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: The decision to move the series finale to Long Beach is so obvious that it’s genius! ‘Genius’ in that I don’t remember it ever being mentioned in the Mailbag (or any other forum) during the annual “armchair season finale locale debates.” What was the revelation that all of a sudden made this an option, because if it were straightforward somebody would have thought it up long ago? I’m sure you have the insight and history to enlighten us.
Scott B., Gainesville, FL
RM: As Jim Michaelian stated in our story on Monday, the option of no fans or only 25 percent capacity was unacceptable and moving to September for the IndyCar finale was a great option — providing the city and all your partners and other series were on board. But California’s stringent shutdown and pending hangover were the catalysts for moving to the spring.
Q: I jumped for joy when I read that the Long Beach GP is moving to late September next year. This, I hope, will ensure we have the race next season. (I could not see how life would be back to normal enough here to have my home race in its usual April slot.) And the LBGP is now the 2021 finale. Yippee! Was it a misprint that the event is two days instead of three? With the other series involved, that will make it a jam-packed weekend.
RM: The reaction was overwhelmingly positive, and it will be its usual three-day event.
Q: Just saw that Long Beach shifted to September and that got me to looking at the schedule again. Something has to be sandwiched between March 7 (St. Pete) and April 11 (Barber). Five weeks is beyond reasonable. At my age I forget things daily, but everyone will forget St. Pete by the time Barber throws the green flag. So I submit, since we tried NOLA one time, let’s go to Daytona and run the roval on March 28 a week after Sebring. Snowbirds and spring breakers are still here. Imagine the teams trying to set up the race car. Oval or road course? Since they use about 90% of the oval I guess lean that way, and however you handle on the road course, so be it. It would be fun to watch. What say you? Good way to stay in the south between St Pete and Barber. Let’s try it. Can you make it happen?
RM: I don’t think IndyCar or NASCAR are in any position right now to start adding races, let’s wait and see if the season gets going in Florida and Alabama. They might both opt to move like Long Beach if it means being allowed regular attendance. But I don’t see Daytona as being a particularly good option for racing or fans.
Q: John Ourand at Sports Business Daily reported that NBCSN likely would be folded up by November 2021 (in other words, after the Summer Olympics), and that NBCSN’s two big sports properties, the NHL and the Premier League, would be moved to Peacock, where they’d be kept behind the paywall, and USA. This is apparently an open secret within the business; various observers have described the folding of NBCSN as “one of the worst-kept secrets” in the sports media industry. Have you heard about this, and should it come to pass, what would it mean for IndyCar coverage? Does it suggest that NBC is less likely to renew its IndyCar deal? Would the NBC Gold package go away? Would IndyCar get squeezed out onto USA? Would it be good for IndyCar to be pushed to yet another streaming service for which non-Comcast viewers would have to pay a monthly premium?
Mitchell, Plymouth, MN
RM: I’ve heard rumblings that NBCSN might go away after 2021 but those decisions are way above my pay grade, and I think NBC Gold will be around for the 2021 IndyCar season. Nobody knows what the future holds for IndyCar on NBC, but we’re lucky to have a partner that promotes as much and as well as The Peacock. You might see IMS Productions become more involved in the races down the road but NBC made a commitment to become the auto racing channel, and it seems to be satisfied with its partners. And I can’t see any benefit of IndyCar going to another cable network.
Q: So in your opinion, what were the five things IndyCar got right this year?
D. Krueger, West Allis, WI
RM: Selling the series to Roger Penske, creating doubleheaders to make sure there were 14 races, taking a conservative approach to future car and engine rules, not red-flagging Indy and adding the Nashville street race for 2021.
Q: I know you don’t cover F1, but I’ll ask this question anyway since it applies to what happened at Road America too. If you have an Armco barrier, it’s there for a reason. Even if there is a low probability of hitting it, shouldn’t they all have a SAFER Barrier? Do you think the windscreen would have saved an IndyCar driver from the Grosjean crash? I don’t think it would have.
RM: A well-constructed Armco barrier in a low-speed corner or a place where accidents seldom happen would seem to be just as effective as a SAFER Barrier. The one in Bahrain was defective, or there’s never even a discussion about fences or roll hoops. And I have no idea if the Aeroscreen would have protected a driver in a similar crash, but it’s made to deflect and it’s pretty damn stout so maybe it would have.