Welcome to the Robin Miller Mailbag presented by Honda Racing / HPD. You can follow the Santa Clarita, California-based company at: hpd.honda.com and on social media at @HondaRacing_HPD and https://www.facebook.com/HondaRacingHPD.
Your questions for Robin should be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org. We cannot guarantee we’ll publish all your questions and answers, but Robin will reply to you. And if you have a question about the technology side of racing, Robin will pass these on to Marshall Pruett and he will also answer here.
Q: Good morning from Miami. Our local leaders are cancelling all manner of public events scheduled for this month such as the Ultra Music Festival and the Calle Ocho street party. What is the word regarding this weekend’s season opener at Saint Pete?
Neil Rubin, Miami Beach
RM: Here’s the story I wrote on Monday night and everything is go for the IndyCar season opener as of Wednesday.
Q: Any word on race postponements due to coronavirus?
RM: Nothing new beyond the ones in F1, MotoGP and Formula E that had already been reported.
Q: Your recent article IndyCar’s on the cusp of a golden era was spot-on. The only things that should be added is half of the races are on network NBC, including most of the best, picturesque road courses, and all ovals except Indy are under the lights on a Saturday night. IMS and the IndyCar Series are in the hands of the group best suited to carry the Greatest Spectacle in Racing and the sport into the future. More owners and new blood are looking to get into the series, even if it is for only a partial schedule until full time money is found. Now, if only we can get one or two more venues on the schedule… Can’t wait for St. Pete to get the season started.
Mike Hickman, Beech Grove, IN
RM: Having the IMS road course, Mid-Ohio, Road America and Laguna Seca on NBC is pretty damn impressive, as are eight network shows total because IndyCar’s ratings aren’t exactly stellar. I think the goal is 20 good races, and R.P. is the man to find them. Thanks for your optimism.
Q: It’s finally racing weekend again, so here’s some questions. Will we finally see a sub 1-minute lap at St. Petersburg this weekend? Jordan King missed it by 0.0477s two years ago. After Tony Kanaan passes 16 cars through Turns 1 and 2 on the outside after a mid-race restart at Indy, will you have paid off all of your gambling debts by getting that prop bet right so you can retire and write that book we are waiting for? Who do we, your Mailbag faithful, need to write to at NBC or whomever to guarantee that you get TV time during this year’s Indy 500 race?
RM: With the aeroscreen adding approximately 70 pounds, can’t forsee a track record anywhere this season. Hopefully T.K. won’t have to pass that many cars and he’ll be running up front, but that would be a good prop bet. We’ll know more about Indy gambling as we get into April, but there should be a lot of prop bets and I hope I get to help make them. As for NBC, they treat me very well and I’ll get plenty of airtime in May, but thanks for your offer.
Q: I was terribly disappointed by the comments about Janet Guthrie in last week’s Mailbag. If the IMS Hall of Fame was intended solely to honor drivers who had enjoyed tremendous success at IMS, then perhaps they might have been merited. But in its own words, the IMS HOF was “established to perpetuate the names and memories of prominent personalities for their outstanding contributions to the sport of racing and to the development of the entire automotive industry.”
Guthrie more than meets these criteria. As you know, until the early 1970s, women were not permitted to enter the garage and pit areas at the Speedway — even if they owned a car competing in the race. A woman driver? Well, that was unthinkable – offensive, even. Guthrie’s entree into that hostile arena required tremendous strength and courage.
Moreover, without Guthrie it might never have occurred to women like Lyn St. James, Sarah Fisher, Danica Patrick, Simona di Silvestro, Ana Beatriz, Pippa Mann, and others to strap into a race car. Maybe some people don’t see this as an “outstanding contribution to racing.” But I sure do. My dad brought me to IMS for the first time in 1977 to watch practice. I had just turned five. I have a vivid memory of watching Janet Guthrie climb into her car, but I don’t remember anything else about that day. Janet inspired me, as she has millions of other women around the world. Maybe that doesn’t matter. But it should. Thanks for reading.
RM: Thanks for writing, Kate. I guess my objection is that any HOF should honor greatness or achievement and not simply participation. Yes, Janet was a pioneer and a brave lady with the odds stacked against her in an era that didn’t embrace the idea of women in racing. That’s why a statue in the museum would seem to be more appropriate. But she’s not a HOF race driver. I’m glad she got you interested in racing and you’re still a fan.
Q: I appreciated the question and answer about Janet Guthrie in the Hall of Fame, and took a look at the inductees, and it is pretty interesting for a long-time fan like me. But I was shocked that neither Gary Bettenhausen nor especially Jim Hurtubise are not in. Both contributed a ton to the history and tradition at the Speedway, and I cannot help but think their lack of admission is a Hulman-George Family grudge because they were both outspoken about management from time to time. The new management should make sure both are in next year’s inductees. Your thoughts, as you know or knew these racers well?
Andy, Las Vegas
RM: Herk stands out to me as the most blatant oversight, along with Paul Newman and Carl Haas, but his protest in 1978 shouldn’t keep him out of the HOF. My God, he was the most popular driver for a decade and sold a lot of tickets with his daring-do in the Novi. As for Newman/Haas, yes they were loyal to CART and Champ Car to the core and critical of TG during The Split, but also staunch supporters of the Indy 500. Gary B. never made any trouble and was an inspiration after his injury – especially his charge from 32nd to third in 1980. But I know R.P. is a student of history and wants to go over a list of deserving people who have been snubbed, so I have good feeling about these guys.