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.U. Health came out against running the Indy 500 with fans. I haven’t missed a race since 2005. I’ve only missed two in the past 48 years. But when I got my letter from IMS about this year’s plans, I indicated that I would not attend. At 25% capacity in an outdoor environment with all the precautions that are being implemented, I think that the risk of transmission at the event itself is minimal. However, I think the potential political fallout is huge. I really feel for Roger Penske and I thank God every day that he bought the Speedway and IndyCar before all this hit the fan. But I am really concerned with the long-term damage that this could do to our sport. What’s going to happen if Indianapolis sees a spike in deaths two-four weeks after the race? Is it worth that risk?
Alan Hummel, St. Petersburg, FL
RM: I was the wrong person to ask before Tuesday’s announcement, because I bought into the theory you can sit outside with proper spacing and a mask and be protected. I understand both sides, but the enormity and wide-open spaces of IMS makes this a little different than an indoor concert or game.
Q: With virus cases rising, race postponements (Mid-Ohio), cancellations, health questions, political pressure, etc., it could be a possibility the Indy 500 gets cancelled both in August and October. If that were to happen, what to you think about the possibility of the 500 being run twice in 2021? Sounds far-fetched, but could it happen? Crazy things have already been the norm in 2020. Has this been brought up? I know all is being done to run it in 2020, but you never know.
Ken, Bloomington, IN
RM: Thankfully that question will never have to be answered.
Q: We are now down to the “put up or shut up” time. What is the car count (with drivers) for this years race? I recently read some one say there were only 30. Say it isn’t so! Also, kudos to the IMS ticket office. To turn everything around on short notice was a remarkable feat. Extra credit to them for being so friendly on the phone, too. If you talk to RP, tell him to forget any criticisms he hears, he’s doing a great job.
Dale, Chesterfield, VA
RM: Well you read the wrong story, because RACER’s had 31 confirmed with another four-five possibilities, so I imagine 34-35 tops. The IMS ticket office did a yeoman job in a short amount of time and treated customers with class, from everything I’ve heard.
Q: While it took longer than anyone expected, I was very interested to read about the Jimmie Johnson IndyCar test. While I’m not, as a general rule, a NASCAR fan (no malice toward the series, just don’t follow it to any degree), I have no doubt that a star of Jimmie’s stature can be nothing but good if he comes and races in IndyCar. As far as I know, he is a good guy, clean racer, well respected, and as a seven-time champ, probably has a substantial fan base. Would be nice to get some of those fan’s eyes watching a few IndyCar races!
My question is this. Who foots the bill for such a test? Probably a day’s track rental fee with emergency personnel, the team that supports such an effort, 120 laps of fuel, five sets of tires at what, $2500 a pop? I’m sure it adds up pretty quickly. Chip Ganassi is well known to be a savvy businessman, so I doubt if he does this out of the goodness of his heart. Does Jimmie come with a check for the opportunity? I know it doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things, just curious.
Danny T, Tell City, IN
RM: Let’s just call this a throwback. All Jimmie had to bring was his helmet, because Chip footed the bill and it was a memorable day for all involved. Good PR for both series, and gave Johnson a baseline to build on should he want to try IndyCar.
Q: Greetings from the booming metropolis of Whiteland, Indiana. Home of Sarah Fisher’s Whiteland Raceway. They have put in some much needed, impressive upgrades on the facility so far; I hope they are able to make it a stable long-term success! However, that isn’t what my question is about. I know this has been discussed in past Mailbags, but I want your true opinion as to whether IMS will get rid of those big car grass strips and bring back the aprons? What is the true reason for the perceived lack of interest from the Speedway on this?
Now, I realize the racing is damn good with the current configuration, but I’m old enough to remember the past, when drivers risked it all and had enough room to pass on the outside of Turn 1 on the regular. For me, those are some of the more memorable moves I’ve witnessed in my 45+ years of attending Indy 500 events. What say you? BTW, if you see Sarah or her husband, thank them for me, on behalf of the town. That place was becoming an eyesore, and they have transformed it in no time. Thanks for all you do for the sport, and keep up the Tough Guy series!
Jon Bingham, Whiteland, IN
RM: I mentioned bringing back the apron to The Captain and I think Danny Sullivan did as well, but he’s got bigger fish to fry right now. It could happen some day because that was another groove and Vuky, Rube and Mario made it exciting. And it saved a lot of guys from hitting the wall when they were fighting cars that didn’t want to turn.
Q: You have mentioned a bit recently that Penske wants to run Scott McLaughlin next year. Would this be for the whole season, or just Indy, or part-time, as was originally planned this year? Also, is there any chance that R.P. will get rid of the farcical double points system we have now? I also hate it with a passion — even F1, which is obsessed with gimmicks, got rid of it after one year, which says it all. As it is now, Dixon only needs a decent result at Indy, and if the next couple of guys in points have a bad result/DNF, this season is pretty much already over because of this system. He’d only need to worry about only finishing the final race.
Nathan from Victoria, Australia
RM: R.P. wanted to run McLaughlin at a few road races with an eye on the future as a full-timer. As I’ve said recently, Will Power’s contract is up and we’re not sure if Simon Pagenaud has an option year or he’s set, but I imagine running four cars isn’t totally out of the question if it’s the only way to make it work. And as far as double points, I don’t know anyone who likes them, so maybe The Captain will address that in the off-season.