Robin Miller's Mailbag for September 16, presented by Honda Racing / HPD

Illustration by Paul Laguette

Robin Miller's Mailbag for September 16, presented by Honda Racing / HPD

Insights & Analysis

Robin Miller's Mailbag for September 16, presented by Honda Racing / HPD

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Q: I see that Auto Club Speedway is looking to convert to a short track for NASCAR. Do you think that IndyCar would be interested in getting Fontana back on the calendar for a night race?

Tom, San Diego

RM: A night race in October is about the only thing Fontana might take a swing at, but IndyCar doesn’t want to end the season on the West Coast on NBCSN.

Q: With the news of California/Auto Club being turned into a banked short track that would (more than likely) not be suitable for IndyCar, I feel very disappointed at the lack of ovals for that form of racing. It’s really sad to look back on the mid to late ’90s to see tracks that were managed by the likes of Roger Penske, Chip Ganassi and Tony George either no longer host any IndyCar race (Chicagoland, Michigan, California) or any race (Nazareth) at this point. I know the answer to this will be “fans didn’t attend” and I get that. I myself have been trying to attend every Texas race ever since I moved nearby (and if money/time was more in the equation I want to add Gateway to mix), but it’s very sad.

Tobin Enz

RM: Yes, it’s the fate of oval-track racing because there used to be big crowds at Michigan, Milwaukee, Texas and even Fontana in its first few years, but as good as the racing can be, it’s no longer popular with the paying customers. Gateway… sorry, World Wide Technology Raceway, does a great job of trying to give fans non-stop action like a street or road race, but it’s also got the luxury of having an owner like Curtis Francois, a promoter like Chris Blair and a gung-ho sponsor like Jonathan Bommarito.

Q: I’d like to go your thoughts on NASCAR’s plan to demolish the fantastic Fontana speedway and replace it with a half-mile Bristol/Martinsville hybrid. I go every year to the Auto Club 400 and I’ve never gotten tired of seeing the view of that massive track after driving over the bridge on Cherry Ave. I think this will end up killing interest in NASCAR for Southern California somewhere down the line. Next year is the last year for the track. Any chance that we get a last IndyCar race on it?

Gabriel from Victorville, CA

RM: I can’t imagine an IndyCar race at Fontana in 2021, but who knows, maybe they’ll need each other and do some kind of farewell race. But clearly NASCAR is trying to generate interest, and maybe draw short-track fans to a track that started out with so much promise.

A half-mile layout might have helped the grandstands to look a little busier in 2015. Nelson/Motorsport Images

Q: As a health care professional, I am amused by the miserable fit and construction of the face masks worn by all of the IndyCar drivers. Does anyone among them know where to obtain a good face mask? They can’t say three words without their silly masks coming down. Really?

William G.

RM: I don’t have a clue.

Q: After the announcement of J.J. coming to CGR, do you think they will stay with Honda or they will switch to Chevy next year?

Guillermo, Florida

RM: Let’s ask Dan Layton of Honda Racing and Acura Motorsports. “We fully expect Ganassi to remain a partner team with Honda for the foreseeable future, and look forward to working with Jimmie Johnson as he enters this newest phase in his already-incredible career.”

Q: I am really pumped about J.J. coming full-time next year. With a popular and well-known driver like him, is this the catalyst for a rebirth of open-wheel racing in America, bring it to the masses with Penske magic? I really hope so. Your thoughts, sir?

Phildawg

RM: I think everyone needs to take a deep breath. He’s a great driver and person, but he’s 45 years old, and unless he changes his mind and runs the Indy 500, it’s going to be a really steep learning curve. I think it can help IndyCar if he’s successful, but how many stories is he going to generate running 15th? I hope he catches on and can be competitive, but he’d have a much better shot on ovals than street circuits or road courses.

Q: All I can say about the Ganassi/Johnson deal is… well, yawn. I get that Johnson wants to stretch his legs and try a better racing series, but at 45, what does his joining up really do for IndyCar? More eyes? Somehow I see that as negligible at best. A shot to win a title? Ummm… don’t think so. An Indy 500 win? Doubtful. Other than as an exercise of egotism, what’s the point of a 45 year-old Johnson in IndyCar? More importantly, what’s in it for Chip?

Jake

RM: I love the fact he’s got some old Cale Yarborough in him and wants to venture into unknown territory, and he’s a racer for sure. But he’s not going to win any races or titles. I just hope he can be competitive and stay engaged. But first of all, I hope they find a sponsor so he can try.

Q: Hey Chip, I’ve got an idea for next season, J.J. for street/road courses and Juan Pablo on ovals! After some dieting of course! It would be fun to watch.

Dave S.

RM: I like your train of thought, but not sure JPM and Ganassi would be a match anymore.

Q: With the Penske Acura program ending, it seems Juan Pablo Montoya is back in the driver market and reportedly talking to some IndyCar teams. Any idea where you think he ends up? My money would be on McLaren – they could use an experienced driver in their line-up and they did just miss out on another big name in Jimmie Johnson. A Montoya-McLaren reunion would be very fun to watch. Andretti is another team that comes to mind after being close to a move before going with Penske – could he replace Veach? Or could he go back to driving school buses in NASCAR (perhaps part-time Xfinity for Penske if Cindric moves up to Cup)? Maybe a move to Europe in WEC to seriously complete the Triple Crown?

I think he was pushed out of IndyCar too early by The Captain – he’s still got too much talent to call it quits now. And yes, I know sponsorship is hard to come by these days, but I think being more vocal about his intentions can help (like J.J. right now). If anyone can get the inside scoop, I know it’s you…

Santiago Lopera, Toronto, ON, Canada

RM: One of his former rivals and pals from the CART days told me that JPM had talked to McLaren and Andretti about 2021, but I can’t get him to call me back because he knows what I’m going to ask him. Marshall interviewed him a few days ago but he was pretty coy about whether there was any future in open wheel. He just wants to be competitive. I don’t think he’s got any interest in NASCAR but he will be racing sports cars (Le Mans) for sure next year.

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