Robin Miller’s Mailbag for April 14, presented by Honda Racing / HPD

Robin Miller’s Mailbag for April 14, presented by Honda Racing / HPD


Robin Miller’s Mailbag for April 14, presented by Honda Racing / HPD


Q: First, an observation and then a question. I started watching the sport in 2006, so I have very little reference for the golden days. I will say that I share your optimism regarding the quality of the product. There are always more than 20 cars showing up to races, the series is competitive with very good drivers from top to bottom (no Marty Roths or Milka Dunos), the cars look and sound great, and the series is owned by a man whom I may or may not have written in for president in 2020. Now to my question (maybe you can farm this out to someone on the technical side). Aside from no wind, what weather conditions are ideal for outright lap times at Indy with the current cars?

Andrew, Falls Church, VA

RM: I’ll take a wild stab and say cool and overcast would be perfect.

Q: This question came to me while watching Peacock coverage of the Indy Open Test. Let me just start by saying what a great job by the NBC crew for broadcasting that. I paid the $5 a month for the service, with the intent more motorsports programming will be shown on Peacock. It’s actually a lot more cost-effective for race fans than buying the different motorsports options on NBC Sports Gold.

Now to my question. I don’t know the official name for it, but when was the last time that space between the outside pit wall and racetrack was used by crew members? I remember back as early as the 2000s there would be a bunch of guys standing there the whole race with pit boards and what-not. If the cars came close or there was a crash they would duck since they are so close to the action. If I remember right, that area is no longer used by the crew members during the race. Any particular reason for this? Safety? Advancements in communication make that area unnecessary? I ask because I feel like standing in that small space right next to the front straight must be an amazing sport for the crew members to see the race from.

Brett B.

RM: I guess it was the mid-2000s but that was a danger zone and disaster was averted in 1986 when there was a crash in pit lane on Carb Day that almost ate a couple of board men. So, yes, it was about safety, but also the driver no longer needed to see the pit board — he had a radio and all the telemetry he needed on his dashboard.

Q: Assuming by the time this makes it into the next Mailbag, we are five days away from IndyCar racing at Barber. Jimmie Johnson is soon to make his much-anticipated debut, and we are eager to see how he can do. With that said, I wanted to ask about Jimmie’s former HMS teammate and co-car owner, and my childhood favorite: Jeff Gordon. Every serious race fan knows that JG grew up aspiring to race in the Indy 500, but just didn’t have it financially to make it to that level, and therefore went the Xfinity Series, and Cup Series routes. We all know how that turned out. Do you ever wish you could turn back time and go back to the late ’80s or early ’90s, and maybe he could’ve somehow or someway gotten a chance in IndyCar?

Kevin P.

RM: First of all, he and John Bickford didn’t take any money to NASCAR, those people were just smart enough to snatch him up and put him in a car. Hell yes I wish Jeff could have run Indy cars (especially IMS), because he was so good and smooth at Salem and Winchester and he would have been a star. Maybe not as big as he became in NASCAR, and certainly not as rich, but he wanted to be an IndyCar driver — nobody wanted to give him a shot.

Sometimes, late at night, when the rest of the NASCAR garage was empty, Gordon could be alone with his thoughts. “This is OK,” he’d say to himself. “But it’s no Cleveland.” Motorsport Images

Q: I’ve been reading in the last couple of Mailbags about pit road speeds in IndyCar but I also remember when NASCAR implemented the speed limit after Bill Elliott’s tire changer Mike Rich was fatally injured at Atlanta in 1990. I was watching that race on TV and because Elliott was leading at the time, they were on camera. I saw Rudd coming backwards towards Elliott after locking up his rear brakes and going around. You knew what was going to happen. Rich got pancaked in there. He never knew what hit him. I still get sick just thinking about it.

Was that the impetus for pit speeds in IndyCar? We talk a lot about safety, and us old-timers remember when it wasn’t anywhere near what it is today. You and I have discussed this. A lot of IndyCar drivers, past and present, need to give deep thanks to Wally Dallenbach, Sr., and Drs. Trammell and Olvey for their safety innovations that give them a fighting chance to survive a heavy wreck. As a longtime fan, I certainly do. Be well. See you next month!

Jim Mulcare, Westbury, NY

RM: Like we said last week, when Michael and Emmo tangled in pit lane at Long Beach in 1991 I think that’s when CART decided to introduce speed limits that were adjusted for the size of the track/pits. Wally is going into the Motorsport Hall of Fame this September and Olvey and Trammell have been nominated, and everybody making a living today owes those three a debt of gratitude for their pioneering efforts.

Q: I enjoyed the announcement about McLaren reviving the Peter Revson No. 86 and livery for Juan Pablo Montoya’s 2021 IndyCar entry. Have you heard anything from IndyCar leadership about having a special throwback livery event (similar to NASCAR’s Darlington race) where they bring back legacy liveries for the race? It would be cool to see the Johnny Lightning graphics again. Or Olsonite. Or the bright red STP paint job. Sunoco. Marlboro. Even the SugarRipe Prune Special. I’m not exactly sure how you’d make it work and still respect the current sponsors, but maybe NAPA could adopt the Johnny Lightning livery for Alexander Rossi, since both use blue/yellow colors. Perhaps have this promotion for the August Indy road course event? What do you think?

Brad from Powder Springs

RM: Never been discussed to my knowledge, and it would be tricky to do in May unless you used the road race. It’s tough enough to get and keep sponsors, so I don’t know that throwback paint schemes would be real popular except for maybe a few guys my age.

Q: Don’t some drivers just learn how to win the 500? They just know how to drive it for 200 laps. Al Sr. and Wheldon come to mind. I just have a feeling that JPM is going to win this race and he fits in that group!

Dan, Lima, OH

RM: A.J., Rick Mears and Big Al obviously had it figured out, and Dario seemed to have a perfect mentality for 500 miles as well. Montoya didn’t lead until the end in 2015 and that’s always one of the marks of an “Indy” driver.

IndyCar Setup Sheet