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: Just wondering if Colton Herta is developing a bit of a reputation? Heard Dixon was upset with his driving in Race 1 at Mid-Ohio, and in Race 2 he did not seem to give Santino any room. If you look at the replays, Herta was a little ahead, but not half a car like he mention in his end of race interview. Then he goes all the way out, and I thought you had to leave a little room. There were several cars that went through side-by-side. I understand Santino was out on the grass. In the TV booth, nothing was said about it.
On another note, not sure what IndyCar can do, but if you are in the lead there does not seem to be a way to pass. The cars just stall out within one or two car lengths. Both Mid-Ohio races were a little bit of a parade.
RM: Colton hit the pit speed limiter on Saturday, and that’s why he slowed suddenly and Dixie hit him. Both P.T. and Townsend said on air he didn’t give Santino any room when they were watching the first replay. But watch some old tapes of Michael, P.T. or JPM, and tell me about contact or not giving any room. They were masters. Felix Rosenqvist passed Pato O’Ward for the win late in the Road America race and you have the top four drivers within two seconds of each other at the finish of Sunday’s race, so not sure what else you can expect from a narrow track that was built in 1962. Trust me, I’ve seen some parades at Mid-Ohio from Mario and Bobby Rahal, and that was not a parade. Lots of good racing in the pack both days.
Q: After watching two fine races at Mid-Ohio, I continue to be impressed with how good the package of the Dallara chassis, Honda or Chevy engine, and Firestone tires works as a race car. As we can see from the in-car cameras, these cars are always siding around. And I think this is one of the reasons we see such great racing. In IndyCar the skill of the driver still makes a difference, and they have to do this whether it’s on a street circuit, road course, or at the Indy 500. I am old enough to remember the innovative and great racing cars that were designed by people like Carroll Shelby, Jim Hall, Dan Gurney, and Colin Chapman. But what was originally designed as a spec car has turned out to be a really good race car – a car that races better than any series in the world. My hope as we move toward 2022 is that IndyCar doesn’t make changes that would jeopardize the great racing we have all been enjoying. As the old saying goes, if it’s not broke, don’t fix it.
Rick Schneider, Charlotte
RM: The street and road course packages have been as racy as anything you could hope for during the past several years, and also sturdy so Dallara gets a lot of credit. And Honda and Chevy are about as even as anyone could expect. I don’t think IndyCar will fiddle much with the current car.
Q: Admittedly, I’m a Santino fan. Can you explain the penalty for “avoidable contact”? Herta left him zero room, he was clearly alongside, the grass is soaking wet, what was he supposed to do? Quit? Unfortunate for the other drivers, but come on IndyCar. That’s BS. “I had to push him off,” Herta was quoted. Really?
Jon Jones, Oologah, OK
RM: Obviously everything happens in a nanosecond and Ferrucci was trying to regain control, but there has to be some consequence for just driving back into the pack and taking out two other drivers. It sucks, because Santino was the show in qualifying and it looked like it was going to be a great day for Dale Coyne with Palou up front as well. Colton didn’t leave much room, no question, but I feared two aggressive kids weren’t backing off regardless.
Q: As a teacher, I raced karts for 10 years on a very limited budget. Number one on my list was, do not tear up equipment. Most of the working class racers in our club felt the same. Then you had the few where money was not a problem. Getting up beside someone and having position going into the corner, usually a guy would give you room or else there would be contact. I said “usually.” More often than not, if that guy had deep pockets, he had no problem running you off the track, knowing you would rather do that than risk contact. I liked Herta until Sunday’s start, when he ran the No. 18 off the track and said, “I had to run him off” after the race. No, he didn’t. Deep pockets let him do that. Been there and had it done to me.
RM: Not sure that’s really a viable comparison. Herta is on a big team, but don’t think his sponsorship is any better than SealMaster for Ferrucci. He was diving into a corner at 160mph and trying to maintain the lead with Scott Dixon breathing down his neck and Santino pulling alongside, so I seriously doubt he gave any conscious thought to what you’re suggesting.
Q: In Sunday’s race, Newgarden could have closed the points gap to Dixon by more than he did if his teammates immediately ahead had backed off and let him past. I’m not a proponent of this tactic, but just wondering why the Penske team didn’t do it. Is it simply considered bad form? Would the drivers refuse to comply? Something else?
Jim Garry, Delmar, NY
RM: I can’t recall R.P. ever giving any kind of team orders like that because he believes in letting his drivers race. It probably cost Montoya the title in 2015, but I’ve always liked that philosophy. And it would have only been four points, so I doubt it has much effect on the championship.