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: Who could have predicted our whole world would be so changed? It has been unsettling, but we are coping as best we can. I am concerned about you all (racers, teams, reporters, broadcasters, promoters, venue staff, etc.) and how everyone will make ends meet. I was pleased to read on RACER.com about efforts by Roger Penske to help the IndyCar teams during the shutdown. I cannot imagine the stress everyone is under. A big thank you to RACER for keeping the fires burning and its staff employed. I personally am grateful in having articles and videos to enjoy during this time of uncertainty. The year, however, just won’t be the same without attending my home race in Long Beach. I enjoyed your column last week on AJ’s win in Houston 50 years ago. Please keep these “looking back” articles coming. Any chance for a new video or two in your Tough Guy series? I look forward to them.
RM: Give owner Paul Pfanner a big pat on the back, because not only are we still employed but Mark Glendenning, Marshall Pruett, Chris Medland, Kelly Crandall and Marty Fiolka are cranking out stories daily and trying to keep race fans engaged and entertained in this trying time. I just finished five more Tough Guy videos, and I’ll do more retro stories because they’re fun and old people like me enjoy them.
Q: We all looked to you during the dark days of IndyCar. You were the only source for people like me to stay engaged. Something that would be interesting to me is a Mailbag session for drivers. For example, with Mario: 1) Which turn in all of racing had the greatest pucker factor? 2) Which driver in your past had the most potential but for some reason didn’t make it? 3) Which car did you want to race that you never had the opportunity to run? 4) Which drivers today could have made it in the earlier days? Just some thoughts! I’d love to hear A.J. unplugged! Also, this is good stuff for your upcoming book.
Wally, Eden Prairie, MN
RM: Good idea. Talked to Mario over the weekend and he’s bored like the rest of us – not only is he a wonderful interview, he’s a historian as well. And I like your first four questions. [Wally: We’ve actually been working on something along the lines of what you suggested; just need to finalize a few details. Look for more information on the site in the coming days – MG].
Q: I laughed the whole time reading about your phone call with Uncle Bobby. I think I’d pay good money to put A.J., Mario and Uncle Bobby in a padded room with a microphone and a case of beer (well… maybe some vino for Mario) and just sit back and listen to them talk about the good old days for a few hours. Thanks, Robin. That was just the RX I needed for this social distancing stuff.
Brad in Seattle
RM: My pal Steve Shunck works for Borg-Warner. Every May he hosts a dinner for former Indy winners, and I wish we had taped the one from a few years ago when A.J., Parnelli, The Big Eagle, Uncle Bobby and J.R. were sitting around the table for two hours. Steve showed highlights of their race wins while dinner was being served, and they offered up some stories we’d never heard before – or since. We’ll never get them all back together and it would have been treasure, but glad you liked Unser uncensored.
Q: That telephone call with Bobby Unser was great, since I have been attending the 500 since 1964 and his start in the Novi. Bobby really became a favorite of mine. I was at The Fairgrounds in 1968 when he and Mario were told to race the Hoosier Hundred since they wouldn’t be racing in the Italian GP. Bobby took the microphone and had the stands in stitches over his comments about the racing officials in Europe and how they handled the situation with Mario and him. His commentary on the better drivers of his era framed them so it was easy for many of us to see how he measured up to them. My question is, since their careers overlapped, what are his thoughts on Rick Mears? I have my favorites, but in my mind Mears was as good as the speedway has ever experienced, even after his accident at Sanair.
Louis Du Lude
RM: Bobby wasn’t a big Mears fan right away because he thought The Rocket was lazy and liked playing with radio-controlled cars instead of learning about an Indy car. But ‘ol Rick was playing possum and absorbed everything his teammate would allow, and I know Unser came to appreciate him as one of Indy’s best.
Q: Thank you for that great read on Uncle Bobby. I love reading about the old days now that I’m an old guy! Just great to hear the recollections of one of the greats. I would love to read more of these. Maybe you could get A.J. (that’s quite true), J.R., Al and maybe some from the late ’70s, early ’80s. I know people have told you but man, you have to write a book!
Jim, Rochester, MI
RM: I figured everyone needed something to smile about, so what better time to ring up Uncle Bobby? He cracks me up, and I’ve heard most of the stories 15 times. I’ve kept a lot of notes over the past 50 years so maybe someday a book can appear. Thanks for your support.
Q: Anyone gonna give Seabass a ride for the 500?
Dan, Lima, Ohio
RM: We’re all hoping he drives for A.J., but it’s all about finding sponsorship.