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

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

Insights & Analysis

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


Q: I want to thank you for your clear and unequivocal reply to the suggestion that computer racing may be the way of the future after this pandemic situation is over. It will have to do it without my two cents.

Gary E., Dwight, IL

RM: I realize it’s entertaining for a lot of people and something to do in this time of non-stop boredom, but when FS1 puts it on TV like a real event… sorry, but I’m with you.

Q: I’ve read with interest the suggestions/proposals for the idle drivers to participate in some sort of Esport racing series during the current shutdown of real racing. My question is a simple one: what if the video games (let’s call it what it is) draw higher television ratings than the actual IndyCar series? Your first instinct will be to dismiss this as nonsense. I submit that there are a lot of folks out there who will tune in Esports anything that wouldn’t think of tuning in some car race. My son is one of them. We may be letting the genie out of the bottle here!

Bill Carsey, North Olmsted, OH

RM: You bring up a very interesting and valid point. Because there is such a captive audience sitting out there with nothing to watch in terms of sports, it’s very possible an internet race could out-draw a real one. And then how do you sell sponsors?

Q: In your opinion, which is more boring and why: sim racing or Formula E? This longtime fan has no interest in either.

David, Waxhaw, NC

RM: It’s a draw for me – I don’t care about either. They both bore me.

Q: Need to get the cost out of IndyCar and level the playing field – how about a spec shock package? IndyCar hands out a set of shocks for each car at the track – tuned to the type of track and that’s the shocks you use – sort of like the popoff valve in the turbo days. I understand the teams spend a ton on shocks. Someone said that the shock package was why Carpenter is so fast at Indy, which is very smooth, but not competitive at street courses – because they can’t get the shock tuning right for a bumpy street course

Tom in Michigan

RM: Not sure how the playing field can be much more level than it is now, and spec shocks were voted down by the owners a few years ago. Dampers are the one area where teams can get creative, and while it means nothing to the fans, the teams seem to want to keep it like it is.

Q: Just read the Mailbag. One more example of guys gutting it out I thought of – Buddy Lazier winning the 500 with a broken back! Recall him raising his arms and stretching his hands during late yellow flags to try to relieve some of the pain.

Rick K, S.D., CA

RM: Good call, Rick. Buddy was hurting all month but did a helluva job under painful circumstances.

Lazier wins the ’96 Indy 500, and with it, a place on the official Mailbag ‘Tough Guy’ list. Image by IMS

Q: Like everyone else, I’m finding racing wherever I can. I just watched the 1981 500 on YouTube. We all the know controversy that followed and the cause of it. My question is; what argument did Penske use to uphold Uncle Bobby’s win when it was obvious he passed under yellow?

John from Akron

RM: The USAC Appeals Panel voted 2-1 to reinstate Unser as the winner because they deemed the one-lap penalty too severe. Team Penske was fined $40,000. But the real issue was that USAC didn’t call the penalty when it happened, and waited until ABC pointed it out on television to act.

Q: I shop at a couple different Menards near Columbus, OH. Even worked at one just north of Columbus for a short time in the fall. Not one banner, poster, not one word, did I ever see, about the Indy 500. Wouldn’t you want to pat yourself on the back and get free promotion and advertising? Generate more interest in the series? There’s been cases where crashes happen and sponsors are, like, too bad about that, but look, our name was on TV for quite awhile. Win the race, seems like they missed an opportunity. Maybe I missed it….  I read all your columns, big Indy 500 and IndyCar fan. And you, too.

Brian Campbell

RM: That’s kinda surprising, because John Menard spent millions and millions of dollars trying to win Indy before he hooked up with Roger Penske. And Pagenaud was a good story and such a personable winner that I would have thought Menard’s would have blown it out. Very disappointing. You are right – opportunity missed.

Q: Watched the Juan Manuel Fangio documentary last night and noted that Johnnie Parsons and I think Bill Vukovich were listed as in the points for F1 back in the Fangio days. Also noted that Kurtis Kraft was the car. What’s the story on USAC guys pre-Mario running in F1? Also, were the Kurtis Kraft cars built for F1 or revamped USAC cars?

Gary, Anza, CA

RM: The Indianapolis 500 was part of the FIA F1 schedule back then, so Indy participants earned points towards the world championship. There were no Kurtis-Kraft F1 chassis, and the only time Indy cars ever raced against F1 cars was at Monza in 1957-58.

Q: Any chance you and MP could put together a virtual tour of the IMS Museum basement? Enjoy your work, keep the articles coming!

Holland, Mi

RM: Well, maybe I could take my little camera and do something, but MP has to stay close to home to take his wife to chemo treatments and the doctor. I’ll ask R.P. when all this madness clears up. Thanks for reading

Q: With no racing happening and news on the ravages of coronavirus getting repetitive, please delve into the past. When did you see your first Indy 500 and under what circumstances? Have you seen every one since then, and which was the best? Hoping to get to this year’s race, but not counting on it.

Anthony Jenkins, Mono, Ontario

RM: In 1958 my dad took me out to the race. We parked and walked across the golf course, walked up to the backstretch fence and watched the first 30 laps. We did that every May until he finally was able to get us tickets in 1964. So technically I’ve seen a part of 62 straight races, but only attended or covered 55 in a row.

Q: Can you please explain why the RACER site treats drag racing like a second-class citizen? Even Supercross stars get in-depth interviews. I was in the stands when John Andretti beat Joe Amato to win his first round of Top Fuel. When the Dover Cup race was the same weekend as Maple Grove, Joe Gibbs would load up his chopper and fly the cup drivers in to watch qualifying. When Pontiac was the official car of NHRA and IROC they had the pace cars there. Jimmy Spencer and Rusty Wallace raced each other. They both did long, smoky burnouts. Spencer was sleeping at the tree and Rusty won. I was lucky enough to see Rusty’s last win at Martinsville.

When racing resumes, we need more crossover. A lot of drag racers dabble in dirt track racing. Motorcrossers are trying their hand in cars. All of us in general need to be more open and welcoming to other forms of motorsports. Except electric race cars. They should only race on the moon, where there is not enough oxygen for internal combustion engines to run. Be well, and wash your hands often

Bob DiMilla from Saugus, MA

P.S.  I am such a race fan that I have souvenirs from the Boston IndyCar race that never happened and was contested at the Glen – my second home.

RM: Over to’s Mark Glendenning:

Hi Bob. While RACER’s roots lie in road racing, we’re huge fans of forms of motorsport, drag racing included. One of my most fun weekends of 2018 was my trip to the NHRA finale at Pomona. The balance of coverage on the site boils down to resources (both financial and editorial), and the return we get on how we use them.

Covering any series is a massive undertaking, and one we’ve increasingly embraced over the past three or four years, when we’ve taken all of our F1, NASCAR and WEC coverage in-house to complement the exclusive IndyCar and IMSA content that we were already producing. There are very few outlets – particularly independently-owned ones – that have their own reporters on the ground at as many events around the world as we do. But in order to remain viable as a business, we need to get something back on those investments – commercial activity, significant web traffic or, ideally, both.

The Supercross content that you referenced is possible because Monster Energy recognizes the value in our reach and readership, and helps to support it. Similarly, the recent expansion of our off-road coverage has been facilitated by partners like Yokohama. If we could find support from within the drag racing universe, our drag racing content would be ramped up accordingly. We cover it to the extent that we currently can, but we would love to have more in the future.