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July 06, 2010

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Jay Robinson

If she was this slow her rookie or even sophomore year, it'd be different. But she has had time to find some reasonable speed, and hasn't. My opinion of Milka would skyrocket if she'd take herself out of the car. I'm sure it's a hard thing for anyone to do (just ask Marty Roth), but she'd save everyone - herself included - a lot of grief.

DonMedia

You are correct. As easy as it is to erupt on Twitter and light up the #ParkMilka tag, BB needs to publish a standard (107% is a workable and reasonable figure), set a date to begin enforcement, and enforce it unquestionably.

While I do not like to inject politics, particularly international politics, into racing, you are also on the mark that EJ Viso is sponsored by the same Hugo Chavez who sponsors Milka. Losing the PDVSA funding would be a serious blow to KV racing as I privately opine that money is funding more than just EJ's run with that team given the number of broken racecars they have had this season.

Fred Hurley

I'm usually in favor of an objective measurement when it comes to rules that can get a driver thrown out, but let me play devil's advocate for a second. Say you go with 107%, which certainly seems reasonable, particularly with spec or near-spec cars. Take a team like SFR. There's a good chance that Sarah would be at risk of missing a race on a road course. But I'm not sure Sarah's actually a big risk. Sure, she's off the pace, but if she's running at 109% or 110%, and is safely getting out of the way, do you really want to kick her off the track (and maybe cost her sponsor dollars) just so you have political cover for tossing a riskier driver? I think this may be a case where treating everyone like an adult is the way to go. You've got guys like Mears, Unser Jr, and Rutherford as driving instructors and evaluators. Let them give their input. If they say a driver isn't safe, then you politely tell the driver that perhaps Indy Lights is a better fit at this time. A hard and fast rule in this case ignores the fact that the problem isn't just outright speed, but the infinitely tougher-to-quantify "judgment".

With regard to Milka specifically, I wonder if the IRL's strategy is to let her race this year, park her if she gets skittish during a race, and then evaluate this off-season. It's a bit risky, but if you bring her in a few weeks after the finale, and tell her that her license is Lights-only for 2011, it lets any team that might sign her have plenty of time to make alternate plans. And hey, maybe she actually WOULD run Lights, which would add a car to that shrinking field.

The Speedgeek

Firstly, I'd have to say that Milka is a singular case at this point. Some folks like to point out that somebody has to be last (or slowest) in every race, but I'd offer up that never in the history of the sport has the same driver been last (or slowest) in nearly 100% of the races that they've participated in, while still having so many starts. Usually in the history of the sport, when a driver has been so clearly off the pace such that they're constantly dead last, they're thrown out of their car by their team after a season or maybe even a half season. They might get another brief bite with another team (I'm thinking along the lines of "Gettin' Shiggy Wit' It" Hattori here), but they've never gotten to hang around for 3-4 seasons like Milka has.

This said, she's probably safer on the road courses than elsewhere. Sure, she screwed up some laps for some prominent people who then vented about her this weekend, and the long laps mean that she's only 3-4 laps down on pace at the end of a race, but the number of "moments" that people had when going around her on Sunday had to pale in comparison to the number of "moments" that people had near her in her 31 laps on track at Iowa. The closing speeds on the short ovals (where driver talent really counts, as opposed to the "wide open all the time" mile and a halfs) and close proximity to the walls makes her very, very scary on the short ovals. With more coming on board next year, I really hope that she smartens up and gets out of the car for at least those races.

Bottom line: I am OK with her being out there, if it means that Dale Coyne racing stays open for business. I just hope that the leash that she's given in the races continues to get shorter to the point where she gets pulled in to the pits as soon as the leaders approach to lap her for the first time. Every time she gets lapped by somebody...anybody...it's an adventure. One of these days, odds are that one of those adventures is bound to have a very bad conclusion.

pressdog

I appreciate that point, Fred, and I thought about it. To me the hard-and-fast lower limit makes sense because you need to establish some kind of minimum. 107, 110, whatever it is. Like minimum speed limits on Interstates. Of course you can always toss someone for driving stupid if they are within the 107 rule. That discretion remains with the IHJ.

IndyMeister

Sorry to act like a know-it-all but I think that the 107% rule in F1 was used for qualifying only: a slower car wasn't allowed to start the race (unless the stewards of the meeting accepted a reasonable explanation for slower speeds. Which was kind of arbitrary...).

I haven't done the calculations but Milka Duno's qualifying speed would probably put her in danger to be parked at all road/street course races. The ovals are a different matter.

The average race speed is some kind of leveling the field because of yellow flag periods where all cars are almost at the same pace. Picking out best laps might not give valuable information of someone's speed.

S0CSeven

PDVSA supports Venezuelan drivers. Period.

Annoy them at your peril.

I have one question though. Milka has a racing pedigree as long as your arm & certainly has had much more success than someone like Danica or most of the IRL field. http://www.milkaduno.com/profile.html

I wonder what happened?

pressdog

You are right, IndyMeister, F1 did use it on qualifications, but my suggestion is for IndyCar to use it during the race. And, as I said, you can't judge based on best lap speed on a chart. It needs to applied lap by lap during the race. I assume the IHJ has access to the lap times of ever car on the track during every lap and can monitor them and make the call. Do you have an opinion on using the 107 rule during the race?

Becky

I'm not a Milka fan at all and would think she would want to become competitive or move on to something else.
But which is more dangerous...a car you know is going to be consistently slow or a car that abruptly runs out of gas and slows drastically because the driver/engineers gamble on their fuel calculation. RHR has now done this more than once, first with terrible consequences for Mike Conway and then again this weekend they were within one lap of this happening again and RHR admitted he had no clue if he had enough fuel.

I'm fine with RHR confronting Milka directly as he did in the video above. On the other hand I really dislike the comments from RHR and Beccy on twitter...in my opinion this just seems to not be very professional. Take up your concerns with the competitor or league directly don't use social media to argue your point.

Leigh O'Gorman

Hey PDog,
Something I noted during the race that i couldn't understand at all.
Milka qualified with the slowest speed, just over 11 seconds off of Power's pole time. Really odd then that she was able to go up to 3/4 seconds per lap faster during the race (for the most part).

My biggest potential worry is not just her speed, but sometimes she varies on her line - not much, but enough - to potentially cause an accident like we saw in Valencia with Mark Webber and Heikki Kovalainen.

If the car behind is fast enough, then I do not want to see this happen...
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bmtOrPYN4gU

Tyler

I agree with what's been mentioned about there needing to be a standard but also a judgment call as well... It seems that the complaints about Milka are not always entirely about speed, but also about her terribly erratic driving behavior. She gets spooked...and when that happens, everything goes downhill in that cockpit. And as Pressdog just said, that's when you can pull her in regardless of her speed.


I also want to say that Fred has a great point about waiting until the end of the season and tightening the leash continuously until then. My guess would be that's exactly what they're doing, albeit quite nervously I imagine.

H. B. Donnelly

I can't remember where I heard it -- maybe when JMV on 1070 here in Indianapolis interviewed Vince Welch -- but someone said the real issue is that she doesn't seem to drive "with her mirrors". She has to know she's slower than everyone, since they all pass her so much. But she doesn't seem to be aware when other cars are sneaking up on her, which leads to moments such as those in Iowa.

When she drove Grand-Am, she only did Daytona Prototype, but I'd like to stick her in a GT car at an endurance race. That would really teach her to drive with one eye looking down the track and one eye looking back.

Allen Wedge

As to Milka, my issue with her is not that she's slow, its that she seems to be regressing greatly, and in addition does not properly check her mirrors (thank god for Marco Andretti's reflexes and brakes, because Milka could have put him in the fence at Iowa).

As for the league/Brian Barnhart ruling on her. My biggest problem with all of this is that Milka is not being treated the same as Marty Roth was. The league didn't seem to care when pushing Marty Roth out also meant taking out the Jay Howard/John Andretti entry. They also black flagged him quickly on ovals or told Marty to not even race at road courses where he was way off pace in practice and qualifying; both of which are not done to Milka. It just seems like the league set a precedent with Marty, but now all of a sudden we don't want to apply that precedent to Milka.

Now granted Milka isn't threatening to pull her car (like Marty did, and later followed through on when he screwed Jay/John by pulling the 2nd team car) but the fact that she is doing 80mph laps ever to let cars pass tells you she should not be allowed to compete because she has no desire to attempt winning/improving; if she wants to run around a race course, there are plenty amateur series she can run in. Also taking her best lap vs Will's best lap I would say is not an accurate assessment of the race, take overall race averages.

redd

I really like Milka as a person but she needs to take her program to Indy Lights.

Citco could sponsor a different Venezuelan driver or leave the series. Money is important, but not the most important.

Who was the dude the series kicked out two years ago--how'd his speeds compare to hers?

Dylan

Milka needs to go. I like Coyne, a lot. I loved seeing him win last year. But there's a line in the sand, and she's crossing it. It's one thing to be off pace sometimes. Occasionally, it happens. But this is an ALL THE TIME issue. And it's not the equipment's fault, look at Lloyd, and it's not improving, because she's been in the series for years. She's safer on the 1.5's, where she'll only go 2 laps down, since it's flat out. Anything else, street course, road course, short oval, Indy, she's a hazard. Does Indycar need a 107% rule??? Not sure. Right now, Milka's the main issue of really really slow cars that get in the way. So just park her. She's had since 07 to get decent, and it's not happening. As for her "wins" they came from A. Co-Drivers and B. weak fields in ALMS and Grand Am. So I wouldn't use those to defend her.

SpeedwayMenace

Park Milka and you'll also (in effect) park Alex L (supported by Milka money) and EJ (sponsors pulling out).

Indycar can't evenly enforce blocking rules (PT at WGI anyone?). It must be an objective measure, not a subjective one. It also must be an absolute rule and apply to everyone, not a few.

But I think that begs the question. Why now? Indycar has put up with buy-a-rides for a very long time. King Hiro, anyone? George Mack? Even in the heyday of Cart. Why Milka? At least she is pulling over, finishing races, not running over anyone, and saving equipment.

Yes, Milka seems to be regressing. But in my mind, the regression has intensified as the public chatter and out-&-out disrespect & disgust has increased.

An early comment mentioned RHR and Beccy Gordon on twitter as unprofessional and unbecoming. I concur. I also remember tweets earlier in the year from the Papis-Fittapaldi clan (Max Papis and Tatia) and Nicole Briscoe. Since Nicole is in the media, that was a doubly disrespectful, unprofessional, and unbecoming -- and worthy of a scolding from her bosses. Odd that racing families are in the mix. What goes around comes around ...

As far as I am concerned, Go Milka Go!

Dylan

Nicole Briscoe doesn't cover Indycar, so that's not a big deal. Besides, on the the drivers attacking her on twitter, do you want a bunch of PR clones on twitter???

SpeedwayMenace

Dylan,

You missed the point. Professionals don't behave that way in public, including on twitter. You don't need to be Jimmie Johnson or Scott Dixon to be professional & respectful. There are plenty of unique individals on twitter who are also respectful of others -- JPM, MW55, Darryl Waltrip, EJ, Nelson Phillipe, Pippa Mann and TScheck immediately come to mind.

Men

The Speedgeek

I think that the increased outcry this year is because 1) she's now into her 4th year with no improvement in her pace, an unprecedented situation in the sport's history (see my earlier post), and 2) her sponsor dollars go further at Coyne than they've ever gone at any other previous team, and so now istead of just seeing her at Indy, the mile and a halfs and one or two road courses per year, we now get to see how slow she is at every track. She's no longer out of our sight for a race or two, so it makes it all the more obvious when she's slow this week...again. The fact that her additional races this year are coming on additional road courses and shorter ovals means that she is now exposed at tracks where her relative lack of talent is a bigger deal. Also, the fact that she's now at an even smaller team with an even smaller development budget isn't helping her case, either.

pressdog

I don't mind Gordon/RHR Twitter eruptions much. This isn't miniature golf after all. As long as it's confined to on-the-track performance and not personal (appearance, ethnicity, quality of siblings, height, weight, age, etc. etc. etc.) So far Beccy and RHR have limited suggestions to the professional area. Of course their tweets open them up to criticism, but that's how it all works. I'd rather have drivers err on the side of showing emotion than not.

SBPopOffValve

I could probably write a whole blog on this, but to me every issue - the 107% rule, DCR and their funding issues, etc. - is pushed off the stage because of one thing: Milka's nearly total lack of situational awareness. She's nice, quite bright, cute, etc., but she does not know what to do in pressure situations on track. No matter how well-meaning, her inability to react SAFELY to situations on track makes her a danger to everyone's well-being, including hers.

It's like the days pre-SAFER or pre-HANS. The danger was there, lurking, but all the pundits and fans scoffed at it, calling it the nature of the beast... until people started dying. Talk about a change in thinking. Milka will remain at annoyance level until someone is seriously injured or killed because of her on-track issues. It happened to Paul Dana, and it can happen to her.

ElMondo

First time commenter here; thank goodness more Indycar blogs exist than I previously had thought did.

------

"...thank god for Marco Andretti's reflexes and brakes, because Milka could have put him in the fence at Iowa."

"Milka's nearly total lack of situational awareness. She's nice, quite bright, cute, etc., but she does not know what to do in pressure situations on track. No matter how well-meaning, her inability to react SAFELY to situations on track makes her a danger to everyone's well-being, including hers."

I have to agree with both those posts, and many of the others. The argument defending Milka has always been that there are always backmarkers in any racing sport. But the more I think about it, the more I realize it's not just the fact that she runs last, but as SBPopOffValve noted, the fact that she cannot react properly to getting lapped. That Iowa incident, as tame as it looks in hindsight, made my heart skip a beat when it happened. How can a driver who had already been lapped at that point react that way to getting lapped again?

Fact of the matter is, she's just demonstrated the Peter Principle. And because this is racing, that makes her dangerous. It isn't necessarily her speed, it's her lack of instinct plus her inappropriate reactions. I mean, she's been in how many Indycar races already? And Adam Carroll's only been in 1, and to the best of my knowledge didn't make the same miscues?

Chris

Excuse my nitpicking, but:
1) 100/93 (1.075) is not the same as 107/100 (1.07).
2) The F1 rule refers to qualifying time, not speed. The Indycar convention has generally been to use speed for ovals, laptime for road courses. Any car with a time greater than 107% of the pole is excluded from the race. The method you cited is not equivalent (see point 1).

Though I would personally prefer whichever calculation makes it harder to Milka to get into the race. By all accounts she is a nice person, but she belongs in club racing, not Indycar.

Leigh O'Gorman

@ Elmondo

I understand your point, but the fact that Carroll has either been a champion or a top-level competitor at many categories of single-seater racing, makes the differences between the two drivers quite apparent.

I suppose the only irony here is that where Duno has large backers, Carroll has spent his entire career having absolutely no money.

Fred Hurley

I think the differences in how the IRL is handling (or handled) Roth and Milka is driven by two factors:

1.) I recall reading that some other drivers weren't the biggest Marty fans on a personal level. Specifics never leaked out, but it always seemed like he just rubbed some other drivers the wrong way.

2.) Marty was a team owner, and one who could afford to field two cars. It was a reasonable option to step out of the car a la Big Chip and manage the team while John Andretti and Jay Howard raced. And those cars had some speed. It was a valid option for Marty to stay in the sport in a capacity other than as a driver. He chose not to do so when it was suggested. I think that made the IRL more willing to pull the trigger. Milka? Unless she has a secret life, she's a driver. She doesn't have an equity interest in a team. The IRL is left with the decision of tolerating her, or kicking her completely out of the sport.

I still say this doesn't require a major rule change. Park her quickly when she gets into trouble in the race, and try to correct the problem quietly this offseason. That way, you aren't painting yourself into a corner with another driver later on.

Jeremy from Harrisburg

I think the best thing that could be done is to find something else for her to do. From most accounts, she is good at everything in the racing game EXCEPT for racing, so maybe it is time to stick her in the CITGO pace car or something. Find a way to keep her involved, but if everyone looks at it honestly, she has no business being out there. And I'm not sure Viso's money would dry up with Milka gone, because he is always exciting on the course.

Paige

To me, it would be different if there weren't so many drivers more talented than Milka (Rahal, Scheckter, and Beatriz come to mind) without rides.

She's just too slow on the track.

B-man

The last thing IndyCar needs now is to alienate race teams and their sponsors. And, as I see it, RHR caused an accident during the Indy 500 that nearly killed another driver. So, he's a fine one to talk. What comparable incidents has Duno caused? RHR and Dario and anyone else are welcome to leave IndyCar anytime they want. There's hardly a shortage of equally talented unemployed drivers out there ready to take their place. In SCCA Club Racing (I race in ITB) there are routinely 10 second differences in lap times between any given class pole sitter and the slowest in class. Plus, there typically is a mix of classes in each race group such that there often is upwards of a whopping 20 second a lap difference between the fastest and slowest cars on the track - more like a 20% difference in lap times! Is there mass mayhem? Hardly, and we're amateurs. Sure, sometimes someone is not watching their mirrors close enough, and sometimes an overtaking driver doesn't use the best judgement in choosing a place to pass, but overwhelmingly things go just fine. OK, of course, IndyCars are faster than IT cars, but then again, aren't IndyCar drivers professionals? Can't they handle it? Remember the rules, it is the overtaking driver's responsibility to execute a safe pass. If the driver being overtaken can help facilitate that (assuming they even want to), fine, but that is not their responsibility. I really hate whiner drivers. Their whiner wives are even more annoying. Like the t-shirts and bumper stickers say, "Shut up and drive!"

Tiago Monteiro

Milka's driving & Coyne team orders didn't launch Mike Conway into a catch fence at Indy. RHR & Team Andretti did.

Calling the kettle black. Oldest trick in the book.

Park RHR & Team Andretti, plus any driver or team who even tries that stunt again.

ElMondo

@Leigh O'Gorman

Quote: "I understand your point, but the fact that Carroll has either been a champion or a top-level competitor at many categories of single-seater racing, makes the differences between the two drivers quite apparent."

True. Keep in mind that I wasn't necessarily invoking Carroll as a rookie to racing in general, but Indycar specifically. But yes, you're right, Carroll has a resume of past performance. Thing is, so does Milka, and while it's not exactly GP2 or A1GP (which are notches on Carroll's resume), something like ALMS is still nothing to sneeze at. Regardless, like I said before, I believe that Milka's problem is simply that she's risen to her level of incompetence. She can drive a sports car, but there's just something about open wheel that eludes her. And as other people have pointed out, she's already regressing, which isn't a good sign.

Quote: "I suppose the only irony here is that where Duno has large backers, Carroll has spent his entire career having absolutely no money."

No offense to Carroll, who was indeed coming up through the European ranks, but: That doesn't bug me as much as Graham Rahal losing his McD's sponsorship and subsequently not having a full-time ride. He's won a race in his rookie year for cryin' out loud! Milka being in while Rahal is out is nearly criminal in my mind!

I'd love to defend Milka. I really would; multiple masters, instinctive courtesy to fans, great spokesperson... off the track, what's not to like? Problem is, no race series has those as primary criteria, let alone Izod Indycar, and if you can't drive, it doesn't matter whether you're a Nobel Prize winner in line for canonization or not. You Can Not Drive. End of story.

GeorgeK

If her team was financially self sufficient would she even have a drive? Would ANY other team hire her, pay her a salary, and tolerate her lack of performance?

How do you rid the sport of pay drivers who bring a substantial budget and have limited skills?

Let her run and black flag her whenever she is unable to keep up? Can't offer more then that right now.

Catie R

I'm honestly glad to read that so many defend Milka. There are valid reasons (such as sponsorship) to do so, but after seeing her drive with my own two eyes at Iowa, I cannot agree with them. I'm not just a TV viewer or tweeter, I've SEEN it. I've written about it on my own blog. It's a shame that the series is in this sort of predicament because the pros and cons for each course of action carry a lot of weight.

As for a rule: perhaps one is necessary. However, it doesn't account for an "off" weekend. How to incorporate that and enforce such a rule is beyond my understanding at this point, but it's yet another thing to consider.

Mike R

The biggest difference I see is a situation in which the series needed cars for promoters demands (x number of cars). There is now a reasonably good chance that the field filling aspect would happen with or without her.

Too many to review to see who posted it above, but I agree that she should probably step out of the car and into another role. She's exceptionally personable, good looking/marketable, exceptionally intelligent (what is it, two Master's Degrees she has?)...she would be an ideal person to keep to work in the PR or whatever dept is appropriate. But as previously stated, she's had ample opportunity to improve and it just HASN'T happened. The issue of when to park her, imo, is if she isn't qualifying within whatever percentage of the pole speed, or a mean average of the top 10, or whatever they conclude. Al Jr is the one (to my understanding) who parked her in LB for qualifying due to her lack of speed.

The series is getting healthier. That is only, in a small percentage, due to CITGO money. The issue of DCR possibly having to fold is a big consideration, but Dale has always bounced back somehow, if you look at the history of his team. And Pressdog is right about the money from one sponsor floating the boat for more than one car. It was the same case with a CART team I worked for at one time.

If another team or two fields another car as is the spec about DeFerran/Luczo, just park her. The odds are working against everyone at this point for there to be no dramatic end to the debate on-track.

The Speedgeek

Coyne was left in a pretty bad spot this year when Justin Wilson and Z-Line took off for DRR just before the beginning of the season. The only option for them to stay open was to take on Milka and Citgo. Possibly, if they can be given extra notice that such an option won't exist for next year (like, say, if Brian Barnhart and crew have a sit down with Milka the day after Homestead and explain the situation that she may have her license revoked for 2011), the maybe Dale can find a different driver and/or sponsor for next year. I'm sure that those guys aren't enamored with running around in the mid-20s every week, but it was their only option for employment this year.

rj

Well if Graham Rahal took the Coyne ride, we probably wouldn't be having this discussion.

The only way to stop Milka Dunos from happening is to ban all ride buying. But that's not going to happen. Especially once we finally head into an era with multiple chassis and multiple engines, a performance standard just ensures the backmarkers become PDM Racing and no longer bother to show up. So what's the point of creating a standard that will get ignored for the sake of not putting teams out of business? Go to this link for the 1987 Long Beach Grand Prix: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KXOwaKjqpzs At 107%, you're saying the final 3 cars on the grid could not start after travelling across the country (Johnny Rutherford, Dennis Firestone, Tony Bettenhausen Jr.), and if you go to champcarstats.com, there were actually 2 more cars that showed up that didn't start: Dale Coyne and Mike Nish because he was too slow to be in front of Bettenhausen, and Firestone and Bettenhausen couldn't even crack a 110% performance time.

And that was considered the Glory Era of Indycar Racing in this country: 26 cars show up at Long Beach, and only 21 qualify under 107%. We're about to return to it in a couple years as far as the equipment is concerned.

rj

Bit of a followup, I know a guy that worked high up for a team that competed against Duno in sportscars and yeah, she's slow, no sh*t, but thought she got a bad wrap. Part of it is in sportscars she was tolerated more there because you have several cars and drivers of very varied speeds, so passing her in an LMP2 was no different than passing a factory GT2 car. (Plus, if gentleman drivers weren't tolerated in sportscars, sportscar racing would've died 50 years ago.)

The Hunter-Reay incident in qualifying I haven't seen. During the race, she never really got in anyone's way. Her name was mentioned twice by Marty Reid, the second time when a leader followed her out of the pits, Reid said "oh, she's so slow", and Reid didn't look at his TV screen to realize "uh, he's following her out".

Mike R

"That is only, in a small percentage, due to CITGO money"

That was about the most poorly worded sentence I've ever written, considering what I actually meant by it.

Edit: That is only PARTLY due to CITGO's money, in a small percentage.

Just to clarify...

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