Robin Miller's Mailbag for May 16, presented by Honda Racing / HPD

Robin Miller's Mailbag for May 16, presented by Honda Racing / HPD

Insights & Analysis

Robin Miller's Mailbag for May 16, presented by Honda Racing / HPD

Roger Penske and Mark Donohue, IROC, Daytona, 1974. Image by Murenbeeld/LAT

Q: Any idea who first gave Roger the nickname of “The Captain”?

Chad R. Larson, Phoenix

RM: Penske president Tim Cindric says that Roger used to call Mark Donohue ‘Captain’ and Donohue would counter with: “No, I’m the driver, you’re The Captain.” And it stuck.

Q: With NBC becoming the main TV partner for IndyCar, you think it is possible we’ll see some schedule changes? Not by adding more races, but by swapping some dates, like Detroit for Texas as the first race after the Indy 500. And you think with the new universal aero kit that Arie Luyendyk’s speed record at Indy will be finally broken?

Alonso Manso, Santiago, Chile

RM: I don’t think NBC will have a lot of say in the schedule, other than what time it airs the races, and nobody is going to move Belle Isle as long as RP and Chevy are involved. I don’t think Arie’s record is in jeopardy this mont,h but maybe in a year or two – depending on the horsepower.

Q: This is a rather left-field question. After reading most of the questions and your knowledgeable answers, you strike me as the one person I have found to ask my question. To add before asking, I have owned six of the Honda Accords and one Civic coupe since 1984, when I bought my first new Accord coupe. The remainder have been sedans, with my last purchase being the first V6 I’ve owned, a 2012 EX-L, dressing up the garage. In other words, there has been a Honda in my yard since 1984.

But, the V6 with its 271hp will haul the mail! Better yet, forget PC. It will haul ass, as we say near the big ol’ Atlantic pond. Definitely the fastest whip I’ve ever owned. My question: do you think Honda would consider building a NASCAR engine?

Mitch Murphy

RM: The short answer Mitch, to your rather long question, [ED: We cut quite a lot of it out…] is that Honda never rules out anything, but has no plans to try NASCAR in the foreseeable future.

Q: You mentioning Jim Hurtubise today jogged my memory a little. Isn’t there a story about him wheeling a front-engine car into the qualifying line one year in the 70s, and when they opened the hood it was full of ice and beer? Is that an urban legend, or did it happen?  If it did, can you share what actually happened?

Donald A. Weidig, North Canton, Ohio

RM: Herk had Miller High Life as his sponsor in 1972 and he qualified 13th in a rear-engine Coyote/Foyt. But on the final day of time trials he rolled his beloved Mallard (the last roadster to qualify at Indy in 1968) into the rear of the qualifying line. There were a dozen cars between his and the front of the line so when the gun went off, Herk tore open the hood to reveal several cases of iced Miller beer. He got almost as much publicity as the pole-sitter.

Q: I know we’re a decade past the end of The Split, but if you’d be willing to engage in a bit of “What If?”, I’d like to see what you think. It’s 1996 and CART teams, instead of selling their ’95 cars to IRL teams, keep them and enter en masse the IRL races at Orlando, Phoenix, and Indianapolis. How does Tony George respond? What happens to the fledgling IRL teams that most likely get pushed out? Does it at all change the eventual outcome of the CART/IRL war?

Jared, Clearwater, FL

RM: If the CART teams showed up for Orlando and Phoenix, the IRL would have been dead in the water. If the CART teams hadn’t sold their old chassis to IRL teams, the IRL couldn’t have answered the bell. If Cosworth hadn’t provided the power for all but nine of 33 starters, where would the engines have come from? I guess TG could have commissioned John Menard to provide Buicks for the entire field if possible, but what kind of chassis would they have put them in without the old Reynard and Lolas? But CART was pretty arrogant and didn’t think the IRL would last, and as it turned out, open-wheel racing was the big loser.

Q: It’s May, which means I am going back and watching old races from years past. I just finished the 1988 Indy 500, and the one thing I noticed is the amount of tires coming loose after wrecks. It’s alarming that solutions to this didn’t come until after Senna’s death in 1994. What was the mentality regarding these issues? I find it crazy in retrospect that no-one watched that race and thought of any sort of solution. I will say one other thing about that race. ABC’s production used to be so slick for Indy. And I don’t really care who does commentary for NBC next year, but I’m pretty sure I would take the 2018 versions of Bobby Unser and Sam Posey arguing over each other at increasingly louder volume until they hit an illegal decibel point than listen to Eddie Cheever one more time.

Jamie Sullivan

RM: Fuel cells, armo barriers, shields on helmets, cockpit protection, wheel tethers, safer walls – usually everything evolved in racing safety from tragedy. It wasn’t a hot button back in the ’60s and ‘70s, but today’s drivers can be thankful for Wally Dallenbach, Terry Trammell, Steve Olvey, Dr. Robert Hubbard, Jim Downing, Dean Sicking and Tony George. They paved the way to make racing safer than anyone could imagine 50 years ago. I wish ABC would bring back Uncle Bobby and Sam for about 50 laps on race day and let them drive the pace car together.

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