Robin Miller's Mailbag for April 17, presented by Honda Racing / HPD

Robin Miller's Mailbag for April 17, presented by Honda Racing / HPD

Insights & Analysis

Robin Miller's Mailbag for April 17, presented by Honda Racing / HPD


The end of tobacco sponsorship had a massive impact on motorsport. Image by Levitt/LAT

Q: Noticed you had some questions about tobacco advertising in racing recently. When the law was passed that tobacco companies could no longer advertise in racing, do you believe this had a major impact on IndyCar or NASCAR?  Philip Morris was always a big supporter of IndyCar, and R.J. Reynolds was a big part of NASCARs growth. Do you believe both series were able to find big-money substitutes?

Ron, Buffalo, NY

RM: It was crippling for CART since Player’s, KOOL and Hollywood funded big teams, and Marlboro gave away thousands of tickets in addition to sponsoring Team Penske. IndyCar will never be able to replace tobacco money, and NASCAR doesn’t get anything close to what R.J. Reynolds provided as title sponsor.

Q: Glad to see you back at the track and that you are doing well. Anyway, can you convince the powers that be to have a Month of May special for the IndyCar pass on NBC Gold? I have no need or complaint about the price for the full season for the pass since I get NBC Sports already, but the one thing I will miss is watching Indy 500 practice in May. It would be cool if they had a special price to get the pass for, let’s say, 15 bucks and you get to watch all the practices for the 500. Just my two cents.

Jon from Cleveland

RM: I can ask, but it’s pretty late for NBC to try and promote it, if they chose do it.

Q: I really enjoyed reading your article about Dick Jordan. I had the pleasure of working alongside DJ as an intern with USAC after my first year in college in 2013. It wasn’t until after the fact that I had any idea of how significant he has been to USAC and the racing community. To me he was just someone who had the same infectious enthusiasm for racing as I did – except he only had about 50 years on me! I’ll never forget after lunch one day, him taking me to visit his basement; a shrine to all things racing. The artifacts down there rivaled the IMS Museum, and it was humbling that he wanted to share that with me. Out of everyone in the office at USAC, DJ really took me under his wing and I will forever be appreciative of that. He is so deserving of this honor. Few single people have done as much for this sport as DJ has.

Michael Hart, a Hoosier now living in Nova Scotia

RM: Thanks Michel and you are spot-on – of all the unsung worker bees in racing, I think DJ is at the top. I think USAC took him for granted much of his career, but nobody worked harder to promote and educate that group. And his basement is a mini shrine to USAC through the years.

Q: Just wanted to say when it comes to racing opinions, you are second to none. You always tell it like it is! That being said, what did you think of the drive Takuma Sato displayed at Barber? I am a long-time Sato fan and the race was a dream come true. Can he contend all year? Trying to get my hands on a Sato hat to show my support. Keep doing what you do Robin you are the best.

P.S. Hope IndyCar returns to Richmond in 2020

Bill, Richmond, VA

RM: I think it showed age (42) is only a number, and Taku has smoothed out in the past few years and quit forcing things. His Indy victory was his finest moment, but Barber may have been the finest drive of his career. Richmond has a shot.

Q: What a great weekend for RLL Racing at Barber. Locking out the front row, then Sato taking the checkers in P1. Happy to see the team have success. Taku’s crew chief, Derek Davidson, was a heckuva a racer in his day. What can you tell us about Derek’s career as a driver?

Mike in Noblesville

RM: Derek is also the strategist for Sato and he was a damn good sprint car racer in the ’90s, even after suffering a bad arm injury. But the great thing about him is that he’s so humble and never talks about himself. Graham didn’t find out he was a badass until DD had worked at RLL for a few years.

Q: Finally! Someone mentioned a racer (Bobby Santos) I’ve known about since his dad lugged his (and his sister’s) quarter midget around in the back of his pickup truck in Millis, Mass. If you had the $5 million, why those four drivers? And thanks Robin, you keep me coming back in a world that keeps getting less of my attention.

Sam Weiss, Pawleys Island, SC

RM: Why those four? Kody Swanson and Santos are as good a pavement racers as they make, so I’d love to see them at Indy with a proper chance, and Kyle Larson and Chris Bell? Just watch them race.

Q: So, my dad and I attend a few sprint car races each year. You could describe us as casual fans, I loved Thunder on ESPN and World of Outlaws on TNN as a kid, but hadn’t really followed it for some time. The internet has made it possible to become a fan again. My question concerns the four-wide salute to fans at the start of races. I’ve read
many different theories on how it started on forums, but was wondering if you have any info?

Elliott Lindamood

RM: Best I can figure is it came from midget racing, but not sure if it was Triple A or USAC or maybe the east coast. Google didn’t help.