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 am a bit dumbfounded with the signing of Montoya, perhaps you can offer some insight? When we have Allmendinger, Newgarden, Kanaan, etc. who are sponsor friendly, fan-friendly, and wonderful representatives. Montoya certainly was fast in the past, and perhaps he is tired of running mid-pack, but I do not see what he has to prove, when he has been there and done that.
Paul H., Erie, Pa
RM: I guess my inclination would have been to go with Newgarden first (because of his age and potential) and I believe Penske did interview him a year ago. T.K. and Justin Wilson certainly deserve consideration but I guess Allmendinger wanted to stick with stock cars. I guess R.P. sees Montoya as a former champion who has been forgotten but who still has something to prove (although, as you said, what does he have left to prove in America?).
Q: THUD! The sound of Michael Andretti's mouth hitting the AA team garage floor when he heard of Team Penske's big scoop of signing Juan Pablo Montoya to the Penske team for 2014! Guess Penske pulled off another blindsider. Did anyone see this coming?
Have to wonder if JPM had an inkling of this when he turned Mikey down just the other day! Also, have to wonder how Tony Kanaan feels, he is an Indy 500 champion after all, and he's been told he must "bring money" to a new team he's shopping around for, yet, JPM gets signed even without having to bring money nor full sponsorship being in place first! Remains to be seen if JPM can still "bring it" in open wheel cars, and if he will be a good fit in Penske. What say you?
Tony Mezzacca, Madison, N.J
RM: The Captain is the king of surprises and, yes, this was a shocker because most of us figured JPM was staying in NASCAR. Like I wrote on Tuesday
, nobody has ever been away as long as Juan so it will be interesting to see if he recaptures that style we remember. I think it may be tougher than anyone imagines but Kanaan and Dario think he'll be up to the task.
Q: How long has this Montoya-to-Penske deal been in the works?
RM: Tim Cindric said it was at Michigan in August when they first broached the subject.
Q: I grew up in the Detroit area in a Ford family. My dad, my uncles, my grandparents, all worked for Ford. Roger Penske has always been a Chevrolet guy and it's hard to shake those old “Ford good-guy vs. Chevy bad-guy” perspectives. I certainly respect and admire Penske and the Penske team, but that Bowtie affiliation…
But now JPM is joining Penske. He was my favorite guy in F1, he didn't take any BS from Schumacher and figured he could whup him in a fair fight. Driving cojones the size of bowling balls. Hell, he's not like any other driver I know! Next year should be EXTREMELY exciting. I guess I'm going to have to get a hat with a Chevy bowtie on it.
Curt Larson, Clearwater, Fla. & Bloomfield Twp, Mich.
RM: It's a good storyline and refreshing to see somebody from NASCAR come to IndyCar instead of the other way around.
Q: With possible changes to the IndyCar schedule for next year, how does that affect the mechanics and pit crew for teams dealing with a shorter season, regarding employment and salary? Also, was the Andretti offer too low for Montoya to accept? Finally, will we see better racing next year when the aero kit is introduced?
RM: I think most of the mechanics are concerned about being laid off for several months – even on the big teams. I have no idea if JPM and Mikey were ever far enough along to talk money. Not sure we can have better racing than we've seen the past two years and an aero kit might un-even the playing field, but that's 2015, not next year.
Q: All this talk about Beaux Barfield needing to be shown the door (by Dixon mostly) is really funny. Because the one who really needs to be given his walking papers is Mark Miles! What the hell is his stupid obsession with ending the season on Labor Day? No other racing series in America ends on Labor Day. The NFL has always been a ratings juggernaut; nothing new there. The other racing series are not afraid to run races into the fall, why is he?
Now, thanks to his policy, Baltimore is off the schedule! Houston is going to be run in the summer next year! Summer – in Houston! I've lived in Houston all my life and I can tell you it gets unbearably hot in the summer! Fontana is the same situation!
And you know what makes me even more crazy? He then says that IndyCar will hold non-championship events in the fall months. Well how is that any different than racing in the States in the fall for points that count toward the championship? You're still holding an event that will be televised here. The only difference is that they will be halfway around the world and broadcast in the middle of the night or very early in the morning. Guess what, Mark? The ratings will be even crappier than they are now!
All he has accomplished with this idiotic idea (which by the way is not new, and didn't work the last time they tried it) is put the event promoters in a very bad spot and force them to change their race dates away from the ones where they have built equity. Plus, he has made it harder now for race fans like me who actually go to races (I will have gone to two this year) to continue to do so.
RM: A lot of us share your feelings about ending on Labor Day because it didn't matter when the IRL tried it and likely won't make any difference next year either. I think Houston will be in late June with maybe the hope of moving it to the season opener by 2015 (late January?). Miles is trying to increase revenue for the teams with a proposed foreign tour because the purses are so weak nowadays thanks to the Leader's Circle program. The Boston Consulting Group got paid a lot of money to offer “suggestions” on how to fix IndyCar and I guess Mark feels like he needs to try them.
Q: I agree with you almost 100 percent of the time concerning IndyCar. I have hated the constant whiners that call themselves fans but since Randy Bernard left I am finding myself not as excited as there seems no positive momentum. Baltimore gone for next year, IMS probably adding a road course race, TK having serious issues for sponsorship. Also doesn't sound like any new racetracks for 2014 and still a crummy TV package. Any positives coming for 2014?
I have also started to wonder what would happen if Chip or Roger called it quits. My fear is that Jim France and his new combined sports car series would somehow take over the 500 – call me crazy.
Mike Nicholas, Fishers, Ind.
RM: I guess my advice would be to enjoy the good racing and be patient because I think you'll see plenty of changes by 2015. But if sports cars don't screw up the rules and keep that ALMS element, they could give IndyCar a real run for the money in attendance and sponsorship.