Q: I just finished reading your response to the lady who was irritated by comments in a past Mailbag related to Janet Guthrie. While I have a healthy respect for her academic accomplishments, behind the wheel she was less than impressive. I saw her run Indy and Pocono where she was more of a moving chicane than a racer. Certainly not HOF material! That said, your suggested manner of recognition is reasonable, as she certainly stamped her mark on Indy history. But, then again so did Jigger Sirois, who I watched run three laps before being waived off only to find his time would not only have made the fastest 33 but would have put him on the pole. He was the only attempt before rain washed out day one of qualifications.
I guess we could recognize many for putting their stamp on Indy history. While Jigger was an excellent short-track dirt racer, HOF material for Indy… nope! The HOF needs to be a very special place. Herk needs to be in the HOF. Is there a time limit to be voted into the HOF as there is in MLB? While he was a bit disruptive toward the end, he certainly is deserving. He was a hell of a racer!
John, Del Rio, TN
RM: I think a statue with a photo would be a great way to honor Janet’s accomplishment, but the HOF wants live bodies for the annual ceremony so there you go. Jigger never drove a good Indy car, and he was a damn good midget racer back in the day when everybody was racing them. But the Jigger award for perseverance is a perfect way to honor his poise and professionalism. Don’t think there is a time limit, pretty sure Pat Patrick was nominated for like 20 years before being inducted. And I’ll keep making Herk a write-in until I die or they do the right thing and put him in. But don’t be surprised if R.P. does the right thing.
Q: The talk about the performance of female drivers in IndyCar reminded me of the race at MIS in 2002 (?). Sarah Fisher fell right to the back of the field in the first stint. With each pit stop her car improved, but I did not think she could get back to the lead pack. By the last stint she was hooked up – passing everyone and taking the lead. The crowd went wild. I think she used up the tires getting there though, and fell to the back of the lead pack to eighth at the end. Very impressive run that was fun to watch.
Jim from NH
RM: Sarah was the track record holder at Winchester in a midget and ran sprint cars and, like I wrote, was the first female to pass cars in an IndyCar race, mix it up with the big boys and be competitive. And she never had first-class equipment. The fact the IRL never made sure she was in a top-flight car always made me shake my head, because she was the most popular driver at that time by a landslide.
Q: As we all cope with the threat of coronavirus and the cancellation of racing events, can you share memories of drivers who raced when they were ill and won? Did drivers back in the day ‘suck it up’ and race through illness?
Jenkins, Ontario, Canada
RM: I mean, guys raced with the temperatures and terrible hangovers, but that was commonplace. Parnelli drove with blood pouring from a cut into his eye and into his goggles in 1961 – ditto for Jan Opperman at Eldora in 1974. A.J., Uncle Bobby, Rodger Ward, Bobby Marshman all raced with hot oil burning their feet. Gary B., Merle and Jimmy McGuire raced with one arm, while Bill Shindler drove with one leg. Lee Kunzman returned to racing while he could barely lift his head after breaking his neck and won his first time back in a midget. Herk drove with claws instead of hands, while Mel Kenyon raced with a socket for a hand and Alan Heath had a hook. Vuky drove without relief in 1953 when the temperatures killed another driver.
Q: I’m wondering if you’ve changed your stance following your story about F1 and IMSA potentially running at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. In the past you’ve stated many times that IMS should only be used for the Indy 500. You’ve also stated many times that the U.S. Midwest is a hotbed of open-wheel enthusiasm. It seems to me that a fall IndyCar finale at the famed oval could work. What better place to crown the champion? What say you?
Doug Mayer, Revelstoke, BC, Canada
RM: I’d rather have F1 and IMSA instead of an eight-hour enduro for doctors and lawyers, or a Red Bull Air race, or a driver’s school or a motorcycle race nobody will attend. Indy should always be about big events. And Tony George made a smart move in 1994 by bringing NASCAR, because it took over the city. But now? The BC39 is better racing and has more of a buzz. I was fine with only one event a year, but obviously those days are long gone and R.P. will do whatever is good for IMS and the city.
Q: I’ve seen a lot of discussion about the NBC Sports Gold package and/or DirecTV over the past year or so in your Mailbag, but little or no talk about FloSports or the Lucas Oil Racing TV platforms, so I wanted to give them a shout-out as well. You get almost all (if not all) USAC National Sprint races, USAC National Midget races and Silver Crown races (along with some Western events) on the FloSports app and Tony Stewart’s All-Star Circuit of Champions series just signed with them as well. Add the Lucas Oil Racing TV app and you get the Lucas Oil Late Models, Modifieds and Off-Road series as well as Chili Bowl coverage. If they can get these two guys together and partner with someone like MAVTV for an all-inclusive racing app, that, along with NBC’s IndyCar coverage is about all I would need.
Daine Crabtree, Noblesville
RM: You didn’t ask a question but it’s a slow week and you’re an open-wheel fan so thanks for the information.
Q: I wanted to update you on the upcoming Best In The Desert off-road race regarding the COVID-19 virus. The Jagged X National Desert Cup Presented by Quantum Motorsports will take place as planned on March 20-22, 2020 in Laughlin, Nevada with some changes to mitigate the risk of spread. For more information, please see our press release. We think your readers should know the most up-to-date details!
RM: Well since there is no racing right now, glad to hear you’re running this weekend, and happy to give you a little free publicity.