Robin Miller's Mailbag for April 24, presented by Honda Racing / HPD

Robin Miller's Mailbag for April 24, presented by Honda Racing / HPD

Insights & Analysis

Robin Miller's Mailbag for April 24, presented by Honda Racing / HPD

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Hinchcliffe’s misfortune on Bump Day last year provided a wake-up call for the full-timers, but not making the cut was also painful even if Indy was your only race for the year. Image by LAT

Q: Why keep Indy 500 qualifying real? In the last 25 years, name the years that are embedded in 500 fans brains? Two are shocking and sad to some – 1995 and 2018. One was complete BS – 1996? Is there any other year that you will never forget??

Joe from Indy

RM: Sure, in 1960 Jim Hurtubise came within a whisker of 150mph, then Parnelli broke that barrier in 1962 and Tom Sneva’s 200mph run in 1977 was loud and memorable. Jan Opperman, John Mahler, Tom Bigelow, Rich Vogler, Jerry Sneva and Bob Harkey hanging their ass out in the closing minutes to make the show is what qualifying use to be about.

Q: I was having a lunch to today with the most avid IndyCar fan I know. We spoke of Penske/Ganassi promoting guaranteed entrants to the Indy 500. Both of us were adamant the fastest 33 qualifiers should be the race. The spirit of the race is what us fans turn up to see. Bad press is still good press – ask Hinch. We both hypothetically questioned ourselves, if a street/road course had more entrants than pit stalls or garages spaces available at a given circuit, how would IndyCar determine whom races? Do you know?

Shane D.

RM: Probably go with qualifying times. I think the last time it happened was on the oval at Nazareth and one of Roger Penske’s cars with Andre Ribeiro was too slow and got sent home.

Q: I believe that full-time entries need to have protection for the Indy 500.  That being said, it’s a Catch-22 because this year eight of those teams are directly entering or leasing extra cars to third parties. If they didn’t do that, there would be no bumping. They are not doing so out of the goodness of their hearts, either. The prices they are charging are supposedly higher than ever. Well, if those teams want protection, I’m sorry but they need to write that into the extra entry contracts they have with their partners. IMO, the prudent move last year was to replace an uncompetitive Howard with Hinch, not bump some other team’s car, for instance. That should be the rule going forward. If, say, Rosenqvist misses it, his entry deserves protection. 

On the Pocono subject, I’m very confused. The event reaches fans from Maryland to Massachusetts, and if IndyCar loses it, a huge swath of fans like me will be forced to drive huge lengths or worse, fly, to get to see the series. Moreover, despite follow the leader races of late, tragic accidents, and some bad weather, the crowd has incrementally grown! Unless ABC Supply is leaving, I just don’t understand why Frye/Miles would ditch the only Northeast race they have. Richmond is not a replacement, as it’s probably easier for most of us to get to Ohio or Detroit. It’s also a total unknown. Watkins Glen seems unlikely as well, plus there is zero shot I’d drive out there during a Cup double-header as the hotel rates will be astronomical.

Greg from Belleville, NJ

PS: Any update on Bobby Unser/Parnelli traveling to Indy?  Last time I asked you said yes, but then saw you write that they are iffy.

RM: In the past there have been instances of drivers who are bumped from a multi-car team being reinstated because of a tire company’s wishes or a sponsor contract, but as you stated, it’s only because full-timers RLL, ECR, Andretti, SPM and Penske are running extra cars that there will be an excess to allow bumping. So it’s simple, the extras aren’t locked in. As for Pocono, it’s not been very well attended but they jam three big races into a couple months, so maybe it stays in the 2020 double-header experiment. Richmond drew well, albeit with help from Marlboro freebies, but staged some exciting races the first couple years. Rufus and Bobby are coming.

Q: NBC Gold is the best 50 bucks I ever spent, and in my opinion, no guaranteed spots for the Indy 500. Compete, or go home.

Brad, Bloomington, IN

RM: Duly noted, Brad.

Q: I just read your article regarding real (bigger) comeback stories in sports. I, too, was thinking along these lines when the experts were calling Tiger’s win the greatest comeback in sports – the motorsports fan in me was thinking of much bigger comebacks than Tiger Woods’. I think this one could be added to your list, Ernie Irvan’s comeback after suffering a head injury at MIS that nearly took his life. Amazingly he survived, raced in the truck series, made it back to Cup, and went on to win at MIS, the track that nearly claimed his life. One helluva comeback. I’m not really a NASCAR fan, but that was incredible.

Craig C., Slinger, WI (home of the world’s fastest 1/4 mile)

RM: Good call, I liked Ernie because he was a battler with a good sense of humor and he made it all the way back. Ditto for Mark Dismore, who I somehow forgot in that story. His comeback was epic.

Q: I enjoyed watching Tiger’s comeback, and enjoyed reading about the racing comebacks just as much. I’m sure there are many others to choose from, but two omissions from your list that come to mind: Sebastien Bourdais’ big crash at Indy, which led to a fractured hip and pelvis, with his return to on-track competition that year, and a win at St. Pete the following season. Rick Mears’ crash at Sanair, which led to both his feet getting crushed, with his return to the track the following year, several wins over the next seven years, two more wins in the 500, and a road course win at Laguna Seca. And one more addition I can’t wait to see: Wickens back in a car Great article, thanks for the list!

Chris Rafferty, Western Springs, IL

RM: Tiger’s comeback resonated with the TV viewers and will undoubtedly be the sports story of 2019, but racing comebacks are a different breed. Seb’s was mighty impressive, and I remembered to add Rick just after RACER published my story (how could I forget him?) but lots of brave men just getting back to work.

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