Q: I seem to remember that IndyCar teams would get an extra team test if they had an Indy Lights team. If that was true, is that still the case today?
Dan, NE Indiana
MP: Yes, it’s Rule 6.5.5: Indy Lights Series Driver Tests Full-Season Entrants in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES have an additional one (1) Test Day for the purpose of Testing a Current Indy Lights Series Driver(s) in a Car. Participating Current Indy Lights Driver(s) must receive prior INDYCAR approval. If a Team participates with two (2) or fewer Full-Season Entrant(s) in the Indy Lights Series, the Team may use a maximum of two (2) Cars during the Test.
Another thing I recently learned: Along with the $720,000 cut in the new Indy Lights champions’ advancement prize, the previous award of single-day IndyCar tests being given to the winner and second and third in the standings has also been scrapped. I’d heard Linus Lundqvist was due to test with Juncos Hollinger Racing today, but that was shelved when, I’ve heard, no funds were offered to run him. With test days costing in the region of $85,000 to $125,000, that’s another prize-based blow to Indy Lights’ incentive package.
Q: With Robin’s unfortunate passing more than a year ago, you were hesitant to take over the Mailbag. With one full IndyCar season under your belt, what are your thoughts and opinions regarding the Mailbag? Has it gone better than expected? Worse? I know it’s very time-consuming and I thank you for your commitment every week.
Steve K, Winston, GA
MP: Kind of you to ask, Steve. I think Miller’s somewhere in the universe laughing his ass off at me every week. I was the Mailbag’s editor for the last few years Robin and I were at the SPEED TV network, and trust me, although it wasn’t shared with the audience, Robin’s calls and emails about the submissions that rankled him, confused him, or led him into hilarious rants were what made the time-consuming slog of piecing it together a little bit easier. He enjoyed it because he got to connect with a lot of passionate IndyCar fans, but also accepted that each edition would have some submissions that were either mean, weird, or from another planet. Let’s just say that I’m having the same exact experience as our man Miller…
Q: Seeing Daniel Suarez struggle without his power steering made me wonder how it compares to an IndyCar? I know that IndyCars are lighter and don’t have power steering, but the downforce has to make it difficult as well. Are they similar when a NASCAR loses its power steering, or is one harder to drive than the other? Also, why all the hate for other forms of racing in this Mailbag?
MP: Hard to answer this one Joe, since I’d need to find a driver who’s raced NASCAR with a power steering failure on a road course and raced in IndyCar without power steering to get a comparison to offer. Conor Daly had his steering fail last weekend and crashed as a result, so he didn’t get a chance to try and do a lap.
But yes, whether it’s the physical weight of the car or weight being loaded onto the car through negative air pressure, it’s weight that needs to be dealt with through the steering wheel.
Best I can offer, though, is how IndyCar drivers train in a much different manner than IMSA or NASCAR drivers who do have power steering. The IndyCar driver works heavily on upper body strength and stamina to deal with 4500-plus pounds of downforce for an entire road or street course race in ways that other drivers do not.
An example: New AlphaTauri F1 driver Nyck de Vries, who tested a MSR IndyCar last year, is said to have been super quick, but also had to do short runs because as a smallish and narrowish guy, he didn’t have the arm and shoulder strength to last more than a handful of laps before the steering wore him out. Given time and changes to his training, I’m sure he’d have been fine, but unless there’s a reason to pack on a bunch of upper body muscle, drivers won’t add the extra weight to their frame.
Q: I believe it was May 2016 and the PWC was at Lime Rock. Bentley factory driver Andrew Palmer had a serious crash and since that day seemingly disappeared. I had the pleasure of meeting him at Barber and was a fan of his and always hoped he would return to racing. Do you have any information on how he has progressed since that moment in May?
Matt Russell, Birmingham, AL
MP: Matt, that’s a great question for which I have no answers. I attempted to do an update on Andrew four or five years ago and learned that his family will go to exceptional lengths to prevent such things from happening.
Q: Tell us something about Robin that none of us knows, but that everyone should know about Mr. Miller.
Steve Coe, Vancouver, WA
MP: In the time since we lost him, I’ve heard from a number of reporters — mostly outside of racing — who’ve shared stories of Robin giving advice, trying to help them with connections, etc., and credited him with being an instrumental figure in giving them a push or pointing them in the right direction while launching their careers. I’ve heard that from folks in their early 20s to early 40s, which tells us he was doing this for a long time.
I know how helpful and encouraging he was when I was adding IndyCar coverage to my primary work in sports cars for SPEED, so while it doesn’t come as a surprise to me, his efforts behind the scenes to ensure more sports reporters were being created might not be a thing that folks know about.
I wrote about a number of the other things he did that few knew about in a column I filed on the day he died, so I’m struggling to think of others — because there are many that shouldn’t since they’d make everybody blush — that fit the criteria, but I’m sure more will come to mind.