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: It’s amazing to me that after such a devastating 2020 that the 2021 IndyCar field is expanding. This goes with all of the unknowns for attendance in 2021. How do you account for this? What happens if the coronavirus continues to deny fan participation?
RM: I was talking to David Letterman today about what’s going on in IndyCar for 2021 and we both confessed we were amazed the car count could be as high as 25 on a regular basis considering expenses, purses and how hard it is to find sponsorship. I think Jay Frye has done a good job of controlling costs, and between the Dallara’s raceability and the series’ equal engine footing, I think IndyCar is the best chance to buy a car, lease an engine and get a good driver/engineer package and be competitive right out of the box. Racers just want a chance to have a chance, and you can’t get that in F1 or NASCAR. As for the schedule, too early to say what the schedule may look like by the time we get to May, but IndyCar tracks must have spectators to survive.
Q: Thanks for a wonderful year of Robin Miller’s Mailbag. As for next year, can you share your predictions? Who will win the title? Which team and which driver will surprise? Who will be a surprise winner? Which team will disappoint? How many races will be shown live in Canada, and what percentage of Canadians will be pissed off because it is too few?
Anthony Jenkins, Toronto, Canada
RM: Colton Herta will take the championship, Josef Newgarden or Graham Rahal will finally win Indy, Pato O’Ward, Alex Palou, Jack Harvey and Rinus VeeKay will win their first races, and Scott McLaughlin will turn in some dazzling drives as a rookie. I hope Toronto gets to run, but that’s the only Canadian race in 2021. Because of the pandemic and fact we may all get a vaccine in the next couple months and IndyCar tracks are dependent on paying customers, I predict the season-opener will be at Barber on April 11 with St. Pete possibly moving back to the original Long Beach date of April 18 so it can sell as many tickets as possible.
Q: I have always held the view that had Juan Pablo Montoya had more reliability in 2000 he’d have won the championship in an inferior car. Do you agree, and what are some drivers that would have won the title had they had better reliability in any given season?
Nathan from Australia
RM: All I remember is watching him throw his SloLola-Toyota around Mid-Ohio with amazing reflexes when clearly the Reynard-Honda was the best combination that year. But JPM’s duel with Michael Andretti at Michigan remains one of the greatest of all time, and without six DNFs I’m sure JPM would have figured in the title hunt since nobody had more wins (three). But you could say that about Andretti almost every year when he was the Cosworth guinea pig, and in 1992 when he earned eight poles, five wins and finished second in the championship by four points because of five DNFs.
Q: We know that Scott Dixon is one of the best drivers in IndyCar history, and his long relationship of almost 20 years with Chip Ganassi is something that is no longer seen today, but I have always wondered if Roger Penske, knowing that he always looking to have the best drivers under his wing, ever tried to hire him, either for IndyCar or another category? Or never wanted to because of Dixon’s relationship with Ganassi?
Rodrigo Garcia, Santiago, Chile
RM: “Not really. Timing never seemed to be right. Seemed like we were always committed whenever he was coming up for renewals.” Tim Cindric, president of Penske Racing.
Q: My wife and I have been season ticket holders at Iowa Speedway since the place was built and attended an IndyCar race there every year, including this year. We saw a lot of damn good IndyCar racing on that fast bullring. We are disappointed to see such a fantastic facility go by the wayside. However, ARCA recently announced its schedule for 2021 and is racing there at the end of July. The July date fits IndyCar’s schedule quite nicely because there is a three-week lull between Toronto and Nashville, and it would be just before the Olympics. Since IndyCar shared that track with ARCA on a race weekend for many years, is there any chance IndyCar could share it again in 2021?
Mike Hickman, Beech Grove, IN
RM: Everyone was sad to lose Iowa, but that ARCA show is a NASCAR-only event and ISC is not interested in being the promoter for an IndyCar race. Roger Penske spent a lot of his own money keeping the series running in 2020, but he’s not interested in being the Iowa promoter again because it’s too expensive. Thanks for all your loyalty, but it appears yet another oval is history.
Q: How about a little love for Aaron Telitz? His first season driving a sports car and he not only had a couple wins, he finished third in the drivers’ title chase. The kid has talent and should be in IndyCar. I know you know this, but I wanted to put it out there again anyway.
Joe Weiss, Spooner, WI
RM: Well you just gave him a nice plug, but I know Marshall has been very complimentary in stories and podcasts throughout the season so RACER is in his corner, and maybe he’ll get an IndyCar shot some day soon with Vasser/Sullivan.
Q: I was asked the following question: “From a driver’s perspective, how close are the simulators to driving the actual car during a race?”
RM: Here’s a response from 2013 Indy 500 winner Tony Kanaan: “The sim is only good to learn the tracks. Graphics are awesome and to refresh for the racetrack — learn the right gears before we go to a race. As far as setups, I still think it’s a bit far away from the real thing.”