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 email@example.com. 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: While watching the 12 Hours of Sebring this past weekend, I couldn’t help but notice all the familiar names from the Road to Indy system that never quite made it to IndyCar. In your opinion, if you could choose only one from the modern era, who is the one driver from the Road to Indy you felt deserved and earned a shot in an IndyCar but never got it?
RM: That would be a tie between David Empringham and Lee Bentham. Empringham won back-to-back Formula Atlantic titles and never got a sniff and Bentham was the 1998 Atlantic champ who tested for Player’s and posted the best lap time, but was passed over because he wasn’t French-Canadian.
Q: What are your thoughts on IndyCar giving Chico Perez a ride if he can’t get an F1 ride for 2021? He is a pretty good driver with a large following. Disenfranchised fans will follow him there. IndyCar needs to embrace this theme of F1 rejects dumping ground. That’s actually pretty good marketing and publicity for IndyCar.
Jon L., Chicago, IL
RM: Perez finished second last weekend at Turkey but has no ride for 2021, yet doesn’t sound like he’s finished with Formula 1. I imagine if IndyCar had a race scheduled for Mexico City it could provide him a good, one-off, opportunity, but to my knowledge he’s never said anything about IndyCar.
Q: It’s been a long time since an American has won an open-wheel series in Europe – not since Scott Speed. There were three drivers who had the potential to do it this year: Logan Sargeant just came short in FIA Formula 3, losing the title by four points. That was very heartbreaking. But not as heartbreaking as when Houston’s Jak Crawford (aka “JetPak”) – one of Helmut Marko’s boys – needed only one position to win the German Formula 4 title, only to lose out by two points.
But the best of all consolations and a great relief was Maryland native Kaylen Frederick joining legendary greats like Derek Daly, Ayrton Senna, Mauricio Gulgemin, Rubens Barrichello, Jan Magnussen, Gil De Ferran, Takuma Sato and Jack Harvey – all winners of the British Formula 3 title.
I recall other American talent such as Charlie Kimball, Richard Antinucci, Michael Lewis, Colton Herta, Josef Newgarden, Puerto Rico’s Felix Serralles, Conor Daly, and Alexander Rossi who gave it all they had just to win in an open-wheel series in Europe.
After hearing that Belardi are closing their doors, will Carlin have a plan to expand back into the Indy Lights series? It will be interesting if Carlin can bring back Frederick into the US even though he will be thinking about FIA F3 and Euro Formula in 2021.
And also: After Jack Harvey, a champion in 2012, who overheard the celebration of Frederick, what is the IndyCar Paddock thinking about the historical win for an American in Europe?
JLS, Chicago, IL
RM: I haven’t seen or spoken to Trevor in a year, but it seems like he’s concentrating on getting the finances in line to run a pair of Indy cars in 2021 so Lights aren’t likely a priority.
To be honest, I doubt if 10 people in the IndyCar paddock have any idea who Kaylen Frederick is or what he accomplished but I appreciate the report.
Q: I just saw an article that NASCAR has selected an official sports betting partner. I think IndyCar needs to do the same thing. I have spent years driving by the Santa Anita racetrack. A huge crowd goes there to watch little people ride horses. Horse racing is not that interesting, but being able to wager 20 bucks on something may increase one’s interest. IndyCar racing is far more interesting. And the technology is interesting. Why can’t IndyCar find a way to allow some betting on outcomes?
I don’t gamble, but the sport I love needs to grow. Just an idea.
BTW, thanks to RACER for keeping IndyCar in the news. They need everything they can get.
John P, Glendora, CA
RM: Yep, NASCAR signed a multi-year deal with Wynn Resorts and that’s exactly what IndyCar needs and has unsuccessfully tried to put together for the past year. There are a few internet sites that take IndyCar action, but there is zero promotion so nobody knows (though I imagine that, since NASCAR stomps IndyCar in TV ratings, it was a much easier sell).
Q: I’d say it’s 60/40 that Jimmy Johnson runs the Indy 500 in 2021. What’s your take? I know his agreement with his wife is ‘no ovals’, but I can’t imagine that once Jimmy gets to the Speedway for practice and is immersed in the atmosphere that he won’t attempt to broker a new deal with the family. He just seems so genuinely excited about his IndyCar experience so far that even his wife will have a hard time asking him the skip the 500.
Also, sending healing vibes your way.
RM: If I was a betting man (oh yeah, I am!), I’d say 75-25 that JJ runs the Indy 500. He’ll simply tell his wife he’s fishing with the boys that weekend and sneak away to IMS. He’d have a shot at being competitive because his success came on oval tracks.
Q: Been reading for a long time and never felt the need to write until now. The schedule for next year has upset me just a little bit. Why did IndyCar move the St. Pete race from the second weekend of March to the first weekend in March? I thought I had the perfect vacation planned to go down to watch St. Pete; spend some time in Orlando during the week; then spend the following weekend at Sebring for the WEC/12-hour doubleheader. But IndyCar spoiled my plan.
I did the 12-hour/St. Pete doubleheader in 2013 and it was a great week of racing. Guess I’ll skip St. Pete next year to see the debut of the Hypercars.
Martin H., Alabama
RM: Simple answer: National television. NBC had an opening. Season opener. No brainer.