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: Wow, you were right, this kid O’Ward is the real deal. When he passed Dixon on the restart I was amazed. He seems to have that extra bit that makes him just a bit faster. Unfortunately, Newgarden got caught out with the tire strategy, but once Pato got past, he just took off. I just hope he stays in IndyCar, but I guess if Zak offers him a seat in F1, he’ll have to take it.
Jim Doyle, Hoboken, NJ
RM: Not sure why Zak would take his IndyCar star for the next 20 years for a chance to do OK in F1. I predicted Pato and Colton would be battling Dixie for the title and I haven’t changed my mind.
Q: Congratulations to Pato. What a display of great driving he showed us in Detroit. Very happy form him. As for Marshall’s piece about the mystery behind O’Ward’s “blistering pace,” the answer is obvious: Craig Hampson, AMSP’s technical director. Look for Pato and Craig to kick ass again at Road America this weekend.
John B. in Minneapolis
RM: I texted Craig right after the race because he’s the best (along with Nathan O’Rourke) and I figured he was the difference-maker, but he instantly deflected any credit to Will Anderson (engineer), Nick Snyder (dampers), Kate Gundlach (performance engineer) and crew chief Chris Nash.
Q: What in the world is going on at Andretti Autosport? A 21-year-old youngster is basically making his three veteran teammates look like rookies in every single race, almost humiliating them. How is this possible? I know you already wrote about how special Lil’ Herta is (and he most definitely is), but he’s only one half of the equation, so this can’t just be a simple case of “Ignorance is bliss.” What I’m more concerned about is the other half of the equation: What about Rossi, Hinch and Hunter-Reay? We’re not talking about three average drivers, we’re talking about three multi-race winners. We’re talking about two former Indy 500 winners and a former polesitter. And most importantly, we’re talking about a former champion, a two-time top-three championship finisher and a former rookie of the year.
This has to mean something, right? However right now, Mr. Aggression systematically has his race ruined by either bad luck or bad strategy calls (albeit while looking to be the only one capable of matching Colton’s speed), The Mayor is nowhere near the pace he showed in his early years, and Captain America looks like an old-timer whose best days are behind him. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not hating on them. I want to see these three guys winning races. I’m just sad to see this happening. They, too, should be battling at the front, so what happened to them? Is something ugly happening behind the scenes? Besides, Michael Andretti can’t keep accepting this for much longer, something has to change!
Xavier from France
RM: Life moves on quickly these days in IndyCar and your assessment seems valid, but Colton and Nathan O’Rourke have formed a Foyt/Bignotti chemistry without all the cussing, and they’re only going to keep getting better.
Q: First off, I’m happy if Will Power has the matches; I have the gasoline. It’s well beyond time for IndyCar to burn the red flag. It was completely understandable for Rosenqvist’s accident, but completely uncalled for with Grosjean’s (and what are the chances of the same guy causing a race result-changing caution in the last laps of a race two days in a row?). It’s time for Roger to implement some changes to the series and thin out the ridiculous minutiae in the rulebook regarding closing the pits under caution, displaying the red flag over yellow, etc.
Ward has the biggest brass cojones since Robert Wickens and is a star in the making. His car seemed considerably faster than the rest of the field at the end of race two. Which feeds on a related suspicion. Arrow McLaren SP seemed very cagey in their response to the cause of Rosenqvist’s “stuck throttle.” The root cause being identified as a “singular, non-recurrent mechanical fault” sounds a lot like, “we improperly modified something (I’d suspect electronically, not mechanically) to give our cars an unfair (and in this case dangerous) advantage.”
Napalm Nick, Locust Grove, VA
RM: IndyCar needs to have a hard, fast rule on a red flag, agreed. And you may have the best suggestion. I understand you are balancing competition vs. entertainment, but at what cost to a competitor who drove his heart out only to get hosed under a red? I got stopping Indy a few years with multiple laps left so maybe it’s an Indy-only rule, but I think you’re jumping to conclusions on what happened to Felix and his team.
Q: Curious to hear your take on red flag number two in race one of the doubleheader. Here’s mine: there are legitimate reasons for a red flag such as weather or because an on-track incident requires an extended period of time to clean up or fix. Beyond that, you are just another racing series trying to manufacture excitement for the fans. If I want B.S. WWE gimmicks from race control, I will watch NASCAR.
Rosenqvist’s scary crash required a red flag. Grosjean’s did not. If you can pull the car behind the wall and restart, great. If not, it ends under yellow. Power had every right to be angry even before his ECU burned out. And if IndyCar truly cares about its fans, it will let the teams and drivers determine the race outcome and stop the inconsistent and poorly applied red flags in pursuit of green flag finishes. Otherwise, quit keeping score and put the Astor Cup in the attic.
Lee from Minnesota
RM: I can’t disagree with anything you said, Lee.