Robin Miller's Mailbag for January 30, presented by Honda Racing/HPD

Robin Miller's Mailbag for January 30, presented by Honda Racing/HPD

Insights & Analysis

Robin Miller's Mailbag for January 30, presented by Honda Racing/HPD


Mario in 1987. So near, yet so far. Image by IMS

Q: Mario and Michael, you know both these men. Both excellent drivers – but I suspect their ‘snake-bit’ jinx is their driving style. They naturally over-drove their cars. That was their nature. Do you think they could be as successful if they eased up, and weren’t always balls to the wall? I guess this could be said of many drivers, except Scott Dixon.

Jon D.

RM: I think that’s one of the biggest misnomers in racing history. Mario had a two-lap lead in 1987, had shifted gears into lower revs and was picking his teeth before being blindsided by engine harmonics, which killed the ignition. Ditto for Michael in 1992, he’d also lapped the field and was coasting before his experimental engine blew up. Sure they both liked to lead and run hard, but those were two examples where being conservatively fast didn’t pay off – they were cursed.

Q: Roger Penske, Michael Andretti, and Chip Ganassi are the top team owners and their teams do most of the winning. Yet those three successful men present very different personas to the world. How would you characterize each? How are they similar, how are they different? And if they had a race driver son, would Penske or Ganassi employ them uncritically and indefinitely? (I suppose you could include Austin Cindric as ‘family.’)

Bosco McNab, Canada

RM: R.P. changed the face of IndyCar racing in the early ‘70s with his corporate plan, attention to detail and spit-polished operation. He’s the most driven person I’ve ever met, and likely the smartest. Ganassi inherited his wealth but has spent the past 30 years cultivating a first-class operation that has had success in three major series. He’s rough around the edges, but treats his employees pretty good. Mikey is the surprise of all, because I never saw him wanting to be an owner and yet I think he’s having more fun now than when he drove. He’s at the shop early every morning and is as hands-on any anyone. They’re all similar in doing whatever is necessary to win, and they’re dissimilar in that The Captain spends every waking hour doing business all over the world, Chip is focused on one thing (racing) and Michael is a family man that still races. Kip Penske drove Super Vees, so the answer is only if he was good enough. Same for Ganassi.

Q: Saw the comment from Rico Abreu recently about having a lot of interest in racing in the Indianapolis 500. Wouldn’t he be an awesome addition to the month of May, for a variety of reasons? He already has a fan following. His story and background is interesting and would be marketable. The personality he brings to the table. And the most important thing… he’s got talent. Be great to see in the near future, and hope there are some wheels already turning for this. Also any chance we see Tim Clauson associated with an Indy 500 entry (even in a minor way) anytime soon? Again, another neat storyline if that were to happen.

Drew, Gale, IN

RM: If I hadn’t gambled all my 401K away, I would field a three-car Indy 500 team of Kyle Larson, Christopher Bell and Rico. It would generate such a buzz for Indianapolis and make so many new fans and be so cool because those three are all gassers. And so popular and talented. Rico would become the most popular Indy starter overnight. Can’t speak for Tim, but he’s pretty busy with midgets and sprinters so I can’t see him branching out into IndyCars (unless maybe he took Tyler Courtney to IMS).

Q: In last week’s Mailbag, Max mentioned that he’s gotten rid of cable and isn’t a fan of watching a delayed online stream of the races. Please mention to all of your readers that HULU now streams live TV and sports. NBC and NBC Sports are a part of their package in Indy. I’d be shocked if they don’t offer the same package across the U.S. It’s legit… legal… I’ve been using it all fall and winter for sports, and the TV picture is great. It’s $39.99/month. Check HULU online for details in your area of the U.S. Not sure about overseas viewers or Canada. Thanks for all you do!

Greg Phelps

RM: Thank you Greg, for this information. There are so many different cable outlets you never know what’s available, but this seems like a reasonable alternative for IndyCar fans. Appreciate you letting everyone know.

Q: What’s with the Indianapolis Star? The wife of three-time Indy 500 winner Johnny Rutherford dies on 1/20/19 and the Star doesn’t mention it (at least not in their print edition) as of 1/22/19. Anybody who has any knowledge of the Indy 500 knows that the Betty and Johnny Rutherford marriage was a great love story. Betty was at Johnny’s side always until illness forced him to seek managed care for her. The current racing beat writer, Jim Ayello, wrote a lengthy article on the Pacers for the 1/22/19 edition, but Betty’s passing was ignored. The Star failed to note the passing of Jim McElreath and Jerry Sneva as well. What did you do, Robin? Did you curse the paper when you were let go? The paper has shrunk to the size of a flyer with the news content equally minimized.

Bob, Indy

RM: Oh yeah, I cursed it plenty and considered arson, but was rescued by ESPN so I just continue to despise Gannett from afar. In fairness to Jim, he’s done a really nice job considering he never even saw an IndyCar race until 2016, and he was on vacation when Betty passed. And he can’t be expected to know everything about the ‘60s, ‘70s and ‘80s. He’s been a quick learner and he’s a good writer.

Q: I’ve been reading the letters regarding you writing your memoirs, and I agree, that would be fantastic. There is another book that I would love to see, and I’ve emailed several of the writers/editors at SPEED SPORT about it.  t would be a compilation of Chris Economaki’s Editor’s Notebook columns from all of the years of National Speed Sport News. I was a long-time subscriber, and that’s the first place I went when it arrived in the mail. If you agree, do you have any stroke with those guys, and can you put in a good word? Follow doctor’s orders and stay well. We need you.

Rick in Lisle, IL

RM: I subscribe to SPEED SPORT magazine and Sprint & Midget magazine, and love the fact Ralph Sheheen, Joe Tripp and Mike Kerchner have kept it alive, but not sure there would be an audience for Editor’s Notebook, and besides, it would take 1,000 pages. Maybe some kind of “Best of Economaki” in the magazine would be doable. I’ll mention it to them.