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: Gateway’s Sunday crowd was pretty impressive, considering the circumstances. Bad weekend for some, good weekend for others. Dixie was brilliant on Saturday, Pato is impressive and Fast Willy seems jinxed. Despite all the guns Andretti has, they’ve been nothing but blanks. They seem totally out of sync. It’s hard to beat the ovals. We need more. And, let’s get back to racing. Stop with the pit-lane speed limit. Nobody over the wall until the car is stopped. Hell, it’s already spec racing! Reward those with balls. Agree?
RM: Chris Blair & company did a good job of drawing people in tough circumstances and I’m glad to hear next year goes back to a Saturday night, because it’s cooler and a better-looking show. But adding ovals isn’t likely because they’re a tough nut for the promoter, and I’m still thinking R.P. is going to have to buy Iowa to keep it on the schedule. I worked on Indy pit crews when their was no speed limit and the pits were always open and I’m all for it, but it’s never going to happen.
Q: Do you think there is anything that can be done at WWTR to make passing easier for the IndyCars? On Sunday with the hotter track temperatures, it was essentially impossible to pass. The pass for the win was made in the pits. I was happy to hear that next year’s race will be a night race.
RM: Here’s what IndyCar VP of competition and race engineering Bill Pappas had to say: “It a good thing will be racing at night in 2021 because that helps everything. We need more mechanical grip, and I think we could look at the tires. I think someone should talk to the track about increasing the banking in Turns 3-4 to ensure it is flat. That would allow you the get a run from the exit of Turn 2 all the way to entry of Turn 1.”
Q: Wanted to share the boots-on-the-ground experience (and thankful to have gotten an in-person experience this year) from Sunday’s IndyCar race at Gateway. After watching Saturday’s race, I was able to convince two buddies to tag along and make the four-hour trek to Gateway. I would say one is an ‘average’ fan as he has been to multiple 500s, a few GPs and watches several races a year with knowledge of cars, teams, and drivers. The other is a novice that has been to quals with me, and catches the 500 or bits and pieces here and there. I have been to roughly 150 IndyCar (CART, IRL, Champ, Indy, etc.) subscribe to NBC Gold, RACER, etc.
We paid $87.50 after convenience fees per ticket to sit in the WWTR grandstands (I have always been on the front stretch at Gateway). The seats were great, properly socially-distanced, and we could see the whole track. The negative was that there were no video boards or scoring pylon on this side of the track, so we had to resort to the IndyCar app to show us the running order and lap counts, especially after pit cycles. We got there in time for the truck race, and I’ve watched a few, but although we really didn’t know any drivers it was an enjoyable race that provided some added value. We were there for the open-wheel rocketships, and well, we were left quite disappointed. Both friends commented on the fact they spent $87.50 to watch a very fast and loud parade, while paying $8/beer, and $20 to park.
Overall we spent roughly $120 each, and I have a feeling I will be the only one coming back next year. I tried to send them a video of Josef stating that more horsepower and tire deg could certainly help next year and he’s confident this will be addressed. One of them asked me why they didn’t know this coming, since they had Iowa and other races this year. I don’t know the answer. What I can say to convince them to come back with me next year? What is the answer? And what are the chances I get to attend the Harvest GP? Out of all the races I’ve witnessed, this one was pretty bad. Even in the past where you’d have the leader winning by a lap, at least he was able to lap cars and there was some mid-pack racing.
RM: Not sure what happened between Saturday (which was a pretty decent race) and Sunday (which was a parade) but IndyCar’s tech chief weighed in an answer above yours. WWTR doesn’t have the banking and spacing that Iowa does so it’s never going to be as exciting, but there were some pretty good passes in Saturday’s show. I guess you could tell your pals it’s going to be a night race again and that always makes it a little better because the track isn’t as hot. IMS is going to find out if the Harvest GP will have spectators in a couple weeks. Thanks for all your support and trying to make IndyCar some new fans.
Q: What was race control’s rationale for penalizing the No. 55 and No. 7 cars at the start but not the No. 12 and No. 22? I don’t have all the data they have, but even without rewinding my DVR it looked pretty clear that Will Power, as the leader, not only brought the field around too slow, but critically, failed to maintain speed. Power’s lift just before accelerating is what checked up the inside lane and caused the melee that took out a fourth of the field. The 55 took evasive action to avoid a collision without overtaking anyone, but Pagenaud saw that pop and stood on the gas and popped out as well, then immediately slammed on the brakes. Askew simply followed him on the gas but really had no chance to stop in time.
If the 55 was punished for getting out of line and/or going early, didn’t the 22 do the same? If the 7 was guilty of avoidable contact following the 22’s mistake, isn’t everyone else behind him (except Rossi that got hammered from behind) also guilty? Karma took care of Power, but it should have been Race Control. That kind of hi-jinx is a regular cause of IndyCar’s “big ones” before even taking the green. That, and the mystery competition caution at halfway, robbed a lot of fans of seeing their drivers compete in an otherwise entertaining race.
Aron Meyer, Tucson, AZ
RM: IndyCar says Power maintained a constant and reasonable speed, and it’s the responsibility of the other drivers to adjust when he accelerates.
Q: So, the Indy 500 has to be run without fans. Yet, the Bommarito Automotive Group 500 can be run with fans in attendance. Can you explain the nonsense logic with that decision?
RM: Indy could have had fans but chose not to, while WWT Raceway was allowed a percentage of its capacity. I said all along I thought IMS could have successfully spaced 60,000 people with The Captain’s plan, but something changed his mind.