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, you nailed it. Sato deserved the win as much as Dixon did. I’m very much a traditionalist and this may put me out of sync with younger fans, but the Indy 500 is 500 miles. Not 505, or 510. Green/white/checker is a NASCAR thing, and if it works for them, fine. Not here. Pigot hit that attenuator a ton, and I had deep concerns for his safety first, not the finish. I also realized that the work to repair it against the time of day and laps left was going to end up as it did. NBC was already tight on time. There was no alternative. So be it. That’s Indianapolis. Am I in the minority?
Jim Mulcare, Westbury, NY
RM: No, I was pleasantly surprised to see 70 percent of the avalanche of emails had no problem with ending under caution. Like I wrote Sunday, it happened 12 times between 1988 and last Sunday, and you are spot on – it’s the Indy 500, not the 505 or the 510.
Q: Why no red flag! What a way to “treat” the fans who couldn’t be there. Boo on the chief steward? Who is it, Harlan Fengler’s grandson?
RM: The chief steward didn’t make the call, IndyCar did, and between the time it would have taken to repair the attenuator and the fact NBC’s five-hour window was up, it was an easy call.
Q: The Indy 500 ended the way it should have, and a true race fan would not have wanted it any other way. The thought of throwing a red would be saying that Dixon didn’t do it during the race, so let’s give him more chance to see if he can win. Overtime doesn’t belong in racing. This kind of thinking has ruined NASCAR. It was a great race, and yes, I would loved to have a green finish to see if Dixon or Rahal could have pulled it off, but we didn’t and that’s racing.
Jack, Ft. Myers, FL
RM: The majority of letters agreeing with the decision came from older fans, while the newer generation has been brainwashed by NASCAR’s gimmicks. But if there had been more laps left (18) like in 2019 and television wasn’t a concern in repairing the fence, I think IndyCar would have gone red.
Q: Paul Tracy needs to get a clue about a three- or four-lap shootout. It’s hard to have one after the leader has taken the yellow with four to go. Paul’s lack of situational awareness is partially to blame for red flag talk among the once-a-year IndyCar watchers, AP reporters and Indy Star columnists. There was no way a red flag could have happened and restarted the race with any green running. Sato was going into Turn 4 on Lap 196 when Pigot crashed. So when he took the yellow, he was on Lap 197; four to go. By the time the field gets packed up, and brought onto pit road for a red flag, you probably burn up a minimum of two laps – Laps 197 and 198, at best!
You would need two laps to get going again, like they did in 2014 to restart the race. That would have been Laps 199 and 200. Race over. Any talk of a GWC so we could get a Sato-Dixon duel probably ends up with neither of them winning. They had the fuel to make Lap 200, and that’s about it. We don’t need the Indy 522.5 like we did with the Daytona 522.5 this year. At some point, people need to learn that IndyCar races finish under yellow and 500 miles is 500 miles.
Mark in Cincinnati
RM: Good point. By the time you get the field behind the pace car, let everyone pit to see if they cut tires in the debris from the crash and rejoin the race, you’re out of time.
Q: My wife asked me a question I didn’t know the answer to. As noted in your article, red flags stopped the Indy 500 in 2014 with seven laps to go, and 2019 with 18 laps to go. She asked me are there not written race rules or regulations that determine whether a red flag near the end of the race is shown, or is it totally up to the chief stewards of the race and/or IndyCar series?
Don H., Indianapolis
RM: There is no red flag rule in the IndyCar rulebook. Beaux Barfield red-flagged Fontana in 2012 because he didn’t want the championship to be decided under yellow, and he also gave the fans a green-flag finish at Indy in 2014. Kyle Novak followed that with the call to go red last year with almost 20 laps go. It’s a judgment call based on the circumstances. There is no chief steward. Novak is the race director and former drivers Arie Luyendyk and Max Papis are the stewards. Jay Frye breaks the deadlock on a rules infraction.
Q: Let’s mandate the last three laps must finish green (first attempt) two laps (second attempt), one lap on the final attempt before then finishing under yellow. I heard the damage caused by last crash was going to take some time to repair, but why not? Blah finishes versus an overall good race needs to be addressed, as we are looking for new eyes to view the product on track.
RM: The race had over three hours to decide the winner, and it did. Funny, nobody ever complained in all those yellow-flag finishes during the past three decades, but NASCAR’s myriad of gimmicks somehow has affected IndyCar fans. Look, if there was time to go red, they would have, but there wasn’t. End of story.