Q: Several years ago, you published a piece on the worst IndyCar drivers of all time. There are several obvious choices, but who are the all-time worst drivers that The Split opened the door for? I took a few hours to sort out the worst 33 whose CART or IRL careers started between 1996-2007. Alphabetically: Mike Borkowski, Geoff Boss, Butch Brickell, Juan Cacares, Joel Camathias, Juan Carlos Carbonell, Fabrizio del Monte, Milka Duno, Alex Figge, Luiz Garcia Jr., Racin Gardner, Joe Gosek, Naoki Hattori, Shigeaki Hattori, Jon Herb, Paul Jasper Jr., Takuya Kurosawa, Patrick Lemarie, George Mack, Allen May, Scott Mayer, Chris Menninga, Dr. Jack Miller, Charlie Nearburg, Bobby Regester, Troy Reiger, Billy Roe, Marty Roth, Alex Sperafico, Tony Turco, Russ Wicks, Cory Witherill and Alex Yoong. Anybody not on the list who should be? Godspeed in the fight against cancer. If all else fails, visit A.J. so he can scare it away.
Steve in Redding, CA
RM: Joe Gosek doesn’t belong on that list, he was a damn good Oswego racer and did just fine in an IndyCar. Borkowski was also decent in lower formulas as I recall, and Mack was OK in his short IndyCar career. But you got the majority right, and there were several Sperafico brothers all with the same ability. And don’t forget Fulvio Ballabio, Joe Sposato, Nicola Marozzo, Vinicio Salmi or Franco Scapini.
Q: With IndyCar down to only four ovals this year, I’m really looking for some serious help. I’d like to travel north from east Texas for Indiana Midget Week. Can you point me in the right direction to find out about tickets for that week? I don’t know if I can afford to do it and I’ll have to miss the Texas IndyCar race, but I can see more oval racing in one week than IndyCar will give me all year, so if I can do it, I will. Any pointers you can give would be appreciated. I’d probably take our old motorhome, so I need to find out if tracks let you stay overnight and things like that. Is there anywhere I can check for the week, or do I need to try to contact all the individual tracks? Again, if you could point me in the right direction it would be a big help.
Jim Patton, Lilndale, TX
RM: You could try calling USAC (317-247-5151) and ask about a week-long ticket, or at least get the phone numbers of the hosting tracks.
Q: Glad to hear you’re doing better. Maybe all that time around A.J. toughened you up for your fight. I’m curious how foreign drivers get green cards to drive in IndyCar and IMSA here in the U.S. Back in the old days there were limited opportunities for foreigners when there were qualified Americans to do the same job. In the same vein, how can Dallara get away with being the sole supplier of the IndyCar chassis? This seems to be a monopolistic practice (though one created by IndyCar). I still hope we can find a future that offers multiple engine, tire and chassis manufacturers. I know, I know. Not gonna happen.
P. Worth Thompson
RM: AJ has toughened me up and the old goat has been kind enough to check up on me every month. I have no idea about green cards, permanent or temporary, but it must be fairly easy. Dallara is the only company that stepped up when IndyCar was entertaining new car builders so we should probably be glad, because they’ve been a good partner.
Q: Glad you are back full-time Robin. With the reminder that we are all headed to the checkered flag, isn’t it time you did a book? Where else can we get your perspective? A young fan of the change of the ‘60s, a participant of the wild 70’s, Indy Star reporter of the heyday of the 80’s thru the split, and a journalist of the rebuilding that has followed. You are a treasure of information, stories and antidotes that cannot be replaced. Isn’t it time to share that with the next generation of open-wheel fans?
RM: Thanks Brad, I wrote my first book a couple years ago about the ABA’s Indiana Pacers and it was fulfilling in that it was kind of a history book of the franchise that this city embraced. It almost told its own story, so I’m not sure what my approach would be if I ever did a racing book. I guess it could be done by decades but not sure that’s very compelling, maybe just a bunch of short stories (I like the way Bones Bourcier does some of his racing books) with all the characters telling their stories. But it’s getting late, our heroes are in their ‘80s, so not sure there’s enough time.
Q: RM, thanks for your tribute to Mike Hiss on RACER.com. I knew Mike during some of his racing days and met him through his car owners for the ’72 season, Tom and Mary Page. Lee Brayton had bought Gordon Johncock’s ’73 500-winning Eagle-Offy to campaign in ’74. I worked for Lee’s team, and we updated and prepped the car for Lee to drive in the Ontario 500 in March. Lee qualified the car but became ill the following week so couldn’t drive in the race. Mike was called in to drive it at the last minute and had to start 33rd. In the race he was a rocket, and passed a number of cars before sadly backing the Eagle into the Turn 2 wall on Lap 17. In ’75 I worked for Joe Hunt, who let me work part-time on his ’68 Gerhardt-Offy while I finished engineering school. Joe wanted the run the car at the first MIS race that summer, and I suggested Mike. They immediately hit it off since Mike was flying corporate aircraft when he wasn’t racing, and Joe had been a flight engineer with TWA for many years. Unfortunately we couldn’t get the old Gerhardt up to sufficient speed to qualify, but we all enjoyed the experience anyway. I remember Mike as always being a gentleman with a professional approach to his work. Do you agree that he could’ve gone much farther in his racing career if he had been able to get a full time multi-season gig on a competitive team?
Bruce Selby, TX
RM: Mike arrived so late (31 as an Indy rookie) that I think he might have been damn good had he started in his mid-20s. He was smooth and smart on road courses and seemed to take to ovals pretty quick. But, like I said, when I worked with him in 1975 he seemed to have lost the fire and it never came back. A helluva nice guy who got to drive for Roger Penske too, so not many can say that.