Robin Miller's Mailbag for September 25, presented by Honda Racing / HPD

Robin Miller's Mailbag for September 25, presented by Honda Racing / HPD

Insights & Analysis

Robin Miller's Mailbag for September 25, presented by Honda Racing / HPD


Q: It’s been a while, but I have a few things I want your opinions on, the first being Oliver Askew’s chances of ending up in a third Ganassi car next year? To me the only thing he needs is a little more sponsorship, and Mike Hull seemed high on him after his test. Do you think Chip will take a chance on him and let him develop to potentially replace Dixon in a few years?

My second idea is this. We have the BC39, which yet again was a huge success for all involved. As a fan, getting the chance to see Larson, Bell and the other USAC guys run on a new track, on the grounds of IMS has been really cool the last two years. Seeing how good the crowd was for that event, and seeing a 500 veteran in James Davison running Silver Crown, my dad and I got the idea of moving the Hoosier 100 to IMS on the oval. A 40-lap race, live pit stops, and a front engine open wheel car turning laps at IMS. It could be run on Legends Day, and would probably draw a decent crowd. What do you think?

Ben, Noblesville

RM: I talked to Oliver after he clinched the Lights’ crown and he said he was going to have something good to announce here soon, so we can only hope it’s the Chipster. The IMS dirt track is way too small for USAC dirt cars but I like your thinking. Look for USAC to maybe try a sprint car race there some day, or maybe make the BC39 part of Midget Week.

Q: The season is now over and there might be drivers and engineers changing teams. Who does the set-up data belong to? The team owner, the engineer, the driver, or all three?

Dan, Anderson, Ind.

RM: It belongs to the team, but what’s to prevent an engineer from keeping good notes? Or a driver.

Q: I recently saw there were a couple of joint races between F1 and Indy in the late ’50s at Monza. The story said the Indy cars won both races. Do you have more details? What drivers were involved? Were there other races? I had never heard of this, and have followed Indy since the 50s when we would listen on the radio as Vuky lead the field.

Todd Broadlick, originally from Kokomo, Jupiter, FL

RM: It was at Monza, Italy in 1957 and 1958 and it was called the Race of Two Worlds and pitted the best of F1 against the best of American ope- wheel. Jimmy Bryan won the inaugural show and Jim Rathmann was first in 1958, but the roadsters were so superior to the cars that were driven by F1 drivers it was no contest. Tony Bettenhausen won the pole at 177 mph and the pole that year at Indy was only 143 mph.

The start of the Race of Two Worlds at Monza in 1958. That’s about as close as the F1 guys got to the roadsters all day. Image via Robin Miller Collection

Q: Why is there an obvious lack of attention from ESPN for IndyCar? Even when ABC was covering races it seemed it pained the ESPN anchors to even report the Indy 500 winner. They never mention the races on SportCenter, or even give it a line on the ticker at the bottom of the screen. I assumed it was a money thing and they want paid to report it.

Chad Wetz, Tipton, Indiana

RM: Good question that I asked every year when CART was cooking in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, and yes there was a show called RPM 2Night that actually covered CART and then the IRL, but unless there was a spectacular crash or fatality the races never got a sniff on SportsCenter. That’s why Mark Miles’s best move was going with NBC because Always Bad Coverage could have cared less.

Q: Miller, I saw you taking a photo with a mechanic from Dale Coyne Racing on race morning. Who is he and what was that all about?

Russell L, Watsonville, Ca.

RM: That was John Sumner, and last Sunday was his final race after 20 years in IndyCar. He was the oldest (70) crewman over the wall on pit stops (ran the airjack) and worked for eight different teams taking care of gearboxes and shocks. One of the truly good guys, and a character that always had something funny to say.

Q: I take issue with the Mailbag comments about trimming the May schedule at IMS. I was lucky enough to be able to spend the Month of May at IMS in 2015 (100th running, bronze badge, Turn 1 short chute seat on race day). I had visited the track and museum previously, but never attended a race. That month will stand out as the highlight of my race fan life. I was there from opening until closing every day the gate was open. If I could afford it, I would do it every year.

Weekends at Laguna Seca, Long Beach, Vegas, Phoenix, California Speedway, or Road America don’t come close (maybe Elkhart Lake does). All the participants were approachable. Drivers, mechanics, owners and media, all had time to interact with the fans. This was a different vibe from the other venues I have attended, where race weekend is a frenzy of activity. This race fan was in race heaven that Month. I wish every race fan could have the chance to attend the Month of May in Indiana. Please don’t suggest shortening the Month of May to the Week in May thereby cheating future fans of a fantastic opportunity.

Mike G.

RM: Don’t fret Mike, it’s not going to change even thought IMS loses money all but Carb Day and Race Day. The city’s fathers like the three weeks of May so no matter how much some old geezers like me would love to see it shortened (along with all the teams), it probably won’t happen. Too bad you couldn’t have been around for the ‘60s and ‘70s when there were three weeks of practice and 75 cars. That was exciting.

Q: Hey Robin. In a recent column you asked, “Which driver era was IndyCar’s best ever?” I cannot comment on previous eras as I became an IndyCar fan between 1997 and 1999. It was both Greg Moore and Juan Pablo Montoya which interested me in CART. But, in that column you said, “the Split voids 2000-2007.” I watched both CART / Champ Car and the IRL during the Split. Originally CART had the better drivers early on in the Split. Penske, Ganassi and other teams eventually bolted for the IRL. Newman-Haas and Sebastien Bourdais subsequently dominated Champ Car during this era.

In the post-Split era, Bourdais was a regular staple in the IndyCar line-up. He put in some great performances in inferior machinery, and won! It would’ve been great to see what Bourdais could’ve accomplished in Penske, Ganassi, or Andretti machinery during this era. We will never know. Bourdais has 37 career IndyCar victories. Six of those 37 were during the post-Split era. So, if “the Split voids 2000-2007,” how do you rate Bourdais’s IndyCar legacy? Is he an IndyCar great like Dixon and Power? Or, are all of those CART/Champ Car victories not deserving of recognition?

Ken C, Thunder Bay, ON

RM: Seb is one of the best racers of the past 20 years, and certainly one of the most courageous, and he showed that after everybody got back together. But it’s hard to get real excited about those Camp Car years because Forsythe was Newman/Haas only competition for the most part until Carl Russo got Justin Wilson. But no question Bourdais is a great road racer in any era.