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: Let me be one of the many to say congratulations for your selection into the Motorsports Hall of Fame. Well deserved, for sure. As I read the Mailbag or one of your stories, it’s like I am having a conversation with A.J., P.J., Mario, or others, as you ask them questions I would. As you share these conversations with us, it fells like we are having a casual conversation with the racers we admire. Thanks for that!
My question as we look to Barber and that start of IndyCar is, are we going to see anyone who can beat Dixon, and can J.J. finish in the top 10 at any race? If he becomes a backmarker, does he pull the plug?
Harold, Dayton, Ohio
RM: Thanks for your kind note and for supporting the Mailbag. Dixie will be stout as always, but I pick Colton Herta to dethrone him after winning a close battle with Pato O’Ward. I think if Jimmie Johnson finished on the lead lap it would be like a victory, because he’s definitely going to be a backmarker. It’s going to be very tough, and he knows it. But he’s in for at least two years, and I admire his pluck.
Q: I apologize if you have already answered this… I just came on. However, is the Indy 500 this year going to be restricted to a percentage of fans, or will we all be able to go?
RM: Too early to know what kind of percentage might be allowed in, but The Captain is planning on fans and Mark Miles hopes for at least 150,000.
Q: Short and sweet here Robin, hopefully it makes the bag! The 2021 season is shaping up decently. We’ve got two dozen full-time cars and lots of interesting Indy entries. To have JPM, Helio, Simona, etc., in good rides should be nice. Schedule seems to be adjusted to what’s going on. Hopefully by 2022 I can get to a race again (likely via jet liner, with nothing in the Northeast). Who are you picking to win the title? Most importantly, congratulations on the Motorsports HOF induction! You are completely deserving, and here is why. Your writing and numerous weekly TV appearances, whether through ESPN, RACER, Wind Tunnel, etc. were often the only focused news and gossip coverage IndyCar racing received.
I cannot begin to thank you for literally keeping the sport alive for people like me who grew so despondent during the split years. You always broke wild stories, provided insight when often there was none, and your bi-annual or so stories on unification for years held hope for many of us that the dopes running things would get it together. Please don’t ever retire, and write that damn tell-all book!
Greg from Belleville, NJ
RM: I think 2021 is going to be the changing of the guard with little Hertamania and Pato resuming their Indy Lights duel to decide the NTT Series championship. They are still learning ovals, but there are only four of them and nobody is quicker on street or road courses, so the Kiddie Korps finishes 1-2. Thanks for your kind words.
Q: I was wondering if it is funding or maturity that is preventing Sage and VK from getting full-time rides or even partial rides in 2021? Seems like there is a higher ceiling with VK and Sage than Jones, Grosjean, and others? The new era of racing is less about your talent and finishing in top 5-10, but the budget you can provide. Will this new driver formula provide the side stories and action that we had with P.T. or Robby Gordon?
Todd from MI
RM: Not sure who VK is, but Sage is a confounding story because he started out so good and Dario was one of his biggest supporters, but after his year with Ganassi it just seemed like owners forgot about him. He’s still a kid and Dennis Reinbold believes in him, and would run him full-time if the budget ever came together. But Coyne hired those two guys because they brought money, and I don’t expect any fireworks like P.T. and Gordo delivered.
Q: I have been following the ongoing team changes, including the most recent developments at Dale Coyne/Rick Ware Racing. My question is a simple one. Is the starting grid (besides the Indy 500) growing too large for the tracks?
RM: Oh no, CART accommodated 27-28 cars back in the ’90s. It’s tight at places like Mid-Ohio with 24-25 cars, but doable.