Robin Miller’s Mailbag for May 26, presented by Honda Racing / HPD

Robin Miller’s Mailbag for May 26, presented by Honda Racing / HPD

Insights & Analysis

Robin Miller’s Mailbag for May 26, presented by Honda Racing / HPD


Q: Will Power mega-fan here. Now that I have taken my first deep breath since Friday morning, I can’t help but feel the desire to immaturely point fingers. Is it me, or has the 12 crew been playing musical chairs with key positions since 2017? From 2009 through 2016 it was Willy P and Tim Cindric against the world. Totally synched, IndyCar champs, more poles than anyone. Then Newgarden joined the team and they sent Cindric to Josef’s pit. Not ideal for the 12, but OK.

In 2018 The Captain took over and Rocket was his spotter. Until the month of May that is, because then Roger and Rick left to go to Helio’s crew. All right, disappointing but understandable. Then came Jon Bouslog. Indy 500 champions. Elation beyond belief. Next year: so long, Jon Bouslog. Followed by two non-stellar years for the 12 car and yet another strategist shuffle between The Captain and Ron Ruzewski.

Now Bouslog’s back, and they send him to McLaughlin’s pit along with Mears and longtime Power crewman Matt Jonsson. I know Dave Faustino is maybe the only variable that matters to Will. But for God’s sake, he’s the winningest driver in Penske history and he is consistently getting his crew switched around and receiving the “he’ll be fine” treatment from the team. This past weekend showed he won’t be fine. Not to knock Ruzewski, and I understand everyone at Penske is talented, but the only reason that car is in the show is because of Will’s bravery in Turn 2. What does a guy have to do to get some consistency in his garage?

Grant V. from MN

RM: It has been musical chairs for WP, but he and Faustino have stayed together and I think that’s the most important element. Obviously, the whole team is scratching its head this month, and I’ll admit this is the first time I’ve not considered Penske as being one of the favorites.

Q: It’s great we’re finally achieving car counts greater than the 33 available slots for the Indy 500 and made Bump Day interesting again. You never can tell who will run into trouble – take Will Power on the brink of not making the field this year, or Alonso not making the field two years ago.

So, I was wondering – since 1960, what was the greatest number of cars bumped out of the Indy 500 lineup that had been qualified going into the final qualifying session?

Brad from Powder Springs

RM: Russ Thompson, the smartest man about the Indy 500 statistically, was kind enough to provide this info: “So this probably isn’t the answer Brad is looking for, but in 1980, Day 3 got completely rained out. And the weather didn’t look great for Sunday. There were only 19 cars qualified and 38 cars in Gasoline Alley that were not yet qualified. So when the track opened on Day 4, it was frantic. Rutherford was on the pole at 192.256. Tony Bettenhausen Jr. accepted a speed of 176.410, hoping the rain came. His plan failed. Long story short, seven cars were bumped before the rain came at 4:20. It ultimately took a speed of 182.463 to make the field.”

It’s been musical chairs on the strategy side of Power’s pit wall, but the clutch partnership with engineer Dave Faustino remains intact. Michael Levitt/Motorsport Images

Q: I know it’s only practice, but Honda has taken Chevy to the woodshed. Given historically the Honda fuel mileage has been better and it has what appears to be a horsepower advantage based on trap speeds, has Chevy punted shifting to development in the new engine package?

Troay Strong, KC

RM: Obviously this was written before qualifying, but Rinus VeeKay and Ed Carpenter pretty much dispelled the theory GM didn’t have the ponies to compete. And why would Chevy tell the media anything?

Q: If Helio is averaging 230.513mph, what is the top speed heading into Turn 1? It’s safe to say no other series other than Top Fuel is going that fast! Balls of steel.

Jack C.

RM: I saw various cars reach 239mph going into Turn 3 during qualifying, and it seemed like 237 was the best for Turn 1.

Q: I take issue with the entire last row being vulnerable when only two cars are trying to bump in. P31 should be locked into the race based on Saturday’s time. P32 and P33 should be the only positions up for grabs because you only have two cars trying to get in. If three cars were trying to bump in, then P31 would be vulnerable, of course. Why the whole row?

Jeff, Florida

RM: Because it’s a better show for television.

Q: I hear people complain about IndyCar racing all the time. In my mind, the last 10 years have been spectacular compared to what I have watched on YouTube. I’m saying the 2010s rival the ’80s and ’90s. Do you disagree?

Matt Maurer from Boulder Junction, WI

RM: If you’ve read what I’ve been writing the past few years, you’ll know I think it’s as competitive as IndyCar has ever been, and it should be since everyone has the same car and the engines are so close. But the depth of the teams and drivers have improved as well, and it’s usually a good show.

Q: I was reading the article on RACER in regards to IndyCar recognizing the need for more oval races on the schedule and got to thinking. What if IndyCar tried out a fewer shorter paved ovals like Lucas Oil Speedway or other smaller tracks across the Midwest? As it is most oval races draw smaller crowds, so these would make for better TV and sponsors. You wouldn’t need a 300-lap event, just make it a 100-lap feature or something that didn’t require pit stops. Make it a Friday or Saturday night event. It could also be a boost for these tracks after dealing with the pandemic last year, and this year’s limited crowds.

I understand the sanctioning fee would be a major issue for a lot of these tracks, but would it make sense for IndyCar to give it a try next year at one or two tracks and see how it pans out and offer a reduced fee?

Don, Milwaukee

RM: I truly think Richmond would have been perfect because of the width, banking, speed and infrastructure, but can’t imagine Indy cars on the IRP oval.

Q: Since I caught some heat for not actually asking a question previously (just concerned about series popularity), I’ll ask a question or two this time. If ovals are becoming extinct in IndyCar (except IMS and Gateway) and it costs so much to stage a street race (and turning a profit may be suspect, but thanks Nashville!), that leaves road courses. Other than the current road courses on the schedule, what other potential venues are there for IndyCar in the future?

Randy Mizelle, NC

RM: Montreal would be my first choice, and maybe Road Atlanta if IndyCar could help with some safety upgrades. I hate that COTA is gone, but the massive NASCAR crowd (in the rain) tells me IndyCar won’t be going back.