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: First, I hope you are doing well and staying safe! After reading the Andretti Autosport announcement that Colton Herta is moving into the No. 26 Gainbridge Honda, I’m wondering what that means for Hinch? I thought he was all but confirmed in the No. 26 for 2021? Will he take the No. 88 (essentially a swap), or is he now looking for a ride?
Rob Pobiega, Lemont, IL
RM: I think Genesys will be Hinch’s primary sponsor for Andretti, and it will be for the full season and be announced early in 2021. I’m fine thanks, and too old to do anything fun or dangerous.
Q: With Herta moving to the No. 26 car does that mean the No. 88 is in danger of not running in 2021?
RM: I guess it depends on whether George Michael Steinbrenner IV and Mike Harding stay involved. It kinda sounded like Colton was thanking young Steinbrenner for helping him get to the top in the press release, like maybe they were done as a team, but hopefully we’ll still see him around.
Q: Thanks for the great weekly updates on everything happening in IndyCar. We folks in Canada love our local boy, James Hinchliffe. Has it been announced that he has a full-time ride for the 2021 season? If not, what do you see in his racing future, besides working with you at NBC?
Steve, Windsor, Ontario, Canada
RM: I said in my earlier answer that I think Hinch is set, but I know he wants to stay racing as long as possible before he turns to television to make a living. I just hope he lets me drive him around after he and Little E take over NBC.
Q: What has happened to Oliver Askew? Has he been cast away by IndyCar because of his accident?
RM: He still wants to run IndyCar but not a lot out there at the moment, so in the meantime he has a ride for IMSA’s endurance races.
Q: Formula 1 races all over the world. When was the last time that IndyCar raced outside of the United States?
Chris Fiegler, Latham, NY
RM: If you count Canada it’s 2019, but otherwise it was Sao Paulo, Brazil in 2012.
Q: What is the status of the new Indy car coming in 2023? Also, what are the chances of the apron being added in the next couple of years?
RM: Haven’t heard a word about the apron for a long time so I imagine it’s a real long shot, and the next car’s status is chronicled in this story Marshall wrote in June.
Q: Thanks so much for the excellent Xmas gift list. What a great year for racing books! Could you please recommend which book focused on Offy engines I should get first?
Having been to the first Long Beach Grand Prix and many more, and having listened to the establishment members of the Can-Am paddock react to the first Shadow in the pits, and getting to listen to the small Shadow group as they set up the car, I know which two off your list I have to start with. Merry Christmas Robin, and from the bottom of our hearts we thank you for your tremendous gift of accurately communicating the passion of real racing.
RM: None of those books focus on the Offy and I’m not sure any of them even mention it, but you can try and find a book simply titled ‘Offenhauser’ written by Gordon White.
Q: One of the questions in a previous Mailbag included a tantalizing reference to “what the paddock thought of the Whittingtons.” I’m mainly familiar the story of their later legal woes, but you don’t get three cars qualified for Indy on just dumb luck. Could you elucidate on the relationship between the Whittington brothers and their competitors?
Ben Malec, Buffalo Grove, IL
RM: No, but you can get three cars qualified if you have cheater engines, and that was always the story. I played golf with Don once and he was OK, but nobody seemed to know much about any of them and I think they were reclusive for a reason. One Indy legend used to say they were “nice boys” who made their money off trailer parks. Sure they did. That’s why they paid cash for a Cosworth.
Q: Just curious to know if there was ever a time when you questioned what you were doing by writing about the races and the drivers. What drivers that we have lost affected you the most? Have you ever witnessed a year that you will more glad to see over than 2020? Here’s to a much better 2021!
RM: Art Pollard got me started racing and his death in 1973 at Indy was the first time I ever lost someone close to me, so obviously it hit pretty hard. We played basketball, baseball and poker together, plus went to concerts with his wife Pat, and he was just so much fun to be around. I think we were all glad to see the end of 1966 (six USAC drivers were killed that season), and 1973 because May was so brutal.