If you have a question about open-wheel racing, send it to MillersMailbag@Racer.com We can't guarantee your letter will be published, but Robin will always reply.
Q: I thought the race at Sonoma was a complete joke. These are supposed to be the most versatile drivers in the world but their performance was no better than a Formula Ford amateur race. As a spectator, I don't want to watch lap after lap of caution because of stupid moves. IndyCar is not going to gain new fans with racing like this. There seems like nothing can be done. Drivers get penalized but that does not change their behavior. I feel bad for Dixon but it appears that he did drive through the Penske pit and enough of Dario complaining.
RM: There were a couple of “optimistic” moves in Turn 7, true, but in terms of good, hard racing it was the best I've seen at Sonoma. The restarts were spectacular (25 cars barreling up the hill on top of each other and only one spin (Charlie Kimball) and two half spins and saves by Ed Carpenter and James Hinchcliffe). I know that T.K., Simona and Justin passed a bunch of cars and it wasn't in the pits. I know yellows drag things down but, on the flip side, IndyCar ran caution-free at Mid-Ohio so I think we've had more good racing in the past two years than I can remember.
Q: Watched the race from Sonoma on the Canadian tape delayed airing (the only way we seem to get IndyCar now) and I was truly impressed with the start and restarts. These guys really can do a two-wide rolling start if they put their mind to it. I'm not sure if there were any special reasons for the quality starts, but it seemed as though the pace car was slowing the field as is necessary for a good start. The race was exciting, with lots of passing and challenging for position going on. There were lots of different pit strategies and everything was great. And then...! When the two leaders came into the pit and stopped nose to tail, I wondered who would get out first. Dixon was first, but Power's rear tire changer was going for a Sunday stroll, holding the tire sideways, taking more space than he should have. Fortunately nobody was seriously hurt, and the race continued. But I think Race Control blew it! There is no way that either team should have been penalized for a racing incident. True, Dixon may have been a bit close, but the tire carrier should have turned the tire or held it higher and scampered out of the way. After all he knew Dixon would be coming close to him. That's my rant, now my questions. Do you think Dixon should have been penalized, or like me do you think he was robbed of a possible victory and championship? For me it took a beautiful race and left me angry, and I shut it off as soon as Power crossed the line.
Keith Hines, Pitt Meadows, BC, Canada
RM: The emotional reaction from most people was that it was a bad call and Dixie got hosed. My take was that I hated to see the race decided by a call and I wish it could have been settled with a fine. But, after watching several replays and camera angles and reading the rule, it looks like Beaux Barfield got it right. And there's an email after this one that shows the Penske crewman performed the same way on all three pit stops.
Q: I certainly hope that Scott Dixon's comments immediately after the race can be chalked up to the emotions of the moment. He made himself look pretty dopey suggesting (well, actually alleging) that the Penske crewman intentionally walked into him. I mean, where in the world does Roger find such dedicated employees that they are willing walk into speeding race cars for him? I get Dixon's frustration – the penalty was certainly open to objective criticism – but the personal attack on the nearly seriously injured crewman was both fantastical and uncharacteristically low class. C'mon, Scott – you're better than that!
Bert C. Reiser
RM: Of course it was the heat of the moment. Dixon had driven a fantastic race, holding off Power on cold tires after one pit stop and driving right back into the title picture. Of course he didn't mean to clip the tire carrier and nobody in their right mind would play chicken with an Indy car storming out of the pit box.
Q: Before you or anyone says the Penske crew member was playing games with Scott Dixon, I suggest that a little review be done before making assertions. In the race, Will Power made three pit stops. On the first stop, Dixon and Power came in 1-2. Same situation and timing as the last stop. Both did their work and the Penske RR tire carrier took his tire, on his hip, around the back of the car just like the last stop. Dixon made the harder right turn to get out and did not hit him. On Power's second stop, he pitted alone. RR tire changer did the exact same thing, carrying the tire around on his hip when Power was all alone on pit road. Obviously, this is the procedure he has been trained to do. Otherwise, why would he be doing a ‘game playing' move with nobody around? On the third and final stop, the same procedure is done by the Penske crew member. The only difference in the first and third stop? Dixon, by his own admission, decided to rocket straight out. The Penske crew had done their stops the same way all day long. Dixon and the Ganassi crew should have known that. He chose to go straighter on the last stop and it cost him. If the Penske guy had done it differently all day long and then ‘played games' and done a ‘d-move' on Dixon, then an argument can be made. If anything, the Penske tire changer did Dixon a favor all day by picking up his tire in the first place. If you look where the tire was on the last stop before he picks it up, Dixon drives right over the spot where it was. If he was playing games or wanted to do a d-move, he could have just left it there as Power was still pitting. He didn't. In the end, the Penske guy did it consistently and did his job. Dixon just made a mistake and it cost him. Hit pit equipment and it's a drive-through penalty, no matter if the guy is in championship contention. It's really that clear cut.
Mark, Maineville, Ohio
RM: Just hung up with Barfield and he saw exactly what you did: no different moves by Travis Law in earlier stops. But, instead of turning right like on his first stop to avoid Power's pit, Dixon went straight this time through Power's box and triggered the unfortunate incident that cost him the victory. That's what Beaux's call was based on. Of course it turns out he could have also called a foul on Dixon for running over Power's air hose with his left rear (just saw the replay). Drivers always try to go out as straight as possible but this time it was costly.