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: Don’t you think Veach should have stayed at Andretti and they part with Marco instead? I know that won’t happen, but if Marco was with any other team it would. I was excited for him when he got the pole at Indy, but his performance was lackluster.
RM: You answered your own question, Bill. Marco is family, he co-owns his car and he’ll be an Andretti driver as long as he stays in the series. Zach had three years, which is more than a lot of guys get, and ran strong in 2018. But he has backtracked the past two seasons, and was likely headed for the sidelines in 2021.
Q: Thinking about possible landing spots for Kanaan’s attempt at a second farewell oval tour. What are the chances he lands at Andretti? It would be cool to see him end it where most of his success started (and with Honda). Are he and Michael on good terms, or is this not even remotely possible?
Joe from Little Rock
RM: I can’t see it, because Michael is scrambling to keep his flock together and not sure T.K. would be in a hurry to go back to the team that kicked him to the curb after begging him to stay and not sign with Ganassi. I think ECR or RLL would be perfect for his final Indy 500.
Q: With St. Pete not being a double points round for the finale, could this be an indication that rule will be gone next year?
Nathan from Australia
RM: We can only hope and pray, but don’t count on it. I get Indy, but the last race of the year should not have that kind of clout and it certainly hasn’t added any TV viewers.
Q: So with Jimmie Johnson coming to IndyCar in 2021 with Chip Ganassi, how would the car situation work out for the team? Would CGR run a fourth car for Johnson, or would someone have to give up or share a ride? And how likely is it that Johnson runs the Indy 500? With him saying he would run the road courses only, I am surprised he wouldn’t at least give it a shot at some point in his open-wheel career.
RM: Let’s just say that Ganassi always does things top shelf, so if he can raise the proper funding and assemble a competent crew, there’s a good chance he’ll field a fourth car for J.J. And even though he may have promised his wife “no ovals,” I think it will be hard for him to be a spectator next May 30.
Q: Love your writing and passion for the sport. While not fully an IndyCar question, this has IndyCar ramifications: Why is Penske stepping out of IMSA? Did Penske decide to exit, or was it forced out because Acura wanted to go a different direction? Hard to believe Acura wanted something different considering the success of the team. If Penske dropped out, then it reasons that he, Tim Cindric and the team decided to put all its eggs in IndyCar and expand to four teams, making way for the Aussie. This shift makes sense considering all the capital Penske has invested in IndyCar. But there might be more to the story. Plus, there are downstream changes for Helio and JPM. What say you, Miller? What’s the scoop? Congrats on your great success over the years. It pays to persevere.
Gerald Oliver, Midlothian, Texas
RM: We heard Penske was too expensive for Acura, and we also heard that between IMS, keeping IndyCar afloat, adding a fourth car for Scott McLaughlin and the NASCAR effort, that sports car racing was no longer a priority.
Q: Is there something going on between HPD and The Captain? First HPD announces it is splitting from Team Penske in IMSA with only silence from Penske. Then Meyer Shank puts its NSX team up for sale and Wayne Taylor walks away from Cadillac to field a single Acura DPX-05 each until The Captain returns its cars at the end of the season. (ED: Penske is continuing to run the Acuras until the end of the year, and indeed won with Castroneves and Taylor at Mid-Ohio last weekend. Shank and WTR take over the program next year).
Finally, HPD announces it wants to keep Dane Cameron and Ricky Taylor but neither of the Captain’s guys who have both podiumed recently. To an outsider this looks almost punitive. Can you add any insight? If you can’t (or don’t want to) say anything because of your HPD sponsorship for the Mailbag, please feel free to say so.
Secondly, is anyone at IndyCar concerned that McLaren still makes the series ECU? Seems like they should know every bit of logic inside the box and every line of code. If anyone could game the system by tinkering with the sensor inputs (like a tuner chip does to a factory engine) it would be them. Maybe a new box with the new engine formula?
John from Madison
RM: Obviously Shank has been a loyal Honda campaigner and might have come cheaper than Team Penske, but I don’t think there is any animosity. Cameron and Taylor are the future so that wasn’t a surprise either. Never heard one complaint about ECUs and McLaren.
Q: Hinch isn’t a mediocre driver? Stats sure say so. Standings after each season: 2011 Newman Haas, 12th; 2012 Andretti Autosport, 8th; 2013 Andretti, 8th; 2014 Andretti, 12th; 2015 SPM (Indy crash); 2016 SPM, 13th; 2017 SPM, 13th; 2018 SPM, 10th; 2019 ASPM, 12th. I don’t dislike the guy and he is fantastic on TV, but let’s call a spade a spade before I throw up from the love fest.
RM: I don’t think anyone with six wins and the pole at Indianapolis can be labeled a mediocre driver, and while Hinch may not be the flavor of the month, he certainly is capable of winning anywhere. Fans gravitate to him because of his personality, but he’s shown plenty of moxie in his career, and while he’s headed through the last corner on his way to the TV booth, he’s still got a few good races in him.