Remembering Robin Miller

IMS Photo

Late to the party, and less eloquent than much of what I have read today, but please indulge me my thoughts regarding Robin Miller, Indycar’s voice in print and broadcasting. I find it ironic that during one of the best Indycar seasons in years we have lost two great voices of the sport within less than 20 days.

I knew Robin Miller for years before I met him. I may have read every story he put in the Indianapolis Star when it was a real newspaper. he covered racing, high school sports, and the pacers included. I liked his frank, forthright style. Euphemisms were for the other writers to use.

I’m not sure where Indycar would be today without Robin Miller. He helped drivers get rides in the series, he has pushed for races to get on the schedule, most recently Gateway, and his tireless touting of the series and the Indianapolis 500 have contibuted to the staus the series enjoys now.

We have lost a fierce Indycar advocate, a man who would help a struggling driver or team owner whenever and however he could, and someone who made the paddock and the media center come alive. I remember the first race for which I had media credentials at St. Pete how Miller’s charisma gave an energy to the compact crowded room. When Miller left, the stillness in the room was palpable.

I first actually met him in the IMS media center that year. I happened to be wearing one of the shirts I had purchased from one of his numerous fund raisers. We rode the elevator up to the fourth floor together.

“Nice shirt,” he said. I thanked him and introduced myself. After that he always greeted me with a smile. I felt comfortable going to him with questions which he always took time to answer. he didn’t seem to care what out let you wrote for, if you were in the media center, you were a comrade.

My best memories of Miller come from Portland. In 2018, the year the venue returned to the series, his fist comments upon entering the media center were about how little money had been spent on the place in 11 years.

The next year, I sat near him in the Portland media center as he took a call from A. J. Foyt. It was a cordial conversation about when Robin would release a story. He wouldn’t share the news with me at the time, but when it broke, I asked for a clarification and he calmly explained it to me.

Please don’t ask who will replace Robin Miller at Racer magazine. The answer is no one. Someone might take over the mailbag (I hope not), and someone might step into his reporting role. But replace? No way.

BC39 Returns Tonight; 74 Entries

IMS Photo

Indianapolis Motor Speedway continues a busy week of racing tonight with the two day BC39 USAC midget race. The event returns after a oe year absence due to COVID-19. 74 entries will try to make tomorrow night’s feature race.

Conor Daly is the lone Indycar representative, while NASCAR drivers Kyle Larson, Chase Elliott, and Ryan Newman will also attempt to make the feature.

Today’s Schedule:

4:00PM -10:00PM Gates Open

5:00PM Hot Lap Sessions (12 Groups)

7:15PM Heat Races (12 Races) 10 laps each

8:00PM Stoops Pursuit 25 laps run in 5 lap segments; cars that have lost positions in each segment exit the track.

24 cars- the heat winners plus the car gaining the most passing points in their heat- make up the field for the Stoops Pursuit.

In 2019 the Stoops pursuit ended with the three cars remaining in the last segment all flipping on the last lap. Kyle Larson was declared the winner.

Indycar Notes

Indycar will have a press conference tomorrow at 11 am with Bobby Rahal, Roger Penske, and Randy Edeker, CEO of HyVee. The rumor is that Iowa Speedway will return to the Indycar schedule in 2022. I truly missed Iowa this year. It is a great track for Indycar, which is sorely lacking oval races.

Bob Jenkins Memorial Streamed at 10 AM Today

From the Indianapolis Motor Speedway:

Robert F. Jenkins
September 4, 1947 – August 9, 2021
A memorial service will be held virtually at 10:00am EST, Monday, August 16th. The service will be streamed globally at https://bobjenkinsmemorial.com
Memorial contributions may be made in Bob’s name to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum, a 501 (c)(3) non-profit organization. Bob was a true friend of the IMS Museum and he will be missed.
Click here to donate now or via mail to:
Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum’
4750 West 16th Street
Indianapolis, Indiana 46222
In his own humble words: “A race fan that got lucky” ‌  ‌  ‌  ‌  ‌

Final Thoughts- Big Machine Spiked Coolers Grand Prix and the Shared Weekend

First, a few more thoughts on the race:

Romain Grosjean will win a race on the IMS road course next year. His 2021 statistics show he figured this track out very quickly- a pole, two second place finishes, and a third place starting spot. He is just seven points behind Scott McLaughlin for Rookie of the Year despite missing three races. I think Grosjean will end up winning the honor. He has performed better than McLaughlin most of the year.

Alexander Rossi’s fourth place finish was his best of the year. he was heading for a top five last eek in Nashville when he tangled with Pato O’Ward. Rossi finished fifth at Mid Ohio before the break, so he could have had three top fives in a row. I look for him to finish the season strong and maybe win one of the last four races.

O’Ward’s inconsistency will cost him the title. he seems to be good one race and bad the next. It will take a strong consistent run to win the title. We have yet to see that from him or the AMSP team.

How long has it been since the season champion won just twice? We may see that this year. There have been nine different winners in 12 races with just four races to go, and no one has won more than twice. I have a feeling we will at least tie the season record of 11 different winners, which leaves little margin for a third win by Palou or anyone else.

Sharing the Track

The Indycar/NASCAR shared weekend is a fine idea on paper, and IMS is one of less than a handful of tracks where it would work. But a new mindset needs to come into play on the scheduling.

Currently, this is NASCAR’s weekend at IMS. This weekend should be treated like baseball’s All Star Game, where both series get equal billing, and the home alternates each year.. I felt Indycar was treated as the lowest ranked series yesterday, going first before the minor league XFinity Series.

I think XFinity needs to return to Lucas Oil Raceway for a Friday night race and leave IMS to the two major series. NASCAR and Indycar should take turns being the Sunday feature race. It won’t be NASCAR’s weekend and it won’t be Indycar’s weekend. It will be a truly shared weekend. Obviously, both races would be on the road course.

It appears Roger Penske wants the Indianapolis 500 to be the only oval event at IMS. I applaud him for this appropriate stance.

The NTT Indycar Series moves to World Wide Technology Raceway next weekend for the final oval of 2021. It will also be the last race I cover in person this year.

The King Reclaims His Throne

Photo by Kyle McInnes

Will Power in victory lane at the IMS road course. It’s a step back toward normalcy. Power won the Big Machine Spiked Coolers Grand Prix today, his first win in ten months. Gis 40th career win puts him two wins behind Michael Andretti on the all time career list. Power won for the fifth time at the IMS road course.

Tire strategy was key today. Power took the lead after the first round of opit stops. Pole sitter Pato O’Ward started on reds while most everyone else began the race on the primary tires. O’Ward switched to blacks on the first stop and power took on the faster red tires. He passed O’Ward and ran away from the field, building a lead of more than eight seconds over O’Ward and then Colton Herta.

The race was a mostly processional affair, with a couple of interesting battles in the field. Passing seemed difficult. After a caution filled race last Sunday, today saw the yellow flag come out just twice, the first time on lap 67. Alex Palou brought ourt the first caution when his engine let go. The DNF tightened the points race significantly. he now leads O’Ward by just 21 points. Rinus Veekay spun with assistance a few laps later and stalled, forcing another yellow.

Power is the ninth different winner in 2021. The series is just two different winners shy of the record 11 different winners with four races left.

Notes

Alex Palou had everything going his way. He was ahead of his three closest pursuers in the championship and he was less than twenty laps away from padding his lead. Then it was all gone in a puff of smoke.

Christian Lundgaard impressed this weekend. The 20 year old drove a good race, even getting the lead during a pit stop cycle. he finished 12th. I hope we see him again before the season ends.

Indycar photo by Chris Jones

Top Gun Racing and R C Enerson completed just 16 laps today, but the team did get to race for the first time. They have obtained some sponsorship, and plan to be at Gateway next weekend. I thought it was quite an accomplishment for them to get to do a qualifying run for the 500. they have come a long way.

Scott Dixon matched his worst finish of the year, 17th. Ironically both have been at IMS.

Palou’s poor finish hurt some, but with the days his closest competitors had, it didn’t hurt as much as it could have. His advantage is that O’Ward and Dixon keep swapping second and third, while Newgarden makes only minimal gains and has three drivers to overtake.

The crowd was decent today, although the place didn’t have a true race day vibe.

IMS had a beautiful tribute to Bob Jenkins on the video boards before the race.

I will be back tomorrow with some more thoughts on this weekend’s format tomorrow. Thanks for following along these past two days.

Race Day- Firsts on the Line

Photo: Pato O’Ward on his way to the pole. Photo by Kyle McInnes

Today’s NTT Series Indycar Race at the IMS road course, the Big machine Spiked Coolers Grand Prix, could set many firsts. Pato O’Ward looks to be 2021’s first three time winner. To do that he will have to win from the pole for the first time in his career. Will Power seeks his first win of the season from the outside of the first row.

This track generally produces the winner from the first two rows, although I am not giving Chrisyian Lungaard much of a chance in his first Indycar start. Romain Grosjean won the pole and finished second in May could also get his first career win today.

From Last night:

O’Ward Nip Power in Tight, Frantic Qualifying

https://thepitwindow.blog/2021/08/13/oward-nips-power-for-pole-in-frantic-tight-qualifying/

Josef Newgarden and Scott Dixon start 20th and 26th, respectively. They will need some luck and some alternate strategy to get to the front.

Today’s Schedule- Eastern Time:

8:45-9:15 Warmup on Peacock

1:00 Green Flag on NBCSN

The top 12:

O’Ward Nips Power for Pole in Frantic, Tight Qualifying

Photo: Pato O’Ward by Matt Fraver, Indycar

So close. Will Power was so close to earning his first pole position of 2021, but Pato O’Ward nipped him at the line by 0.0067 of a second. O’Ward’s third pole of the year came at an opportune time for the driver third in the standings. Points leader Alex Palou qualified sixth and other title contenders Scott Dixon rolls off 26th and Josef Newgarden starts 20th. Dixon was penalized for spinning and affecting other drivers’ laps, and Newgarden has a six place penalty for an engine change to serve.

All three rounds of the shortened qualifying format produced drama as several drivers traded the top spot. But the star of the day was Christian Lundgaard, the Danish F2 driver in the RLL Hy Vee number 45 this weekend. Lundgaard impressed in the practice session, and he dazzled in qualifying, making it to the final round and leading the fast Twelve for a bit. He will start fourth. No matter how his race turns out, his weekend is already a success.

Christian Lundgaard. Photo by Chris Jones, Indycar

Notes

Colton Herta’s string of front row starts ends at four. He qualified fifth.

Romain Grosjean missed his second consecutive pole on the IMS Road course by just 27 thousandths of a second. He starts third.

.Ed Carpenter Racing had its best road course qualifying in a while. Conor Daly starts eighth and Rinus VeeKay ninth.

Newgarden and Dixon start in a part of the grid where there is usually trouble in the first turn. If they get through that, it will be interesting to see how far they advance wht strategy they use.

.

Palou Leads Practice; Herta Struggles

Points leader Alex Palou had the fastest lap in the only practice before qualifying begins tonight at 7 pm for the Big Machine Spiked Coolers Grand Prix. Palou’s lap of 1:10.883 was 0.023 seconds faster than Rinus VeeKay, winner of May’s GMR Grand prix on the IMS road course. VeeKay also won the pole for race 1 of last fall’s Harvest Grand Prix.

Pato O’Ward, Jack Harvey, and Josef Newgarden rounded out the top five. Newgarden will have a ix place grid penalty for the race due to an unapproved engine change following the Music City Grand Prix.

The big surprise of the session was Christian Lundgaard, driving for Rahal Letterman Laniqan Racing. The Danish F2 driver was seventh in his first Indycar session, jus 0.030 seconds behind Will Power.

The practice round also saw Colton Herta, who has started on the front row for the last four races, struggle. He had a lockup, overshot turn one, aned had his car stall leaving the pits. Herta was 26th on the time chart, only completing 16 laps.

Qualifying this evening is the same format used in Detroit. The normal first round is followed bay a round of 12 to determine the pole. NBCSN will broadcast qualifying live

The top 12:

I’ll be back later tonight with a qualifying wrapup. Going out to buy spikes for my cooler. I want to look fashionable tomorrow.

Big Machine Spiked Coolers Grand Prix Preview

We got a taste of this last July, and today is the first Indycar/NASCAR doubleheader with fans in attendance. It is probably a good thing for both series to have a showcase weekend together, and it might create some crossover fans. I would like to see a double header on an oval as well. I just hope the two series don’t go the route of the National Hockey league with their outdoor games. The new year’s day game is great but it loses its luster when you add several outdoor events during the season. don’t

Indycars have raced on the IMS road course 10 previous times, including three times last year, and this May. The early years were owned by Team Penske and drivers Simon Pagenaud and Will Power, who each have won the GMR Grand Prix three times. Power also won the Harvest Grand Prix race 2 last fall. Pagenaud’s first win was with Schmidt-Peterson Motorsports.

The entry list has expanded to 28, the biggest field for a race other than the Indianapolis 500 since 2011 at Kentucky. In addition to the regular grid, Cody ware is on the Coyne Ware car 52, Christian Lundgaard takes over the 45 for Rahal Letterman Lanigan, Helio Castroneves returns to the scene of his may triumph in the 06 for Meyer Shank, and R C Enerson will at last put Top Gun Racing’s number 75 on the grid.

Indycar teams get an hour practice mid afternoon before qualifying begins at 7 pm today. Yes the times are strange, but NASCAR seems to have dictated the schedule. Indycar does race Saturday at the decent hour of 1 pm.

It should be a prettier race than last weekend’s marathon Music City Grand Prix. IMS road course races have run the gamut from snoozers to pretty good races. Last year’s Harvest Classic Race 1 was arguably Indycar’s best race on the IMS road course. Some things to look for:

Ganassi Drivers Battle for the Title

Alex Palou leads teammate Scott Dixon by 42 points after last Sunday. While it is significant that Dixon cut into his margin behind Palou, Palou entered the Nashville race 36 points ahead of second place Pato O’Ward. He actually increased his lead over second place. I think he will lose a few more points of his lead this weekend, making for a tense to the wire run over the last four races.

Pato O’Ward still has a shot, but it seems like he has a mediocre race each time he draws close to Palou. I think he will have a better result this week.

In the GMR Grand Prix in May, Palou finished third, Dixon 9th, and O’Ward 15th.

Will Power Return to Form?

Will Power has won on the IMS road course four times and has also won the pole four times. If he is going to get a pole or a win this year, this weekend is probably his best chance. Power also needs to bounce back from a dreadful weekend in Nashville. To help him, I will not predict his success this weekend.

Another First Time Winner?

The odds are good that the NTT Indycar Series will have another first time winner both for the season and for the winner’s career. In may Romain Grosjean won the pole and finished second to Rinus VeeKay. I look for them both to be strong again. VeeKay also won the pole for the Harvest Grand Prix Race 1 last autumn.

Jack Harvey has shown well on the road course, with two second row starts and a podium.

He will qualify well, and I hope he has better luck in the race than in May, where a bad pit stop dropped to near the bottom of the field.

Notes

The average age of the three two time 2021 winners is 25.3.

I can’t recall getting this far into the season with no driver having three wins.

I’m hearing talks about bringing Iowa back for 2022. Yes, Please.

It is very appropriate that Indycar and NASCAR race at IMS the weekend following Bob Jenkin’s death. He announced for both series and loved them both.

Parnelli Jones celebrated his 88th birthday yesterday.

I will cover the Indycar practice remotely today, although I will try to get to the track for qualifications. I will be onsite Saturday.