Robin Miller's Mailbag for September 2, presented by Honda Racing / HPD

Illustration by Paul Laguette

Robin Miller's Mailbag for September 2, presented by Honda Racing / HPD

Opinion

Robin Miller's Mailbag for September 2, presented by Honda Racing / HPD

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Q: In all of sports right now, what irks me especially is the Indy 500 with zero fans. Why couldn’t they let in, say, 10,000 lucky fans and have them sit 50 feet apart with masks? I was at the NASCAR race in Daytona two weeks ago for the road race and it went quite smoothly! They even sold concessions. Zero fans makes no sense to me. On another note, at Daytona I saw Alex Tagliani driving in the third-tier truck series! Wasn’t he a superstar at CART at one time? What happened?

Doug Ferguson, Debary, FL

RM: When you’ve got 200,000 seats it makes no difference if you let in 10,000 or 60,000, but the decision was made to allow no one and enough people were already mad or disappointed so why would you alienate even more of them? Tags was always quick but never a superstar in CART, but he won the pole at Indy and he’s had some good runs on road courses in the Xfinity series. He’s 46 years old brother, that’s what happened.

Q: Three extremely quick observations, and one request from the IndyCar weekend at Gateway. Kudos to Mr. Bommarito on Sunday’s command of “Gentlemen, start your engines!” Small known fact that Saturday was only Will Power’s fourth short oval pole. Will has also had yellow flags given on lap one of three of his four short ovals. Can Mr. Penske (in his IndyCar shirt) mandate Power be given a lesson on how to bring the field to the start of an event? Your comments, please.

Tom Kientz

RM: “As we have written in these pages many times, in IndyCar, the pole winner receives the reward of being able to dictate the start of the race within the prescribed Start Zone. On Sunday, the No. 12 maintained a constant speed when the field was under his control, was within a reasonable speed of the previous speed of the pace car, and accelerated within the start zone. This is all verified real time via live speed and throttle trace through onboard telemetry. It is the responsibility of all competitors to adjust accordingly.” Kyle Novak, IndyCar Race Director.

Q: I am a long-time follower of IndyCar since my first race at OMS September 1971. This is my first time writing you, but have read your articles faithfully. I know this is a contract year for Will Power at Penske, and that is adding to his pressure in a frustrated and strange 2020 season. I feel like Will has a lot of years left in his career, and I hope it turns around at Penske. But if The Captain does not extend is contract, what do you think are his best options team-wise?

Steve Karnes, Long Beach, CA

RM: I believe Roger was quoted in The Indianapolis Star saying that all three drivers were coming back in 2021, but I’m skeptical because that means they’d have to field a fourth car for Scott McLaughlin, and Tim Cindric is not a fan of four cars. But if Power did get cut loose I’m sure he’d find another ride, because he’s still plenty fast and capable of winning anywhere.

No complaints from race control about Power’s start. Barry Cantrell/Motorsport Images

Q: After such a poor run of results for various reasons, do you think Alexander Rossi will bounce back?

Jordan, Warwickshire, UK

RM: I would think so, but obviously something isn’t clicking right now (other than Indy) with what had been the team to beat, and they’ve also had more than their share of bad luck.

Q: Please explain “undercut” and the strategy involved.

Dale Murray, Mount Joy, PA

RM: How about we let one of the masters of that strategy, Mike Hull of Ganassi Racing, explain it in detail:

With cars more equally-matched (spec race cars) the under and over cut is more widely an option in today’s IndyCar racing. Before the present formula, the further in front that you could go, it wasn’t necessary. At Gateway with Dixon this weekend, we hit it three for three on Saturday and one for three on Sunday! The reason, probably, is that more tried it on Sunday, so there was never much open track.

“Compared notes with Brad Goldberg, Marcus Ericsson’s lead engineer. I consider him to be one of the best in the business at this process. Was paired with him four Ford GT years on the 67 car – amazing track position perspective, and had Briscoe and Westbrook as part of the process. Undercut is: stopping once in the window when counting backwards from the end of the race, earlier than the field if on your out-laps. It’s meant to put you into open track to run faster laps on fresh tires, while your competition stays nose-to-tail at a much slower speed on track, effectively being further ahead once they stop.

“Overcut: Being patient to save fuel and your tires. You then go to full rich and try to make it up. We saw both at work at Gateway. Stopping laps after your competition while they peel into the pit lane, then finding open track, to take full advantage of it. If it works, you would leapfrog them without impedance. Either can work, but you need at least 20 percent of your stint to give you that clean air. The driver needs to keep the tires underneath to take full advantage and understand how to be quick while using the least amount of fuel until it counts, and then drive flawlessly. It’s a fine line to get it right with a driver who really gets the process.”

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