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: I just read Marshall Pruett’s latest IndyCar silly season update and find the Santino Ferrucci situation very frustrating. He’s fast, seems personable and ought to be one of the rising stars to carry the sport into the future. In another article, Charlie Kimball is quoted as saying “everyone is looking at the same seats, with more or less the same budget to bring.” My question is, what is the owner’s ask, and what is the driver’s bid? In the past I’ve read numbers as low as $4 million and as high as $8 million. Between you and Marshall, someone has to have some idea what the numbers are. There certainly seems to be a substantial gap to overcome.
RM: Losing Santino to NASCAR isn’t good because he’s fast, fearless and personable with a bright future. We’ve always been led to believe that $2 million could secure a ride with Dale Coyne (at least that’s what Santino supposedly brought) and it’s a sliding scale with Ganassi at the top (maybe $4-5 million), followed by Andretti (supposedly Ferrucci was offered a seat there for $4m for 2021). Roger Penske doesn’t take money and never has; he always hires his drivers. But I imagine if you have $2 million, you can get to the front of the line with Coyne or Carlin.
Q: Thanks for keeping all of us fans up to date with your knowledge of the drivers, tracks and history. Just curious about fallout from the Grosjean incident. I’ve always wondered why F1 is the only series (to my knowledge) to follow the field on Lap 1 with a medical car? Don’t remember the exact number of seconds, but those guys in the medical car arrived to help Grosjean quite quickly and were obviously a factor in his (and obviously any similar future incidents’) safe outcome. Do you see IndyCar or other series adopting a medical car procedure a la F1, now that its worth has been quite tangibly proven? Did you ever have the opportunity to meet Sid Watkins or any of his colleagues in the racing medical discipline?
Marty, Belmont, CA
RM: No, IndyCar’s safety crews have been the best since CART began making it a priority in the late ’80s, and they have the necessary equipment and training to rescue a driver as quick as possible. The F1 guys helped Grosjean out of harm’s way, but thankfully he wasn’t unconscious because I’m not sure what they could have done if that was the situation.
Q: I just read the article about Grosjean being hesitant (at least for now) about coming to the States to race for Foyt next year. I can understand his reasons. Who else does Larry Foyt have in the pipeline for that seat? Would Charlie Kimball return, or is there someone else?
RM: I think Dalton Kellett is returning to team with Seb, and I guess Larry and A.J. would run a third car if the money was right. But I’m kinda hopin’ they stick to two and concentrate on Seb.
Q: In this age of conspiracies, could Mercedes’ tire mix-up, perhaps robbing George Russell of his first Formula 1 win or at the very least a podium appearance, been some dastardly deed to protect Lewis Hamilton’s image?
RM: Probably not, but I like the way you think. And it sure makes you wonder how many other guys on the grid could kick ass in that car.
Q: Enjoyed your article on Donald Davidson. Back in 1989, I was the successful bidder on all three of the Whittington brothers Indy cars at a federal government auction. While I have been a huge fan of Indy car racing virtually from birth, I needed some information and called Donald. Very helpful, friendly and gave me great insight about what the paddock thought of the Whittingtons when they showed up. Also I was lucky to get a picture of myself with him and Andy Granatelli in the speedway museum in 2007, which I treasure today. Do you think he’ll continue his radio show in May? Always enjoy your stories; please don’t retire!
Jim Wilson, St. Augustine, FL
RM: No doubt Donald is a treasure, and I cannot tell you how many enlightening conversations I’ve had with him during the past five decades. Not sure about him continuing the radio show, but hopefully he’ll still be part of the Indy 500 broadcast for IMS radio.
Q: To the best of my knowledge, the 2020 Robin Miller Award has not yet been awarded. In light of Donald Davidson’s upcoming retirement, it seems only fitting that he be named the recipient for this year. Agree? Best wishes for a safe and peaceful holiday season and a better 2021.
Mike Fox, Kalamazoo, MI
RM: I think it’s a great idea because nobody has done more to promote the Indy 500 than Donald, and it’s been his life for 56 years.
Q: Looking forward to your annual Christmas gift guide video. Have you spoken to Evi Gurney lately about the status of Dan’s autobiography? It’s been years since we first heard about it, and I’m hoping I’m still around when/if it’s finally published.
Rick Johnson, Lynnwood, WA
RM: Evi is working hard to have the first of two (Dan’s driving career) books done by this summer, and she’s sorting through and editing all the photos as we speak. Xmas video will be made this weekend.