Robin Miller's Mailbag for April 1, presented by Honda Racing/HPD

Robin Miller's Mailbag for April 1, presented by Honda Racing/HPD

Insights & Analysis

Robin Miller's Mailbag for April 1, presented by Honda Racing/HPD

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Q: Let me start by dating myself. First race I saw in person was Mario win in Cleveland, first time I saw you on TV was RPM2 night on ESPN, and later became addicted to SpeedTV and Wind Tunnel. iRacing doesn’t do it for me. Bores the crap out of me, but good deal for Sage Karam and the fans who get into it.

I got my racing fix off watching your Tough Guy series on RACER.com, Foyt-isms, and today, the movie Winning. Holy smokes, tell me why I’ve never seen this movie or heard of it till today? I must have been living under a rock, or got brainwashed by Dale Jr.’s top five list of best racing movies. Paul Newman in Winning is hands-down the best racing movie I’ve ever seen, and I got a kick out of Bobby Unser as himself. Do you remember when the movie was filmed at the Speedway? Any good stories?

Steve, Ohio

RM: Winning is what got Newman hooked on racing, and it was a realistic look at racing in those days, and also starred Joanne Woodward and Robert Wagner. Not as good as Grand Prix, but a damn site better than ‘Drivel’ or Days of Thunder. I went to IMS to try and sit in the stands as an extra, but they already had enough people so I got turned away. Uncle Bobby wanted Cary Grant to play him but it was too expensive.

Q: I enjoyed your recent Tough Guy videos about Rube and McCluskey. Keep ”em coming. Have you ever put one together about “tough luck” Tony Bettenhausen Sr.? Do you remember any of the guys in this photo (below)?  I believe that photo was taken after Tony won a Springfield race, according to what is written on the back of the photo. I am such a fan of Tony that I paid $100 for the hard copy of that photo.

Ron Ford, Muskego, WI

RM: I’ve got Tony and son Merle on my to-do list, and the elder Bettenhausen won a lot of races and was a tough SOB they called “Cementhead” for all the times he got upside down. I know that’s Ted Horn to Tony’s left, and Bill Holland on his right.

Definite Tough Guy material.

Q: I just finished watching your “Tough Guys” episode on Lloyd Ruby. In the past week, you have posted several really enjoyable articles. Your chat with Bobby Unser, the article on Foyt in Houston, and now this. Thanks very much. Everyone is sick of this COVID-19 mess, and having a few nice distractions like this is really appreciated. What else is in your pipeline to look forward to?

Duncan, Port Perry, Canada

RM: Thanks for reading and watching, Duncan. Got Steve Chassey, Mike Nazaruk and Sammy Sessions in the Tough Guys series pipeline, and a cool story about a one-shot IndyCar hero you’ve probably never heard of unless you were at Milwaukee in 1963. Looking back at the heroes and races never gets old for me so glad you enjoy it.

Q: Truly enjoy your articles on the tough old drivers back in the day. I got to thinking about Gordon Johncock yesterday, and was wondering if you can shed any insights on his career, what his peers thought, and what he’s up to and his thoughts of late? I’m told he fairly keeps to himself, but was hoping for some stories if possible.

Doug Harris, Westland, MI

RM: Nobody drove harder than Gordy, and his 1982 win over Rick Mears illustrates that determination. He was prepared to put it in the Holiday Inn swimming pool on 16th Street before he lifted going into the first turn on that last lap. I still think he won the 1966 Indy 500, but USAC timing and scoring wasn’t real accurate. In 1984 there was an impromptu press conference the night before Pole Day and Johncock said he wasn’t sure he could run “2-0-10.” I raised my hand and asked how to spell it, and he chased me around Gasoline Alley the next morning and tore off my T-shirt that said: “2-0-10.” But no better person than Johncock, and he and his lovely wife Sue are operating a successful forestry business in South Branch, Michigan.

Q: Mike Mosley always struck me as a driver with potential when I was growing up, but it seemed like he never got the opportunity he deserved. Was he ever in contention for a big-time ride? Did his peers consider him a talented driver?

Tony Lynch

RM: Mose was loyal to A.J. Watson, who brought him to Indy as a kid, and he won from last at Phoenix for Watson but never really had a good car until he drove for Dan Gurney. He sat on the front row at Indy in 1981 in that gorgeous Pepsi Challenger, and scored The Big Eagle’s final IndyCar win at Milwaukee (again coming from last) before AAR ran out of money. But here’s all you need to know. After Mike led Indy in 1971-72 with an old Eagle, Gary Bettenhausen said: “If Mosley ever gets a McLaren, we’re all running for second place.”

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