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.
Questions for Robin can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org. Due to the high volume of questions received, we can’t always guarantee that your letter will be printed, but Robin will get to as many as he can. Published questions have been edited for clarity. Views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of RACER or Honda/HPD.
Q: With the Indianapolis COVID restrictions becoming more relaxed on Monday, has there been any word on how many fans may be in attendance at this year’s 500? I really hope at least 50% are allowed in. We all could benefit from seeing the Greatest Spectacle in Racing in a form as close to normal as possible.
Eric Mequon, WI
RM: No hardline percentage or numbers have been decided, but I know R.P. and Mark Miles want as many as possible. It will likely be April before it’s determined and I know that’s hard on out-of-town fans like yourself, but IMS is at the mercy of health departments and COVID numbers.
Q: I know it may be a little early, but are fans with Bronze Badges going to be allowed in the garage area this year? I think that many teams and drivers may feel uneasy with the close interaction with the fans during the pandemic. I know the numbers are coming down and fans will be allowed in the grandstands, but am not sure if Gasoline Alley will be open. We have our credit from last year that is good until 2022, but wouldn’t want to waste buying a Bronze Badge this year if we are only limited to the grandstands. I would rather just pay the regular admission price for the two days of practice and qualifying weekend that we attend and save my credit until next year to get the Bronze Badge. Looking forward to a great year of racing. Thanks, and stay safe.
Jerry, Pittsburgh, PA
RM: “Jerry is not alone in asking that question. At this point, no determination has been made on whether we will be able to allow traditional Bronze and Silver Badge access this year. It will likely be some time later this month or early April before we know.” Doug Boles, IMS President.
Q: Do you have any thoughts about why Ferrucci made the move to NASCAR? Is it about the opportunity to make money? What is interesting is, during Saturday’s broadcast of the Xfinity race, it was mentioned that it was Ferrucci’s first race, but they never once mentioned the word ‘IndyCar.’ Do you think that’s deliberate?
RM: I haven’t talked to Santino but it could be as simple as the fact he didn’t have to bring a couple million dollars, or maybe Sam Hunt actually offered him a five-race deal to evaluate. Hard to say about identifying him as an IndyCar driver. NBC is good about it because NASCAR and IndyCar are partners, whereas FOX, not so much, although they gave Mario a shout-out on his birthday Sunday thanks to a text from Chip Ganassi.
“…and this is Ferrucci’s first weekend in an Xfinity car. Prior to this he was racing… other stuff.” Jarrett/Motorsport Images
Q: I respect Jimmie Johnson, but I feel it’s a bit arrogant and a bit out of his league thinking he can compete against guys that trained for years in open-wheel cars. I think he’d have a much better chance of being competitive if he were to run only ovals, don’t you?
MG from Niagara Falls, NY
RM: No doubt ovals would be his strong suit but I don’t look at it as arrogance, I look at it as a champion of one discipline wanting to branch out and try something different and challenging. I’m glad he’s doing it and I hope he hangs in there, but it’s going to be very difficult.
Q: I was shocked to see Iowa and Circuit of America dropped from the schedule. Iowa has been there forever, and I’m hoping its just a one-year skip?
RM: Iowa is done unless you want to buy the track, and COTA has dumped IndyCar for NASCAR because its probably going to draw four times the crowd.
Q: Since vaccines are slowly rolling out across North America and sporting events such as football, basketball, NASCAR and IndyCar are now allowing fans to be present, I was wondering if you have any insight on this year’s Toronto race? I purchased tickets for last year’s race, and after it was canceled I received an email from the promoters asking if I would like a refund or credit for a future race. Since then, I haven’t heard anything! I’ve reached out numerous times to the promoters to the ticket office, and nobody has an answer for me. Do you know if the race is still a go, and if so if fans will be allowed?
RM: I haven’t heard anything, but obviously it’s all contingent on Canada reopening its border because there can’t be a race without the teams. I sent a letter to Green/Savoree Promotions, so I’ll let you know when they respond.