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: Robin, our family has always been fans of the Andrettis. We have been waiting a long time for Marco to do something positive. Over the years I have become critical of him for not living up to the name. I am so happy for Marco and the Andrettis. The family has done so much for IndyCar. Andretti on pole is exactly what this strange Indy 500 needs. Agree?
RM: I think if you care about IndyCar and its history, you had to feel good for Marco and his family. He’s struggled mightily the past few years and last May was probably his lowest point in the race, so to see him deliver in the clutch was not only good for his confidence, but also for IndyCar.
Q: Great to see Marco on pole for Indy 500 and the press that IndyCar will finally receive. This lead me to wonder, if there are any other IndyCar family names that have new generation of racers in the open-wheel pipeline (Mears, Unser, Andretti, Gurney, Rutherford, Luyendyk, Villeneuve)?
Todd from Michigan
RM: Just Johnny Unser’s daughter, Loni, at the moment.
Q: I’ve been critical of Marco for years, and that’s on me. I hoped, he would be the next. The name resonates. IndyCar needed him. That was totally unfair, he was just a kid. What he did on Pole Day with that pressure, under those conditions? This old man almost got a tear in his eye. I hope this gives him the confidence going forward. VeeKay and Palou were really impressive. Doesn’t hurt when you have, Arie and Oriol helping you find your way around that old beast. Your picks for the race?
Ron Rush, Louisville, KY
RM: I think Marco would be the first to admit his career has been frustrating up to this point, but like Mario said, maybe this is the turning point – we all hope so. I bet on Graham Rahal a few weeks ago at 30-1 and he’s got a shot, but I think beating Dixie is going to be very difficult.
Q: It was a very exciting weekend for IndyCar. Saturday had all the close racing one could expect from field of excellent drivers. However, Sunday was the icing on the cake. We all waited to see if Marco Andretti could take the pole from Scott Dixon, and he did. Did I miss any bumping? Hell no. We were treated to the best racing one could expect. Did you miss bumping?
RM: I never got excited about bumping one or two cars, and I’d have started them all because for money, bumping is what it was when there were 40-60 cars going for 33 spots. And the dramatic windup to qualifying more than made up for no bumping.
Q: You’ve mentioned in the past about how awkward the atmosphere was for the first Indy 500 after the split. Where does this year’s rank with it being three months later in August and not in May? Without having fans, and none of the usual things like the Freedom 100 and the pit stop competition on Carb Day?
Phillip Schmitz, Dallas, TX
RM: Well it certainly doesn’t seem like the Indy 500, but if the race is as good as it has been the past few years, then it could make us forget how strange it’s been. Or at least temper it.
Q: Sure do miss you on air. Any ideas on how Rinus Veekay‘s Chevy was so much faster than all the others in qualifying this year? I was curious about the increase in speed over the years and the main developments that have contributed to that. For instance, I started watching in 1969 when Mario’s average speed was just about 170 mph – pretty typical for that time period. Evolutionary leaps appear to take place in 1972 when the speeds jump to the 190s, 1977 when Sneva hit 200 mph, and then the gradual increase into the 220s. Do you recall the equipment changes in those years that lead to these leaps?
RM: Are you sure it wasn’t his car instead of his engine? Chevy and Honda don’t play favorites, and Veekay has been so impressive – just like Palou. As for speeds, the wings started the jump in speeds, then the Gurney flap, more aerodynamic tricks, 1,000 horsepower, ground effect, wind tunnels and the progress of tires.
Q: As much as I was cheering for a Hinchcliffe pole, I couldn’t be happier for Marco. After all his trials and tribulations over the last few years, and all the gnashing of teeth about him on the web, what a great story. I’ll be cheering for him on race day. On another topic, are Penske’s difficulties this year a reflection of Roger’s efforts on behalf of IndyCar’s future? Perhaps his focus isn’t on the team as much as the past. Your thoughts?
Doug Mayer, Revelstoke, BC, Canada
RM: No, Tim Cindric runs the racing team and I’m sure R.P. talks to him every day. It just seems like they’re lacking something right now in setup, but they’ve got 500 miles to figure it out, so don’t count them out.
Q: I never have been a Marco fan, but felt so happy to see him to get the pole. Even though I am a Penske guy, I would not be upset for him to win. How did Chevy get it so wrong on horsepower? If the engines are basically the same, did the windscreen upset the HP that much? Is there anything Chevy can do to offset those possible Honda beat-down they are about to get?
RB, Hampton, VA
RM: Not so sure Chevy got it wrong as much as Honda made big strides with the increased HP for qualifying.
Q: I hope this email finds you well, and I hope the Marco haters take a vacation for the next week so I can enjoy this.
Kyle in PA
RM: I’ve seen nothing but positive comments for two days.
Q: Seeing Marco win pole is awesome, and I hope he’s able to capitalize in the race considering he has also been strong in practice. I saw on RACER he received $100k for getting pole, and it got me thinking – how much of that will he actually pocket after paying sponsors, team, etc. (of course a piece will go to Uncle Sam as well)? I’m sure it could be different for every driver, depending on the team and contract specifics, but do you have a general estimate of how that gets divided out?
JP Fort Wayne
RM: Hard to say. Could be 40 or 50 percent, or all of it if that incentive is built into his contract. It’s also possible he doesn’t get anything, depending on his salary. Everyone is different.