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: Although I wasn’t a fan of Helio back in his Penske days, I actually found myself cheering for him on Sunday because I really thought he deserved a fourth win. Since it slipped through his hands on two previous occasions (2014 and 2017), I felt like the third attempt had to be the right one. I’m really glad he eventually made it, and for the Meyer Shank team as well. Man, the fact that Michael Shank, one of the newest guys in the business, created his IndyCar team four years ago, switched just last year from a part-time to a full-time program and is now able to beat the big guys with probably 10 times less money is a fantastic story!
What happened on Sunday not only showed me that everyone has a chance in IndyCar, but also that Helio still has the chops to compete in the series. Hell, if Emmo and Mario raced there until their 50s, then Helio most definitely still has a few years ahead of him, doesn’t he? Do you think there’s a chance we can see both pairing up again next year (hopefully for a full-time program)?
On a sourer note, one thing really annoyed me during the last few laps: drivers going from right to left across the track to break the trailing car’s draft. I get it: as the leading driver, you’re about to win the most important race of the year, you want to defend your position and not give the guy behind you an opportunity to pass. But as a spectator, you want to see non-stop passing, exciting wheel-to-wheel battles, and ideally a photo-finish ending. Because this is “the greatest spectacle in racing” right?
Besides, dealing with the draft has always been part oval racing. So, from my standpoint, seeing drivers using the “slippery snake technique” not only feels frustrating to watch (even though Helio figured out a way to pass Palou on Lap 199 after he did use it), but it looks un-sportsman-like. I’d even say that it’s a form of blocking. Also, if you’re in the chasing car, and the car in front of you keeps moving from left to right, isn’t there a risk for you to lose your front downforce and crash?
Xavier from France
RM: Pretty much what I wrote after the race — what better advert than a small team beating the big boys at Indianapolis? Shank says he wants to run two cars full-time and I would imagine Helio will get the call. As for snaking down the straightaways, the leader is entitled to one move and all that did last Sunday was make for dozens of outside passes going into Turn 1. I didn’t see the leaders zig-zagging to keep cars behind them like F1. There were more passes for the lead yesterday than in the last 10 years of F1, so not sure what your complaint is. If you didn’t like Indy 2021, then I’m not sure what to tell you.
Q: History will show 2021 is the year of the “Elders Club.” Brady wins the Super Bowl, “Lefty” becomes the first pro golfer to win a Major at 50, and now, the smiling, aging but agile dancing star quick-steps his way into the Indy 500 history books in a most thrilling manner! How many four-time 500 winners scaled the fence to celebrate with the fans, then – thinking he was T.K. in a triathalon – jogged up and down the front stretch? How many times has a mostly pink and black car won the 500? How many times has a one-off driver/team scored the big victory?
Tony Mezzacca, Madison, NJ
RM: The last one-off was Dan Wheldon in 2011, and most winners from the old days were too tired to drink milk, let alone run up and down the straightaway.
Q: I know some people are gonna bitch anyway, but that was hands-down the best 500 ever! Regardless how folks feel about 2002, it’s awesome to have another four-time winner. Of the four guys in that club, this is the longest streak between the first and fourth wins. And it’s a feat we’ll likely never see again. Guys just don’t race as long anymore. And how cool to see Mike Shank taking that victory lap chugging a can of Busch Light? Congrats to Helio, and thanks to Roger Penske not only for making Helio’s fourth possible, but for everything he’s done for the sport in the last 18 months!
RM: Bitch about that race? Well not even the experts who comment on RACER.com can find much wrong with last Sunday.
Q: Who is the half-wit that said oval races are boring?
Donald McElvain, Polson, MT
RM: I don’t know, you tell me. There have been plenty of boring oval races in the past but Indy hasn’t been one of them for a decade.
Q: Were Shank’s cars prepared by Andretti? I know they have partnership, not sure to what degree they’re connected?
RM: Meyer Shank has a technical alliance with Andretti but they prepare their own cars in Columbus, Ohio
Q: Helio has to drive in the rest of the races! How would that work? Rossi has to be totally disgusted with AA. I bet he leaves.
Dan, Lima, OH
RM: Take some of the Indy winnings and field a second car. I understand Rossi is at the end of his rope but where does he go? Not Ganassi. Penske? Possibly, but not sure R.P. wants to keep running four cars.
Q: What are the rules regarding an emergency pit stop?
Rick in Lisle, IL
RM: “Any car with the nose of the car not past the pit commitment line before the yellow condition should remain on the racing surface. If that car enters pit lane, it may drive through and rejoin on the track according to the car’s blend line order. If the car enters its pit box, damage may be repaired, If a tire is damaged, all tires may be changed. If low on fuel, the fuel probe may be plugged in for a maximum of two seconds. The car will restart from the rear of the restarting line-up. IndyCar may further penalize any competitor who performs any additional work on a car. Thank you.” Kyle Novak, Race Director.