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: As a fan of all forms of major motorsports, I end up reading and listening to a variety of different sources of information (with RACER.com being my No.1!). With that said, I saw a confusing (to me) video today about another ‘new’ IndyCar team — and it seemed extremely preposterous. So, I have to go the best source in all of motorsports. Is there anything to NASCAR team Rick Ware Racing expanding into IndyCar?
RM: Ware Racing competed in this year’s Indy 500 with James Davison, and partner David Byrd and Rick Ware also ran Davison with Byrd in 13 Cup races in 2020. The trio plans to run more NASCAR in 2021, but not sure RWR has any Indy plans.
Q: Is Rick Ware Racing going to join IndyCar? His social media shows him taking delivery of and housing a 2020 spec Honda IndyCar at his race shop.
Rob Peterson, Rochester, NY
RM: Please read my answer above your question. All I know is that I emailed him and asked if he had any plans to run the 2021 Indy 500, and I’m waiting on a response. He’s a NASCAR regular but was evidently blown away by the whole Indy 500 experience. Just think if 250,000 people had been there.
Q: I’m sure that all the Jimmie Johnson questions must seem kinda repetitive at this point, so I’ll attempt to make this one somewhat different. We’ve seen what feels like a full heat race worth of IndyCar and open-wheel drivers switching to NASCAR full-time. Between Tony Stewart, Robby Gordon, Sam Hornish Jr., John Andretti, Danica, JPM, hell I think Dario even made the switch briefly, it feels like this has always been a one-way street. Who was the last person to go the opposite way — into IndyCar — for more than just a one-off race? Could this be seen as an indication that IndyCar is catching back up to NASCAR in terms of nationwide popularity, or do you view this to be a one-off?
Michael in Brownsburg
RM: I guess we’d have to go all the way back to 1971, when Cale Yarborough ran the USAC championship trail full-time with Gene White and Lloyd Ruby as his teammate. Cale finished fifth at Trenton and Michigan and wound up 16th in the point standings and drew rave reviews. “Put that boy in a good car and he’d be right up there,” said ‘ol Rube. Donnie Allison also ran four times for A.J. Foyt that season and scored a sixth at Indianapolis. Lee Roy Yarbrough damn near won the inaugural California 500 in 1970, finished third at Trenton in 1971 and was a two-time Indy 500 starter — qualifying eighth in 1969 – as just a part-timer. But J.J.’s move doesn’t signal anything except a stock-car champion who wants to try something else and has the financial security, savvy and balls to step outside his comfort zone.
Q: Been a big fan of your Mailbag for many years, and a huge fan of IndyCar since the late ’90s over in the UK. I was wondering about your thoughts on driver age? Over here in Europe, any racer over 35 is repeatedly asked about retirement plans, but in the U.S. it’s all about performance and not age. With a lot of the top names in IndyCar (Power, RHR, Bourdais, Dixon, Sato) in the 39-43 age range, how long do you see them continuing? I recall Emmo winning Indy at 46 (should have at 47, too), being on the front row at Nazareth ’96 at 49, Mario leading the most laps at Indy at 53, and finishing second at Le Mans at 55. I’d love to see the top guys keep going as long as they are fast. Who from the current crop do you see driving successfully into their late 40s in IndyCar?
RM: I don’t know about late 40s in IndyCar — that trend went away with A.J., Mario, Rutherford, Johncock and the Unser brothers, and the youth movement is in full swing today. But the guys you mentioned could certainly drive sports cars until they’re 50 if they so desire, and there never seems to be an age limit for Indianapolis success, so I imagine if they had a good ride that running IMS in their late 40s isn’t out of the question.
Q: Your ‘What’s the point of points’ article was spot-on! I tip my hat to you for writing what I have believed since I became a race fan 60+ years ago. The champion is the driver who wins the most races in a season. Period. No stages, no most laps led, no lead a lap, no fastest race lap, no qualifying, no double (have I missed any?) points allowed. Al Davis (Oakland Raiders former head coach) said it best: “Just win, baby!” All the rest of the schemes are BS. There can be just one winner.
If a point system must be used, I thought the best one was F1’s 1991-2002, 10-6-4-3-2-1 system. It put the most emphasis on winning. One of the worst, as you wrote, was NASCAR’s 175, 170, 165, etc., with a five-point bonus for leading the most laps in a race. Do you know it would have been mathematically possible for a driver to win all the races in a season but one, and finish second in that one race, and not be the champion? Absolutely ridiculous. The criteria that should be used to determine a champion are: 1) most wins, and, 2) if tied in wins, any points system you desire. Also, divide the prize money any way you wish.
I understand, as you do, the need for a points system to keep casual fans interested to the end of the season. A playoff system allows for a ‘random’ champion. But to purists like you and I, we can derive much pleasure from watching one driver dominate over the others because of his mastery of the skills that all the other drivers in the races also supposedly possess. A driver should not be punished by a point system because of his success. Will IndyCar maintain its philosophy?
RM: Thanks Bill. I don’t think Jay Frye is a big fan of double points in the season finale so maybe he can convince R.P. to leave it in the trash can, and I think the current point system works just fine and will stay in place.
Q: I saw your response a few months back to the idea of a roval at IMS. Though I agree with you that the traditional road course has some good racing, would a roval race, in a doubleheader weekend (one road course race and one short oval/roval), not be a cool way to add another oval to the schedule? The audience is captive, the audience seeks an oval, and it might be a cool race. When you look at a Google Earth image of IMS, not many modifications to the road course would be needed. All we hear in these responses is “we need more ovals!” Would it ever even be considered?
Tim Gleason, Chicago
RM: I can’t speak for R.P. but I think he’s in favor of having one oval race a year at IMS because it’s special and that’s why 250,000 people come to the track. But I suppose anything is possible next year depending on the COVID situation and if tracks are needed.