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 email@example.com. 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: I gotta admit that I thought your pre-season prediction about the IndyCar youth takeover was a little extreme, but four races in, it looks like you’re a genius! Palou, Herta and O’Ward in the winners circle but no Team Penske? Will the trend continue? And what say you about the Texas weekend? I understand that IndyCar is desperate to keep some ovals on the schedule, but the high-banked 1.5-mile TMS has never been a good fit for these cars. I guess some people liked the crazy pack racing back in the IRL days, but I think it was just luck that we never had a Las Vegas-style disaster there. Since then, the racing has been mediocre at best and the crowds have steadily dwindled.
The past couple of years, that PJ1 compound has made it basically a one-groove track. Passes had better get completed before the turn or somebody’s going to be sliding up to the wall. This place has become IndyCar’s equivalent of the Talladega wild card. When I think about IndyCar ovals from the “good old days,” it’s tracks like Milwaukee, Phoenix and Pocono, but I’m well aware of the failed attempts to revive these venues over the past decade or so. Maybe it’s time to accept that we have the Indy 500 and Gateway, and that’s OK for now. If we stopped trying to force TMS to work, maybe COTA would have a fighting chance, especially when the new engine formula takes effect. It’s always worth exploring new venues when it’s the right fit and you have an aggressive promoter, as is the case with Gateway. But I think it’s time to give up on TMS. What’s your counterpoint?
Alan, St. Petersburg, FL
RM: Yes, I still think Harvey, Veekay and McLaughlin will join the first-timers and I still think Dixie is going to have to fight Colton and Pato to the very end for the title. As for Texas, its time has passed and the crowds are as embarrassing as the racing has been lately. Sure, there were a couple bold moves by Rahal, O’Ward and Dixon, but unless the track changes, why keep going?
Q: I was irate Saturday night. By Sunday I was just depressed, and by Sunday night I was ecstatic, mainly for Pato. Aided by race length and yellows, all IndyCar teams and drivers need to be roundly praised for putting on a good show in the last 100 laps on an otherwise shameless excuse for a racetrack. Texas Motor Speedway has continued to slap its fans in the face with this Trackbite garbage. You’ve known for at least a year that these cars cannot drive over Eddie’s NASCAR-approved track muck, and TMS/SMI did nothing except a futile attempt at removing it. Was there any thought to maybe just resealing the corners to get rid of it, and not produce a farce of a track?
As for IndyCar leadership, how on earth can you schedule two races in a weekend and offer no procedure for when qualifying gets canceled? Completely unfair to teams to have the Sunday race set by points. There was no track activity all morning/day on Sunday, and kudos to Alexander Rossi for saying what we were all annoyed with out loud. There’s nothing wrong with IndyCar’s package or the tires, yet thanks to Texas they were made to attempt psychotic squeeze passes because there’s an oil slick on the outside. Once again, thank you to IndyCar’s drivers for being selfless maniacs, and curses on Texas Motor Speedway for treating IndyCar like a tractor pull.
Greg in NJ
RM: NASCAR is Texas’s cash cow, and with the paltry IndyCar attendance I can’t imagine spending any more money than necessary. As for not having qualifying, that sucked too.
Q: Robin, after the IndyCar races at Texas this weekend I am seeing a lot of comments from fans on this track. I thought the races were good, but a lot of people seem to think that instead of racing on the oval, they should go down to COTA. I’m all for Indy cars being there and I agree Texas has its problems. However, the idea of moving to COTA instead of Texas Motor Speedway annoys me. If they are going to leave the Texas oval than move to another one, preferably in the Midwest. It seems like they always want to run on ovals in the southern part of the United States. I like the south, but there are not that many IndyCar fans there. Whenever Indy cars run on ovals in the South they almost never have a big turnout. Look at St. Louis, a Midwestern oval that draws people.
If IndyCar gets away from Texas, I would like to see it on Chicagoland Speedway. It’s very close to Indianapolis and a lot of people would go there. I realize it’s probably not going to happen. However moving from the oval in Texas to another road course would be a huge letdown. I know there was not a big crowd there, and I don’t understand it. IndyCars on ovals is the best racing that exists today. They are fast, sleek and exciting. That’s why people should watch a race – for excitement. That’s my opinion.
Matthew Sutton, Indianapolis, IN
RM: Well, COTA tried IndyCar in 2019 and didn’t get much of a turnout, so now they’re going with NASCAR and I imagine the place will be packed. Ovals are dead regardless of what part of the country we’re talking. Nobody cares because nobody goes. Yes, they’re IndyCar’s heritage, but I can easily see Indy and Gateway as the only two left standing. But there have been many exciting road and street course races during the past few years.