM: Probably a USAC midget race with Kyle Larson, Rico Abreu and Chris Bell, but the only true teenager we have in IndyCar right now is Rinus Veekay (19). Colton Herta (20), Pato O’Ward (21), Santino Ferrucci (22). Alex Palou (23) and Oliver Askew (23) are all kids that drive like veterans, and Felix Rosenqvist is almost an old man (28) by their standards. Herta and O’Ward have a racecraft that belies their ages, and that was on full display over the weekend. Veekay and Palou made the passes of the year at Road America, and the changing of the guard isn’t too far away.
Q: The race weekend at Road America put the F1 race at Austria to shame with the performance of Scott Dixon and Felix Rosenqvist, who chased down Pato O’Ward with two laps to go and scored one of the best first career race wins since Jacques Villeneuve did it at the track in 1994. I could see a major youth movement in IndyCar as drivers such Will Power, Simon Pagenaud and Takuma Sato’s careers start to come to an end. I could see drivers Alex Palou, Jack Harvey, Santino Ferrucci become candidates to race at Penske, Andretti or Rahal in the next few years. Agree? And even though Scott Dixon may win his sixth IndyCar title, once he either ties or break A.J. Foyt’s career wins, I believe Chip Ganassi will let him go and will focus on Rosenqvist and Marcus Ericsson.
Also, I read that Penske is keen for more IndyCar/NASCAR crossover race weekends in the next couple of years. Sounds good, but he ought to have IndyCar/IMSA and get back to having more road course races at Watkins Glen, Road Atlanta (if they can get the track owner to extend the run-off area), Mont Tremblant and Mosport Park. Keep COTA an add the Utah circuit, since it’s now see a lot of racing events from the NASCAR ARCA race series.
RM: I think R.P. is keen to run Scott McLaughlin full-time in an IndyCar in 2021 and he might take a hard look at Palou, but Jack is probably a long shot. Ericsson did a nice job all weekend but Chip will only focus on him as long as he brings sponsorship. Felix got some job security at Road America and Dixie probably has at least another two to three years with Ganassi if he wants it.
Q: Necessity is the mother of invention. The twin bill at Elkhart Lake was fantastic and needs to stay that way. You’ve said it yourself – the racetrack must stay occupied throughout the race weekend to keep fans interested. What better way than using the first race as a long test instead of practicing for 45 minutes?
Now, what works at a street race or a road course may not work on the ovals, but Belle Isle shouldn’t be the only doubleheader on the schedule. I realize TV time was available because the stick and ball sports are still out, but now is the time for this series to seize the moment while the others are away. I asked you about the possibility of more doubleheaders earlier this year before the pandemic.
I think St. Pete should be a double since it’s the season-opener and is well attended by people from all over the country that want to see racing after a long winter. At that time you didn’t think it would work at the track or for TV. Has your opinion changed after what you saw at Elkhart Lake?
RM: I’ve always favored going back to twin 125s at Texas or Iowa or Gateway, and I love the IndyCar/NASCAR doubleheader concept, and I think we’ll see more of it in 2021. The doubleheaders became a necessity this year because of the pandemic and canceled races, and I think they could work at certain places. I thought Road America was a smashing success in terms of great racing, intensity and giving the fans their money’s worth, so I’d like to see it return as a doubleheader.