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 think many people were surprised by your story that the National Guard was moving its IndyCar sponsorship from long-time partner Panther Racing over to Bobby Rahal's outfit. I was not one of them. My theory on this move is that the National Guard needed two things as part of its sponsorship package: 1) Stability in ONE driver (which Panther did not have after J.R. Hildebrand's departure); and 2) A young, AMERICAN driver to be the face of its IndyCar program. It seems like the National Guard may have been a bit uncomfortable in trying to recruit troops for the American military with a foreign driver. Does my theory hold any water?
Jay Matheny, Mayfield, KY
RM: Dale Earnhardt Jr. had been the face of the National Guard in NASCAR and it makes sense an American would be desired for IndyCar. But Dan Wheldon, Vitor Meira, Oriol Servia and Ryan Briscoe were all popular with the Guard so maybe that wasn't as important as performance (zero wins in six years). However, I understand the Guard wasn't real happy after Hildebrand was let go after Indy, so maybe your theory is correct.
Q: Now that RLLR has locked down one of the best sponsorships in the paddock (National Guard) for Graham, who gets the second car? Hinch? Wilson? Servia? This should supply an influx of cash and maybe RLLR will be the top Honda team next year, barring a move to Honda by Andretti. I vote for Justin "Badass" Wilson for the second seat, how do you feel?
Brian Henris, Fort Mill, SC
RM: I think if Graham is voting he'd definitely pick Justin because they had a good relationship at Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing. And Honda is also a big fan of JWil, if that carries any weight.
Q: I almost choked on my beer when you reported Panther brought in $10-13 million a year from the National Guard. With that kind of money, they should have been a top team! At least they should have paid Dan Wheldon and ran a second car! As an IndyCar fan and national taxpayer, this makes me personally angry.
Pete, Milwaukee, WI
RM: Well, you have to figure that for that kind of money The Guard expected some results and I'll save my Wheldon and Meira stories for another day. But The Guard loved the way John Barnes treated its soldiers and heroes at the track. And I understand he's appealing to try and retain his sponsorship.
Q: Can we get this out there BEFORE Fontana? If Castroneves needs one position on the last lap of the race and Power is in front of him (by 1 or 10 places) Power is going to pull over and let Helio have the spot. This isn't a question; it is an obvious fact. Hunter-Reay's teammates made sure he had what he needed from them at the end of the race last year. No, Power isn't going to bring out a yellow for Helio, but he might let him by (assuming it doesn't also help Dixon). NASCAR teams took a ton of crap for their team orders. I would argue the team ordering their cars wasn't the problem. The intentional yellow was inexcusable, but letting a car by that you need points for is common in all forms of racing. It might happen in Fontana and if it does it would be great if Indy Car could be ahead of the outrage.
Ryan in West Michigan
RM: Don't forget A.J. Allmendinger. Why do you think he's being called into action this week? The Captain is trying to do everything possible to help and so will Will. The outrage in NASCAR was that comical spin that bit Mikey Waltrip in the butt – as it should have.
Q: Will Carlos Munoz be getting a one-off ride for the season finale at California? We all saw his strong running at Indy last May. So will Andretti clean out the parts bin and find a ride for Munoz? Is there a racecar with his name on it for 2014?
The vengeful S.O.B. in Vermont, Ernie Connell
RM: No entry for him this week but Andretti is working on running him full-time in 2014.
Q: The nearly tragic ending gathered the news headlines coming out of the Houston double-header…but the podium by Simona on Saturday was truly awesome! It's a shame she did not have an opportunity to qualify Sunday as it is probable she would have had a better starting spot. I was impressed by the kudos Dixie gave her in your interview. It's interesting to me that TK and Marco are the only drivers I saw congratulate her on Twitter; however, I am sure many others did it in person. I was happy to hear the NBC booth give Simona a lot of compliments too.... although since she was doing the most exciting passes for position, I guess she would be hard to ignore that race!
I have felt Simona is the best young driver in the series for several years and am glad she finally has gotten the chance to show it. Townsend and Wally defending her optimistic pass attempt early in the race Sunday was good to hear too: seems she has added to the great amount of respect she already had. Speaking of which, there was mention on one of the broadcasts over the weekend that Simona is also part of silly season discussions. Any chance she could end up at one of the Big Three teams?
Alan in Louisville
RM: Simona's always had the respect of the paddock because they all know how hard she drives and how tough it is to wrestle an Indy car on a rough street course. TK was one of the first people to congratulate her when she got out of the car. I keep hearing she may end up with Dale Coyne for 2014, but Marshall Pruett is going to update the silly season stories this weekend in Fontana, here on RACER.com.
Q: How do you rate the IndyCar return to Houston? The crowd looked good from the telecasts and definitely room for growth. I know the track was not up to par and who could have seen Dario's wreck coming? Apart from that, I am glad to see them back there and the races were entertaining to watch.
David Lawrence, Albany, GA
RM: For all the labor pains and sweltering temperatures, I thought they were both damn good races. And, considering it's football season in Texas, I thought Sunday's turnout was very good.
Q: How does Derrick Walker absolve himself and the series of any wrongdoing with the setup of the Houston course with a comment like, “We can suggest where the stands are placed, but the promoter has the final say on where they are located.” Where does the buck stop in this series? If they put a car in the stands, who is going to feel the repercussions more in the long run: the promoter, or the series?
I remember Adrian Fernandez's wheel killing three people in Michigan during a CART race, I have no idea who the promoter was. The next days headlines would read, “Fans die during IndyCar race,” not “Fans die in an event promoted by ‘President of Competition.'” Walker needs to lead, follow, or get out of the way. IndyCar is full of presidents, vps, directors, etc. and then puts on a show that looks like a half-a**ed Chinese fire drill. And they can't figure out why the sport has declined in popularity. Maybe they need a Director of Direction?
Napalm Nick, Locust Grove, VA
RM: Seat location is up to the promoter and IndyCar's responsibility is to make suggestions and make things as safe as possible for competitors and fans. What happened at Houston could have easily taken place on Shoreline Drive at Long Beach during the past 30 years but it hasn't. Having said that, I do believe those grandstands will be moved to the inside of that corner for 2014 because Mike Lanigan and IndyCar are in agreement.