Robin Miller's Mailbag for October 21, presented by Honda Racing / HPD

Robin Miller's Mailbag for October 21, presented by Honda Racing / HPD

Insights & Analysis

Robin Miller's Mailbag for October 21, presented by Honda Racing / HPD


Q: No doubt there is a lot of disappointment about the dearth of ovals on the 2021 IndyCar schedule, but do you think the 5/8 mile oval at Lucas Oil Raceway could be an option someday, or is it ill-suited for IndyCar racing?

Dave Morgason, Plainfield, IN

RM: No SAFER barrier, and probably too tight for IndyCars anyway.

Q: With the recent announcement of Indy Lights returning in 2021, amid the upping of prizes and safety, wouldn’t it make sense for IndyCar to lure more teams to field entrants in Lights by offering perhaps bonus test sessions? If you field a full-time entrant in Lights, you get two-four additional test days. If you use your Lights driver in the test days, you get a bonus day or two. It would be nice to see others helping fill the field besides Schmidt and Andretti. End result, the lights gain a bigger/stronger field and hopefully we see the pipeline to IndyCar.

Eric J, Hayward, CA

RM: A form of that incentive was used a few years ago and it really didn’t make any difference in participation, but hopefully bigger purses will entice new teams.

Q: After reading your piece about ovals being on the ropes, I got to thinking about IndyCar’s 2.4-liter hybrid engine formula for 2023. How would hybrid technology translate to ovals? As I understand it, KERS recovers power under braking and translates it into acceleration. On the few ovals left on the schedule, how much braking is there aside from entering and exiting the pits? Would higher horsepower necessitate more braking into corners and a KERS system then add stronger acceleration out? With this in mind, what ovals would benefit from the new 2.4-liter hybrid engine formula?

Bill Phypers, Brewster, NY

RM: Let’s ask Mr. Pruett: “Yes, this question has been posed for quite some time, and the answer is still the same: Like in F1 with dual KERS systems that use braking and heat/energy from the turbo, IndyCar would need to have the same type of dual system to charge its KERS on ovals. There are many styles of KERS, and not all rely on braking to charge, so it’s a non-issue here.” 

Q: I’m well aware that I’m late to the party, but I just watched the Bobby Unser roast that Marshall Pruett posted little over a month ago. I’ve never laughed so hard. Great content and absolute priceless! I love the stories and enjoyed hearing about the friendships too. I was trying to figure out what Martin van Buren was doing wearing a t-shirt over a collared shirt, then I realized it was Roger Penske and he can wear whatever he wants, however he wants. This leads me to my question. Can you please tell me where I can get one of those shirts? Great to see you guys having fun up there… hope all is well.

Steve, Lorraine, Ohio

RM: Unfortunately we made about 200 of them and I doubt you or I can afford to restart the process for one shirt. But it was a great night, glad you enjoyed it.

Q: Is the BC39 happening in 2021? I don’t see it being promoted or even listed as a 2021 event on the Speedway’s website.

Ken E., Geneva, IL

RM: From IMS president Doug Boles: At this point, we are still planning on having the BC39. We are hopeful it will be near the Brickyard weekend (although it could end up moving). We are trying to be considerate of the Knoxville Nationals and looking for a date that would work without too much impact on drivers that would do both and on NOS Energy (which sponsors both). Hopefully we will have a date announced in the next few weeks.”

For now, it’s all systems go on the 2021 BC39. Image via IndyCar

Q: Most of the complaints about oval racing for years have been that the racing is boring. Not much action or passing. All kinds of changes to the cars, both NASCAR and IndyCar have not produced good, side-by-side, passing and racing. TV viewers wait to watch the last laps to see any action at all. The whole oval format in USAC, POWRi etc., gives us a lot of real racing to watch. Go to your local tracks and see good racing for a good price. All the major racing venues have priced themselves out of the market to both the individual and the sponsors.

I think more short tracks for both NASCAR and IndyCar may wake up the fans. Start with the same format as USAC: time trials, heats, and race up to the A-main. Put on a good 2-3 hour show with a long enough A-main to have one pit stop. Leave plenty of time for commercials between races so each segment is not interrupted. The best show this year was the Chilli Bowl — a ton of great racing for a week, a full alphabet of qualifiers and great racing to the finish of the A-main on the final day. There is no simple solution to the lack of attendance, it’s gone downhill for a long time. Time to blow up the system, get rid of the gimmicks (stage racing, etc.) and put on a show the fans can actually get excited about.

Jack DeVience, Valparaiso, IN

RM: I thought Iowa had some good racing, as did Indy, and Gateway’s opener was also entertaining. You can’t have non-stop passing on every lap and when I think back to the ’70s and ’80s and there might be one or two cars on the lead lap, today’s oval shows are so much more competitive. But going to a midget/sprint format isn’t going to fly — not enough cars or money.

Q: Robin, I love IndyCar and am thankful that RACER exists and provides us Marshall Pruett and yourself to keep us informed about what is happening in IndyCar. This week we go into the final race of the season and the Dixon vs Newgarden fight for the championship at St. Pete. I love it!  The question I have has nothing to do with the race though, but I know you have had health challenges and simply wondering how you are doing. You and Shabrall Pruett are in our prayers and hope you both stay strong.

Jamie Roe

RM: Thanks for the kind thoughts, Jamie. I know Shabrall is making a strong recovery and walking again (she’s an ex-Marine and has quite a resolve) while I just visit the chemo train every few weeks and I feel fine for a 70-year-old retread.