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'm starting to be disappointed in watching IndyCar. Not the product, or the races themselves, but the rules, whining, bitching and complaining. I've never heard so much whining from every driver on the grid. It's getting old, and I wonder how these drivers would cope if they were racing in the days of CART in the early 1990s. I'm sorry, but that “avoidable contact” rule needs to be thrown out. Besides, what really constitutes avoidable contact? It's racing, it's going to happen. So what you got punted, isn't that what all the great Indy car drivers of the past are famous for? The Chrome Horn? I'm not just talking Paul Tracy, but Emerson Fittipaldi, Al Unser Jr. Michael Andretti, these and other “named” drivers have all been guilty of “avoidable contact,” and there was never a punishment. (Watch Cleveland 1995 for an example).
I'm still trying to figure out the big deal with Dixon at Sonoma. He hit a pit crew man; you can't do that, it's in the rulebook. Maybe I am old school, but I hardly saw Wally Dallenbach on TV or his name even mentioned in the broadcast when he ran the show in CART. It just seems like there is too much focus on Race Control than the race itself. Let them settle it on the racetrack. Was Baltimore a fiasco? I'm not so sure. I enjoyed the race. Come on people, it's a street race; you are going to have pile-ups, backups, and a lot of contact in those close quarters. What are people expecting? NASCAR thrives on chaos, and it brings people to the track.
I'm very disappointed that there isn't another race for a month, cause emotions are high, and again IndyCar fails to capitalize on it. IndyCar is a great product, let Race Control do its job and stop questioning everything. I'd like to see Dixon fined for calling Beaux Barfield an idiot. Wasn't Paul Tracy fined for calling Chris Kneifel an a** clown? IndyCar and Beaux Barfield need to take control of the show, and if the drivers don't like it, go somewhere else to race, or pull up your panties, climb in the cockpit, shut up and go racing.
Kris Branch, Ocala, Fla.
RM: You've hit on all my hot buttons. The bitching and moaning is out of control. Unavoidable contact is the most objectionable and senseless rule in street racing. Street racing is like indoor midget racing – there's always going to be contact. The greats of the 1960s and '70s didn't use the Chrome Horn because it was way too dangerous, the cars weren't safe, the tracks weren't safe and there was no such thing as a street race. Nobody in the '60s had a clue about who was the USAC chief steward (it wasn't Harlan Fengler, he was Indy only). Dallenbach did a good job and I feel bad for criticizing him unfairly a couple times. The chief steward's job is thankless and the people screaming for Barfield's head are the same ones who backed Brian Barnhart and then wanted him beheaded. It's just IndyCar's luck that we've got to wait a month before the next race and it sucks. But hey, Little E's going to make The Chase so life's not all bad…
Q: What a race – and I don't necessarily mean that in a good way!. Incredibly aggressive driving on a crazily unstable track surface, tons of stupid or unwise moves, and an actual race to the end. Will Power as unintentional kamikaze, Seabass looking like a sure thing and then getting punted, Pagenaud finally winning, and enough rubbin' and racin' to resemble a Nascrap race. Who woulda thunk it? I hope someone notes somewhere that the reason the race was so fantastic was due to two discreet things: the track surface in the braking zones to the hairpins was deliriously unstable and difficult to maintain threshold braking on, and the hairpins themselves allowed for very real passing opportunities on every lap, albeit with a heavy penalty if you or the guy next to you or behind you screwed up the line. Thus, nearly every lap saw the drivers trying to pass under extremely unforgiving but opportune circumstances, and the result was great racing…and ridiculous carnage as well. As you said that evening in the roundtable video: “If that race doesn't do it for you, I give up!”
RM: All I can say is that I've covered endless street races where one driver took off and disappeared and the only passes were in the pits and everybody bitched because it was boring. Well, I sure as hell wasn't bored last Sunday and I sure hope IndyCar returns to Baltimore, because it's 3-0 in terms of not being boring.
Q: Ganassi and Dixon are sharpening the knives for Barfield's head. I think he's done as level-headed a job as is possible under the gun of race day. Is the knife sharpening justified or is Dixon out of line?
Gordon from Dallas
RM: I don't blame Dixon for being mad about being spun out and then speared. Obviously the last two races have pretty much gutted his chances at the title and he was definitely the victim at Baltimore. But they were racing accidents in my mind and not premeditated like most of Sunday's incidents. I don't think Barfield plays favorites either. TGBB had 15 years of yelling at drivers, waffling on calls, looking the other way and starting an oval race in the rain. This is Beaux's second season so I say let's give the guy with the toughest job a fighting chance. Sure he's made some mistakes and maybe needs to be more consistent about blocking but he's also made some damn good decisions about local yellows, opening and closing the pits and being decisive on a tough call. He ruffled feathers in ALMS, too, yet wasn't treated with such disrespect.
Q: If Scott Dixon loses the championship this year, he needs to look no further than his Target-bought mirror for the reason, and this is why. At Sonoma, Dixon got aggressive on pit exit and clipped the Penske guy. It doesn't matter if the Penske guy was playing games or not, Scott took a hard line out and hit him. At Baltimore, Dixon got very aggressive on a restart from Row 3. Power screwed up big time, but it was pretty clear by the replay and his reactions he had no idea Dixon was there as he went to make a move on Bourdais. Where exactly did Dixon think he was going to go once they got to Turn 1? Decent chance he was headed for a nice pileup. What's the common thread between the two? Dixon got very aggressive and put himself in bad spots.
I don't have an issue with that if it was just for race wins. Dixon didn't keep the big picture, aka the championship, in mind. If he keeps his head and doesn't force either issue, he's probably 1st or 2nd at Sonoma and Top 3 (God only knows the way that race went!) at Baltimore. In the end, Dixon messed up at Sonoma and Power screwed up at Baltimore, but both were situations Dixon could have avoided had he played it with the big picture in mind. As Chip and Dixon look for Roger Penske on the grassy knoll, they should understand that. Dixon and Ganassi may lose the championship to Helio Castroneves and Penske not because Helio was the best driver in 2013, but the one with the smartest strategy.
Mark, Maineville, Ohio
RM: You can't fault Dixon for going for the throat at either place: he's the hunter in this deal and winning is what he's paid to do. I love that he's aggressive and I hated that he brushed the tire and had his race ruined at Sonoma. But it's the rule and the buck stops with the guy who holds the steering wheel. As for Baltimore, Power got a run and pulled out – just like Scott – and unfortunately they ran out of room. Maybe he should have been running for points and accepted a podium but I like the fact he goes for it.
Q: What an insane race, one second I am embarrassed, the next, I am leaping off the chair, cheering. After calming down, I decided it's all your fault, Miller. You said yes to double-file restarts on street circuits and I believed you.
RM: It was a suggestion from Ganassi and Penske to Randy Bernard and he opted to give it a try. I'd say it's only made street races 1,000 times more watchable and exciting. Yes, it's difficult for the drivers but so was running Langhorne.
Q: Fantastic race and this year keeps getting better... except I have to wait a month for the season to continue. P***ed off drivers, pile-ups, badass passing, equipment breaking down, etc. You cannot like racing and not love this season unless you are simply a hater (and we have way too many of those). Would have been a tough day to be a race steward.
Any surprises or positives for 2014? New tracks, driver/team rumors? Any word on a replacement for IZOD?
Mike Nicholas, Fishers, Ind.
RM: Nobody deserved all the crap that Race Control had to deal with last Sunday but I'm sure one of the experts on Track Forum would have done a much better job. Other than the road race at IMS, next year's schedule will look almost identical to this year's if Brazil and Baltimore return. Too early for driver changes but I know of a couple in the works.
Q: What a pile of crap that was. The last 10 laps were great but most of the 65 laps that preceded them were abysmal. Forty laps of very little happening on a course where passing is largely impossible followed by lap after lap after lap of yellow. Not only were there too many yellow flags but at as many as six laps before they return to green, they simply last too long; in the 25 laps from 41 to 65 inclusive, there were five yellow flags and only six laps were run under green. Formula 1 does not specialize in street races but they manage to clear the wrecks at Monaco in one or two laps of yellow, not the five or more that IndyCar often seems to need. I have always hated street races and Baltimore was a perfect example of why.
Mike Grove, Copley, Ohio
RM: You just described a NASCAR Cup race Mike. I agree the cautions can bog down a race and a couple seemed too long but I disagree about it being lackluster in the first two-thirds of the race. Bourdais, Servia, Kanaan and Rahal made all kinds of good passes and so did Saavedra.
Q: Just finished watching NBCSN's re-air of the Baltimore "I can spin you out, no you can't if I spin you out first" race! That was twice the fun again! Was there anybody who didn't get spun around at least once during the entire race? If Race Control was to hand out drive-thrus for every single punting infraction, they'd still be out there! Guess this new car is really stout enough that the drivers know they can make dive-bomb moves inside another driver.
Have to say the last 15 laps when Marco was in the lead turned out to be the most exciting and suspenseful laps of the race. You just didn't know who was going to end up where, who was going to take who out, who was going to make it till the end! Marco gave it a helluva of a go in a wounded car and it was just too spent to hold off the hard charging Pagenaud and Newgarden. Hats off to both of them, especially for young Newgarden. I was really pulling for him to try to get past Simon for his first victory, but I think that will come, no doubt!
Now, can anything be done about that chicane on the main straight? The cause of considerable problems for many of the drivers during the event, including the ALMS race drivers as well! The start and restarts were a joke, at best there was maybe 2 or 3 rows that were side by side after the chicane before the green was thrown! On one of the late restarts with Marco out front, I saw only three cars lined up that were past the chicane when the green was thrown! Hoping this race continues, as everyone involved seems to want it back, just need a new date for the weekend. Do you think this move to a new date will help or hurt the race?
Tony Mezzacca, Madison, N.J.
RM: Don't think Helio did and he finished ninth with a penalty. Newgarden's first podium was well deserved and a nice boost for Sarah Fisher and Wink Hartman. Marco kept jumping the restarts and he was about to get a penalty. If Baltimore returns, the railroad tracks must be paved over and give the drivers a straight shot to Turn 1. Crowd looked down from a year ago and way down from the opener but the 25,000 (my guess) who showed seemed to enjoy it. Yes, I think a new date will hurt.