Robin Miller’s Mailbag for September 11, presented by Honda Racing / HPD

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.

Your questions for Robin should be sent to millersmailbag@racer.com. We cannot guarantee we’ll publish all your questions and answers, but Robin will reply to you. And if you have a question about the technology side of racing, Robin will pass these on to Marshall Pruett and he will also answer here. 

Q: Great news regarding the addition of Richmond Raceway; so excited for the return of IndyCar. You indicated in last week’s Mailbag that Dennis Bickmeier “will promote the hell out if it,” which I certainly hope will be the case. However, I hope the Friday/Saturday schedule will model that of Gateway (Pro 2000, Lights and IndyCar). Then there’s something with meat to promote!

I contemplated going to Pocono (again) this year, however, why would I drive four hours to tent camp on the infield of an oval for just IndyCar with no support series? Might be acceptable for some, but not my glass of sweet tea in August.  Mid-Ohio? I’m there every year from Thursday night through Monday morning. Indy? Been going 27 years, and while I’d still make the 11-hour drive without Carb Day in play, it certainly enhances the race weekend experience. Richmond and IndyCar must give serious consideration to keeping the weekend schedule filled with action (no disrespect to Vintage Indy), otherwise, it may be a hard sell getting the hardcore fans to travel more than 90 minutes (on I-95, no less).

I purchased six seats for the Richmond race last night. I was very surprised to see a sizeable majority of the “sweet seats” (Commonwealth and Capital stands, rows 20+, closest to start/finish line) unavailable for purchase. Is this a result of management’s intent to reserve those seats for 2020 season ticket (NASCAR) holders? Did I pull the trigger on lower seats prematurely?

Mark, Woodbridge VA

RM: First off, Richmond wants to make the return all about IndyCar so it’s going to have a Friday night practice session and then have qualifying (and more practice) on Saturday. It’s a little throwback to the old USAC era of one-day shows, and I think support races could be in play down the road, but I know Dennis wants to try this format to see how it’s received.

As for tickets, season-ticket holder renewals were sent out before the IndyCar deal was done and Richmond could not put their tickets up for sale without giving them the opportunity to add the IndyCar race to their season ticket package. Bickmeier has communicated to their season ticket holders that they can add this race during the renewal process, which ends on 11/1. Once they are done with renewals and know which season ticket holders added the IndyCar race, then those seats will be released. Richmond says it will also give early IndyCar purchasers the opportunity to relocate, as that is fair to them based on their early commitment, so it sounds like you can move if you chose. Thanks for supporting IndyCar.

Q: I live 30 miles from Richmond International Raceway and should be happy about the return of the IndyCars. But I am not, because I worry that the show will be a repeat of the races I attended on their earlier visits. The track is too small for cars that fast. Lap times are so quick that you need your head on a swivel, and they run so close to the wall that all the fans see are the air boxes and rear wings as the cars whiz by. Unlike stock cars, IndyCars don’t respond well to side-by-side contact. The Carbon Fiber Manufacturer’s Association was the main beneficiary of the last race I attended at RIR, and I believe more laps were run under yellow than green. I’d much rather drive an extra 150 miles to see Indy cars run at VIR than 30 miles to see them at RIR. Robin, please tell me I am wrong about this.

Greg Glassner, Caroline County, Virginia

RM: You are correct in that Richmond was follow-the-leader the last few races before leaving but featured exciting, two-groove racing when the IRL first went there, and there’s no reason it can’t be a good show if IndyCar gets the downforce right and Firestone gets the right tire. I remember NASCAR fans telling me after one of the early races it was the best thing they’d ever seen, so let’s give it a chance.

Q: As one who lives just over the river in Fredericksburg, VA (less than an hours drive from Richmond on I-95), I’m excited! As a reminder to everybody of how many IndyCar races we have in the mid-Atlantic, well.., it was zero before Richmond. I went to the last race at Richmond, which was the one where TK apologized to the fans for the procession. If we can get the tires to work and have multi-groove racing, it will be a blast. Not to mention that the pre-race with USAC Silver crown cars was also really great. (I don’t know if we can get them back for the date). Too bad we can’t pair up with IMSA at VIR. I’d travel to that in an instant, but as I understand it the track is too narrow?

Doug Baggette

RM: As we’ve discussed, the first three races were good with two grooves and the last couple were yawners because either the downforce or tires changed – or both – so it’s up to IndyCar and Firestone to get it right next. Yes, VIR isn’t ready for IndyCar in many ways, but I understand it’s a great little road course.

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Robin Miller’s Mailbag for Sept. 4, presented by Honda Racing / HPD

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.

Your questions for Robin should be sent to millersmailbag@racer.com. We cannot guarantee we’ll publish all your questions and answers, but Robin will reply to you. And if you have a question about the technology side of racing, Robin will pass these on to Marshall Pruett and he will also answer here. 

Q: Something has to be done to fix the madness at Portland! Every race I’ve watched at that track (since ’96) has had problems in Turn 1. Why not eliminate the Turn 1 chicane and let them go flat out to the end of the straightaway? It works at Long Beach, why not here? True, there isn’t a runoff area at the current Turn 2 but maybe something can be done in that regard.

Jeff, Mesa, AZ

RM: That’s how IMSA use to start its races at Portland and it’s a great idea. Expecting 22 cars to go from 175 to 35 mph in a sharp, tight right-hander is dreaming — just like telling the drivers not to get carried away on the first lap.

Q: I’m not a fan of the field getting so bunched up before the green flag. As much as I like close starts/racing…I don’t like them so bunched up and wrecking a quarter of the field. Just let the leader exit the last turn and gas it.

Rob Peterson

RM: Nobody likes first-turn, first-lap crashes but look at the start of the Indy 500 in the ’50s and ’60s and see how tight everyone is packed together. Sure, they’re probably going 50 mph slower than today’s cars but the point is that the drivers had more respect for each other and likely more control. To be honest, other than Pocono and Portland, the drivers have done a pretty good job of getting through the first turns at most tracks — including cramped street courses.

Q: I HATE, HATE Turn 1 at Portland! What do they expect when they stick that kind of crap tight turn with open-wheel cars? Oh, I guess terminal speed would be too high for just going back to the old straight. But wouldn’t it give them more time to sort out? That turn sequence absolute needs to be changed or removed.

Greg Williams, Apache Junction, AZ

RM: Jeff’s suggestion in the first question is a good solution but I watched 20 F2000 cars all get through the chicane so if a bunch of kids can do it, why not some of the best?

Q: What was Ryan Hunter-Reay thinking when he blocked Rossi on the main stretch? Will this make things awkward on the Andretti Autosport team going forward? Also, how was the crowd for the weekend?

Paul Fitzgerald, Indianapolis

RM: Nah, RHR didn’t take Rossi out so no problem. The camping crowd was much larger but it looked like the spectator crowd was definitely down from a year ago.

Q: Why don’t they move the start of Portland to a different area of the track?

Jim Kupstas

RM: Because you’ve got a great, wide straightaway made for an exciting start, It just makes IndyCar look bad when the “best” can’t control their cars and part of IndyCar’s heritage and allure is the flying start.

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Robin Miller’s Mailbag for August 28, presented by Honda Racing / HPD

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.

Your questions for Robin should be sent to millersmailbag@racer.com. We cannot guarantee we’ll publish all your questions and answers, but Robin will reply to you. And if you have a question about the technology side of racing, Robin will pass these on to Marshall Pruett and he will also answer here. 

Q: It must have been a rough week for Taku after what happened at Pocono. It was great to see he showed the speed at Gateway and proved he’s a helluva racer one more time! Job done, Taku! Now it makes me wonder what “IndyCar fans” say about it.

Noz, Yokohama, Japan

RM: Sato is a gracious person, and one of the most likeable drivers I’ve ever encountered. He took a pretty good beating on social media after Pocono, but he seems to have a resilience like few others. I was interviewing him right before the start last Saturday night and he got a nice ovation from the Gateway crowd, so I think a lot of IndyCar fans either forgave and forgot, or simply didn’t blame him. Prior to that we were discussing the fact that before last week I’d never heard any racial slurs thrown his way in the decade he’s raced over here, and he said the same. But he was a popular Indy 500 winner, and fans always seem to enjoy his attack mode behind the wheel. So a few experts hiding behind their computer shouldn’t bother him, because they didn’t speak for the majority.

Q: I went to the Gateway IndyCar race and it was my first IndyCar race outside of the Indy 500. Great facility, and pretty good race. Seemed like it was difficult to pass the leader, as it’s been all year. I was very impressed by Ferrucci. Strategy kinda screwed him, then he overdrove Turn 1 but still managed fourth. Do you see him going to a better team next year? He deserves it.

Luke, Indy

RM: Passing was difficult, but there was plenty of it during the last 100 laps. That race usually starts out kinda boring and then comes to life. The yellow really hosed Santino, and he didn’t have a great last pit stop either. Dale Coyne says he wants to keep him, and unless Zak Brown comes calling, I imagine he’ll stay because it’s a small but mighty team that he’s fit into nicely. He and engineer Mike Cannon click.

Q: Two comments and a question: Make Gateway the final round! And the same cars from the Pocono wreck nearly wrecked again at the start! My question is this: I understand Newgarden was frustrated with Santino at the end of the race, but why not just ride to a solid fifth place and take the points?

Rob Peterson, Rochester, NY

RM: Gateway should be the season finale, but more on that next week. It looked like JoNew was just reacting to Ferrucci’s slide into the gray, so at that point what’s he supposed to do? It didn’t look like he really had time to do much except dodge a crash.

Q: I have been to over 25 Indy 500s and have lived in the St. Louis area for over 15 years. Last year I brought five friends to the Bommarito 500 and this year brought seven while upgrading our tickets. Last year’s crowd was nice, but this year’s race blew it out of the water. We have made new race fans, and plan to continue to attend – where else can you get tickets at an affordable price, tailgate all afternoon, and have a top-notch race experience (at an oval nonetheless)? Tell the folks running Gateway to keep it up! Now, how can we get Gateway as the series finale? I’d rather have 42,000 screaming fans for the finale than a couple hundred folks out in Northern California.

Eric D, St. Louis

RM: You’re a good man for spreading the word and cultivating new fans, Eric. It was the best crowd in three years, and just a good race with a great finish. I wish you would talk to the owners about what constitutes a good finale. For my money it would be an oval with a great crowd under the lights at a track that promotes the hell out IndyCar and would pack the place. But I guess the owners would rather entertain their sponsors in front of 10,000 people at a track where passing will be passé, but they dine by the ocean.

Q: Wow!  What a great race! I’m ready for Gateway to be scheduled the week after the Indy 500 and as the season finale! Then, Gateway sells out and makes money, NBC gets ratings and IndyCar fans get great racing! Texas used to be twice a year, now it’s Gateway’s turn.

Bill Schemonia, Vergennes, IL

RM: I think one of Gateway’s keys is that it’s once a year and Chris Blair, John Bisci and the Bommarito Auto Group promote it year-round. Twice might really hurt it – unless it was the IndyCar/NASCAR doubleheader that Jay Frye wants to make happen, and Curtis Francois and Gateway are all in favor of it.

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Robin Miller’s Mailbag for August 21, presented by Honda Racing / HPD

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.

Your questions for Robin should be sent to millersmailbag@racer.com. We cannot guarantee we’ll publish all your questions and answers, but Robin will reply to you. And if you have a question about the technology side of racing, Robin will pass these on to Marshall Pruett and he will also answer here. 

Q: How do the drivers really feel about Pocono? Even though some may enjoy the challenge of the track and the speed, do they ultimately want the series to be there? Would most of them agree with Wickens’ feeling that IndyCar and Pocono should consider a divorce? I have attended for several years and I don’t think I’ll return. If nothing else, there’s bad mojo there. With the likelihood of a car going into the fence, I don’t want to see the drivers seriously hurt or worse. And even from the best seat in the grandstands there isn’t a whole lot to see other than cars screaming by on the straight. Watching qualifying with a paddock/garage pass might be worthwhile, but race day is better enjoyed on TV. (Kudos to NBC).  

Peter Ebright

RM: I think most have mixed feelings, and Graham Rahal’s response in our pre-race show pretty much nailed it. He said he’d be lying if the drivers didn’t think about Justin and Robert and the bad mojo that Pocono seems to have developed. But he also said he loved driving at Pocono, while Power and Dixon both were lobbying IndyCar to stay after the race.

Q: I know a lot of fans want to know if Pocono will be back. Let me rephrase the question. Do the drivers and teams want to come back? Three drivers with actual on-track experience immediately took to social media after the Lap 1 incident and said Pocono just doesn’t work. I asked Sage Karam why Pocono is different than Indianapolis and he basically said the track width creates a different racing dynamic that invites disaster. In the past five years at Pocono we’ve had multiple hospitalizations and a fatality. 

Ryan in West Michigan

RM: I don’t think the teams care one way or the other, and the drivers seem pretty divided. Carpenter, Power, Dixon, Rahal, RHR and Kanaan were pro-Pocono in interviews prior to the race, and T.K. even said something like of course it’s dangerous, that’s why “we get paid the big bucks.” I know that Ferrucci was a big fan after his initial try, but I can certainly understand Wickens’ viewpoint.

Q: I just saw Robert Wickens’ tweet about the Pocono race: “How many times do we have to go through the same situation before we can all accept that an IndyCar should not race at Pocono. It’s just a toxic relationship and maybe it’s time to consider a divorce. I’m very relieved (to my knowledge) that everyone is okay from that scary crash” I have to say, my thinking has always been the same when there is a bad crash – IndyCar racing is dangerous, especially at the start, and everyone knows this as a fact. Sato could have made the same mistake on any oval, and if he would have pulled that stunt going into Turn 2 at Indy it would have been the same result or worse. As much as we as fans hate to see deaths and injuries, it could happen on any track at any time. 

Jack, Ft Myers, FLA.

RM: Why are A.J., Parnelli, Mario, Rutherford, Johncock and the Unsers still so revered? Because they thrived and survived the most deadly era in IndyCar history. A big part of the attraction was cheating death and they were the gladiators of the day with a mindset that fascinated the common man. Racing is 1000 times safer than it was in the ‘60s, but it’s still open-wheel cars going 200 mph and that’s always a recipe for big crashes.

Q: I’m torn. I love IndyCar, I love ovals and I love super-speedways. However I hate crashes, I hate injuries even more. I don’t want to see Pocono go. Is it the track, or was it Sato? I get up at 6 am, drive over 200 miles, drop a few hundred bucks, sit on the surface of the sun to see half a race, sit in the parking lot watching it rain for two hours trying to get out (couldn’t imagine that egress if the grandstand was full), and then drive another 200+ miles home to get up and go to work the next day. Just to see all the drivers complain about having to go there.

Well, hate to sound like a heartless SOB, but no one made them be there. It’s their choice. They could all be like Chilton and sit out of the ride his daddy bought him. I’m sure there’s a list of guys, helmet in hand, 500 miles long ready to jump in. Racing can never be 100% safe until esports takes over and we just watch people play video games. Then they’ll probably complain about Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. Nothing in life is 100% safe. Driving almost 500 miles across Pennsylvania roads had me, statistically, more in harm’s way. Which I guess is all my choice, too. I could just stay at home and watch it on TV. Which, since I’m in grumpy old man mode, I’m already paying to have NBCSN, a premium sports channel on my TV, now they want me to pay more to watch IndyCar on my phone so they can show yet another episode of Mecum. 

Shawn, Baltimore

RM: You are spot-on Shawn. Nobody holds a gun to anyone’s head to race midgets, sprints, stockers, sports cars, motorcycles or IndyCars, and danger is part of the job description. But I didn’t hear any complaints about racing there before the race, just a little trepidation from a few veterans. But thanks for making that long drive and hanging in there. And you are correct – the Pennsylvania Turnpike is a lot more dangerous than the Tunnel Turn at Pocono. Especially on the weekends.

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Robin Miller’s Mailbag for August 14, presented by Honda Racing/HPD

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.

Your questions for Robin should be sent to millersmailbag@racer.com. We cannot guarantee we’ll publish all your questions and answers, but Robin will reply to you. And if you have a question about the technology side of racing, Robin will pass these on to Marshall Pruett and he will also answer here. 

Q: I love IndyCar; been a fan forever. My favorite driver of all time is Hinchtown! Where will he go? And how could there not have been any rumors about this tie-up between SPM and McLaren? Did you really know but were sworn to secrecy? Did this catch you off-guard? Is Hinch now the latest silly season target? Would Herta really leave the Andretti nest and go to McLaren/SPM? This is almost more juicy than the whole Rossi thing (another one of my favorites!) because it broke bombshell-style and now we are all scrambling to figure it out. Did the paddock see this coming? Do tell, Miller!

Paul Zajdel, Park Ridge, IL.

RM: Derrick Walker and I try to have lunch as often as possible, and early last May he told me that McLaren was either going to buy into or buy out Arrow SPM. I didn’t give it much thought because of the Honda connection and, to be honest, I’d forgotten about it until Jim Ayello’s story in The Star. So Derrick says he’s done feeding me scoops because I’m a lost cause, and in this case, I have to agree. Please read last Monday’s silly season story on RACER.com, but Herta isn’t leaving Andretti. Michael could have farmed him out to McLaren had he gone with Chevrolet, because they would have been partners.

Q: How was McLaren able to get Arrow SPM to ditch its Honda deal (or vice versa) a year early? True, they get a fine team with excellent people, but no championship-contending drivers. I’m still quizzical as to why Mr. Brown couldn’t have done the same with Michael Andretti, who didn’t even have a Honda contract to rip up? You would have had RHR, Rossi, the Andretti family, and Colton Herta. McLaren in turn helps fill sponsor gaps for Rossi and Herta. Are we to assume that Honda gave Michael such a sweetheart deal that he punted on Zak and Chevy?

Greg in NJ

RM: Michael wanted to be partners with McLaren, but Chevrolet was the only option because Honda will not do business with McLaren after its F1 fallout. Zak made Michael a very substantial offer and it sounds like Andretti Autosports damn near became a Bowtie team again before Honda persuaded Michael to stay. McLaren made Sam an offer he couldn’t refuse.

Q: So, did we see the SPM/McLaren tie-in coming? What do you think is in store for Hinch and Rosenqvist? And please feel free to leak any info you may have. Thanks as usual.

Mike Talarico, Charlotte, NC

RM: I guess some people did, but not me. I think Arrow SPM was the obvious back-up plan for McLaren after Andretti stayed with Honda. Felix has a two-year deal and Hinch still has one year on his contract with Arrow SPM, which they say they will honor.

Q: I wonder what kind of odds you get on Hinch being back with McLaren SP in 2020?  I know Hinch has an actual contract, but I’d put a bigger stack of money on Nasr being with the team next year before betting on Hinch. Anyhow your one-man silly season just got hit by a McLaren hurricane. I’m not holding my breath waiting on a full time effort from Fernando. That said, it seems MSR and Hinch got the short straws. Putting on your best Nostradamus hat, how does this all shake out?

Ryan T.

RM: Yes, my one-man silly season story has been blown up with the McLaren merger, but I’m with you on Hinch, I don’t think he sticks around to be a lame duck. He’s a Honda ambassador and would be a nice fit in Rahal’s third car. As Marshall wrote last week, I think Mike Shank either goes back to Andretti, or maybe strikes up a partnership with Ganassi.

Q: I seem to always read about how Honda really loves and supports certain drivers. How come I never see this about Chevy? Are they just not as driver-centric? How many times I have heard ‘Honda wants to keep Rossi/Herta/Hinchcliffe’?

Craig Mashburn

RM: Good question. I think Honda is a little more PR-centric or forthcoming about certain things (it put out a positive release about IndyCar going hybrid) while Chevrolet choses to keep its thoughts to itself. As for drivers, Honda’s unofficial pecking order was Dixon, Rossi and Wickens last year, and now I think Colton has joined it. Honda always helped pay driver’s salaries in the CART heydays while Chevy seemed to concentrate on teams like Roger Penske’s. That’s not to say it didn’t help fund certain drivers, but I think it was more through the team than individually.

Q: With McLaren merging with SPM, a lot of talk has centered around what happens to Hinchcliffe and Ericsson. These are fine drivers and I am sure both will wind up with competitive rides. My concern is, what happens to Robert Wickens in this merger? SPM had promised him a ride once he was able to come back, but what happens now? His desire to be a competitive driver again has inspired many, and it would be a crying shame if this merger shattered his hopes and dreams. Have you heard anything of what Robert’s future will be?

Dave, French Lick

RM: I think we just have to wait and see if Robert continues his amazing recovery and if driving an IndyCar again is feasible. I’m sure McLaren Arrow SP understands what an inspiring story this is and would be thrilled to provide a car when and if the time comes. I don’t think James or Marcus will be back in 2020 with the new-look team.

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Robin Miller’s Mailbag for August 7, presented by Honda Racing / HPD

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.

Your questions for Robin should be sent to millersmailbag@racer.com. We cannot guarantee we’ll publish all your questions and answers, but Robin will reply to you. And if you have a question about the technology side of racing, Robin will pass these on to Marshall Pruett and he will also answer here. 

Q: What is IndyCar thinking? So, they delay the engine rule change a year.  Add a battery power unit to assist in powering the car. All in a naked play to lure another engine/powertrain manufacturer. Oh, and let’s add in a new chassis.  And let’s have only one supplier of the battery power unit. I don’t see this plan working, as I do not believe it will result in another manufacturer entering the series because there is no upside for the engine manufacturers, since only one supplier will supply the battery power unit.

Mr. Pruett is drinking the bad Kool-Aid, but got the business side of the reasoning correct. It’s all about the money. Not about the racing. Add in that all the teams will have to find and spend the money for this new package, and the haves will win out over the have-nots again. I’m sure you’re aware that F1 tried electric assist and abandoned it. My idea for the new rules package is simple. Abandon the spec concept and set minimum and maximum standards for chassis, engine and wings, and go race. If there is not the interest, read no money, then close it down and go nostalgic watching IndyCar on YouTube.

Warbird Willie

RM: We went to the ‘ol Kool-Aid drinker himself for a rebuttal:

“If there’s one thing I love about the announcement of major changes to IndyCar, it’s the revealing of psychics and fortune tellers. I would have never guessed the series had so many fans who can tell the future. I love Kool-Aid, BTW. Who doesn’t? As for drinking it, quite the opposite: I’ve been the one feeding it to IndyCar for years, telling the series how far it has fallen behind the sports car series I cover and how they offer manufacturers modern technology to showcase. As for the gross mistake IndyCar is making by adding a small KERS unit, I’m sure the same overreactions were made when slick tires were introduced, seat belts became mandatory, roll hoops were welded in, closed-face helmets were adopted, wings were bolted on, etc. The past is always better. Go back to (fill in the decade) when the (fill in the chassis names) and (fill in the engine brands) were better and the drivers were real men, blah, blah, blah.

“It’s a spec KERS unit. Like spec tires. Everyone will have the same thing. The haves were the haves before, and the have-nots will remain the have nots. A stupid KERS unit won’t change financial realities. And, we have no idea what it will cost or who will pay for it. Oops. I didn’t mean ‘we,’ I meant ‘I.’ … I still can’t predict the future.” – Marshall Pruett.

Q: Put me in the column of not caring about/not wanting electric motors for IndyCar and the Indy 500. Could I really catch myself talking to my friends “hey, that Honda sure does an awesome job with that kinectic recovery blah blah blah!  What a cool, quiet, and non-threatening engine note from Chevy!!!” Hardly. I feel like this is not what Jay Frye meant when he mentioned something about “fast, loud, unapologetic” – certainly sounds more like “hi, excuse me, merging.” The current F1 motor or engine power unit BS sounds terrible, and if that is where IndyCar is going, good luck to them.

Jake Murray

RM: I’m not sure you people read the release or Marshall’s news story or commentary, but it’s not an electric engine. We all hate the thought of 33 cars flying down the straightaway at Indy in silence, but that’s not going to happen.

Q: I have a feeling I’m in the minority but I think the new engine rules were inevitable and necessary for the series to have any chance of enticing more engine builders to get involved. I don’t pretend to understand how the new technology works, but if it keeps the series viable, that’s great. Kudos to the IndyCar leadership, this all seems to have been very well thought out and reasoned. To those opposed to the new rules, I urge you to keep an eye on NASCAR and the NHRA in the years to come. I see a storm cloud forming for those organizations.

John Fulton, Akron, Ohio

RM: I don’t pretend to know much either and thankfully RACER has Marshall to explain things, but his column pretty much laid it out that this was necessary to try and get another manufacturer interested in IndyCar. I trust Jay Frye knows what he’s doing because his track record is pretty damn good.

Q: Hybrid? No way! Watched my first race in Phoenix in ’65 when AJ won in his Dean Coyote and I’ve seen over 120 Indy car races in person – from Gurney winning in Riverside, to Montoya winning at Indy, and Al Jr. winning in Portland. I’ve heard and seen it all – the Offys and Fords run in the 60s, including the one Chevy win by George Follmer in the spring of ’69. I’ve even got to see and hear Granatelli’s beautiful cheese wedge-shaped turbine cars in 1968.

I’ve either heard or seen it all over the past 50-plus years of being a avid fan, and for the life of me I can not one reasonable reason for IndyCar to succumb to the showroom’s wishes! It’s an insult to true motor racing fans. What’s next, NHRA electric cars? True racing fans want to hear that that old growl of the old four-cylinder Offy, the high-pitch whine of the Ford/Crosworth, or the intense pitch of the Ferrari V16! What the hell can we do about this, Robin? It’s a travesty. SpaceX won’t be building a hybrid rocket anytime soon. Whats your view?

Joe in California

RM: I suggest relaxing, Joe. We’re not going back to four-cam Fords or Novis or turbines or Offys, but we’re also not going to have the indiscernible buzz of Formula E powerplants. A hybrid is combining two different elements, and in this case it’s adding a little more power and the ability to have self-starters with the goal of attracting a major manufacturer.

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Robin Miller’s Mailbag for July 31, presented by Honda Racing / HPD

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.

Your questions for Robin should be sent to millersmailbag@racer.com. We cannot guarantee we’ll publish all your questions and answers, but Robin will reply to you. And if you have a question about the technology side of racing, Robin will pass these on to Marshall Pruett and he will also answer here. 

Q: Mike Hull gets my vote for the smartest man in IndyCar! He played Dixon’s tire strategy perfectly, and then Scott drove like a man possessed to make it work at the end. Where did Power’s speed go? Our TV coverage went to the NASCAR race too soon to get all the post race interviews.

Doug Mayer, Revelstoke, BC, Canada

RM: Mike thanks you for the nomination, but is quick to point out it was a team decision between Dixie, engineer Chris Simmons and himself. Power said in our interview afterwards they simply made the wrong tire selections. But Hull did share the thinking that goes into choosing which tires to start and finish on:

“Where you start weighs in the decision. That’s why you saw some of the red tire starters on scrubbed rather than stickers – you knew immediately that they were a three-stop strategy with that grid decision. The second (if it’s final) or third stop is based at that point on what the longevity has been on reds vs. blacks, plus how close to the end, as reds do restarts better than the blacks if there’s a late yellow. Most teams specifically will watch when lap times begin to fall on sticker tires in the first run.

“In the case of Mid-Ohio, we thought that in order to have something close to a full run on them, that the track needed to be fully rubbered-in, so decided to start on sticker blacks. If we could get to lap 28 or 29 on the blacks, would have a chance for two stops provided that the sticker reds on a rubbered-up track could get you there on the next one. From there, it’s a tough one, as witnessed by SD in his last 10 laps. Felix couldn’t make 59, so a three-stopper for them, so their decision with the tires left was to go to blacks, so we say both strategies could work to lap 90. You could get it done with either strategy.

“The overall key, especially at Mid-Ohio, is having a portion of your run with completely open track position. That was very apparent with Dixon vs. Felix. Dixon by being on the two-stop strategy had much more open track position than most. Felix had to fight hard to clear not only the slower cars in front of him at the end, but also earlier in that final run. Not a perfect science, but great when the chemistry lab gets it right.”

Q: Does the call to bring in Rosenqvist into the pits on lap 45 seem like the ultimate in team tactics to maximize points for Dixon? Barry Wanser saying Felix was always on a three-stop plan seem pretty weak considering they ran him to a two-stop distance around lap 30. He was well ahead of Dixon and the rest before that lap 45 stop. Even if the tires degraded some, he probably makes it to lap 60 still ahead of the pack and second-placed Dixon, and goes on to win the race.

Instead, the Ganassi brains trust buries him in the pack and yet he still almost pulled it off. I know everyone was puppies and unicorns after the race because “Chip let them race,” but it sure seems like his team screwed him over for Dixon. Pitting on lap 45 made no sense considering where they pitted before. Thoughts?

Mark in Cincinnati

RM: Good day for Ganassi strategists to weigh in. As for the ultimate team tactics, Barry Wanser says: “Not at this point in the year. We race the No.10 car to win.” As for him saying a three-stopper was always the plan, “We took advantage of running fast laps at the end of the first stint on the primary tires. We had thoughts it could be done in two stops, but not likely running alternate tires on second stint.” And on your theory that Felix makes it to lap 60 ahead of Dixon and goes on to win the race on two stops: “Once we caught traffic that had newer tires and watching our ghost car for where we would come out after the stop, and knowing the No.9 car made the decision to try it on two stops, we came in to cover the other strategy with three stops. We knew Felix could move forward on another set of primary tires running full fuel and Honda power, and came out in second only nine seconds behind Dixon.”

To the criticism that the Ganassi brain trust buries Rosenqvust in the pack, Wanser responds: “If five lapped cars didn’t end up between Felix and Dixon, Felix would have caught Dixon many laps prior to the end and would have a greater opportunity to pass him for the win. Our other challenge for the late race passing was Felix had used up all of his push to pass. The lapped cars and then Dixon had push to pass to use to defend.” Thanks, Barry.

Q: What do you make of Ganassi’s inability to field a winning second car? It’s been since 2014 that a CGR car not driven by Scott Dixon won a race, and I don’t see that changing this year.

Chris M.

RM: Well it damn near happened last Sunday, and I think Felix is going to be a multiple winner before it’s all said and done. Maybe not this year (I picked him to win twice), but next year for sure. That kid has got it.

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