Robin Miller's Mailbag for May 27

Robin Miller's Mailbag for May 27

Insights & Analysis

Robin Miller's Mailbag for May 27

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Q: Here’s wishing you happiness and health on the worst Memorial Day I can remember. I laughed at my screen when I saw Ferrari is evaluating an IndyCar program. Ferrari has always enjoyed great influence in Formula 1. The reverence of FIA management over the years has also been high for the participation of Ferrari in Formula 1. They’ve been able to pull the necessary strings they’ve needed over the years to enjoy great success on the track. They will not have that in IndyCar. There would be great excitement and plenty of stakeholders would take notice, but I do not believe that there is anyone in Maranello who would be able to walk into a boardroom in Indiana or Michigan and exert powerful influence on Mr. Penske.

An organization that large would expect to be able to come in and write the rulebook with a group as small potatoes (call it what it is) as IndyCar. I just don’t see that happening. But Zak Brown really explained years ago why Ferrari really won’t do it. In F1 McLaren enjoys the luxury of deciding whether to buy or build a chassis, which parts to fabricate and, of course, who to partner with for engines. Without such liberties, its best option in IndyCar was to partner with an existing team.

Ferrari exercises that flexibility in F1 by building its own engines, chassis and all the components it can. I can’t find one solid reason why Ferrari would acquiesce to IndyCar’s stiff regulations simply to keep its budgeted resources engaged. It’s too easy for it to join IMSA, WEC or many other racing platforms worldwide that will allow it to spend its money the way it wants to. The value simply isn’t great enough for the headaches it would endure. Just my two cents on how Ferrari will spend its $30 million. Agree?

Dan W., Ft. Worth, TX

RM: Yes I do, because of the reasons you stated and the fact it really makes no sense. Ferrari in Newton, Iowa? Really? Sports cars do make more sense, and Le Mans for sure, just because of the international exposure.

Q: What’s your perspective on female racers – old days, pre PC, like Janet Guthrie. Any good stories? While an old curmudgeon, I always told my daughter she can do anything a guy can do. My wife is pretty independent that way as well, and after watching some old racing stuff together, started digging into Ms. Guthrie. Certainly was a different time – but women were expected in the Snake Pit but not on the track? (I was always a Herk fan – was my hometown hero and a friend of my parents before he left Tonawanda).

Bob Miller

RM: I always thought Desire Wilson was hands-down the best of the 1970s and ’80s (she won an Aurora series F1 race against some good competition) but she never got comfortable or with the right team in CART or Indianapolis.

Desire Wilson (pictured on pole for the 1980 Aurora AFX Formula 1 Series race at Brands Hatch) was quick even though things never quite clicked for her at Indy. Motorsport Images archive

Q: Who would you rank as the top IndyCar development drivers since you have been covering Indy cars?

Scott Thompson

RM: A.J., Mario, Uncle Bobby and Mark Donohue would be at the top, because they thrived in the era where you had a new car almost every year and they had to test and develop it. I think Dick Simon was very sharp about an IndyCar chassis, and ditto for Gary Bettenhausen, Tom Sneva and Rick Mears. Alex Zanardi was one of the savviest of the past 25 years, but Scott Dixon, Alexander Rossi, Colton Herta and Simon Pagenaud seem to be dialed in better than most.

Q: Traditionally, teams built a “speedway car” with tighter-fitting body panels and tweaked to reduce drag. Usually they are only for Indy and then used it at Texas, MIS/Fontana/Pocono. Have the schedule changes making Texas happen before Indy changed teams plans on “speedway” cars? The article on Coyne suggests that the car from St. Pete is being converted for Texas. Are the teams still holding back on the cars they plan on running at Indy?

Dave in Indy

RM: “Hi Dave. For teams with enough money and multiple cars, a dedicated Indy 500/Pocono superspeedway chassis has indeed been prepared and set aside from the rest while its other cars are pressed into service across road, street, and remaining oval circuits. Texas has been an outlier; it’s a big oval, but isn’t a superspeedway in the sense that it lacks the super-long straights where aerodynamic perfection with body fitment pays off. Plus, about half of the Texas races end in big kerblammos, so most teams don’t bother with special body fits since the odds tell us a lot of bodywork will be thrown into the dumpster on the way out of DFW.” – Marshall Pruett.

Q: I’m not familiar with Swede Savage. I do remember the name. Can you tell us more about him? His daughter is selling a cool t-shirt and I want one!

Dan, Lima, OH

RM: He was Dan Gurney’s protege who started on motorcycles and quickly adapted to Trans-Am and then Indy cars. He won Phoenix in only his fourth start in 1970 and then suffered a bad head injury in the Questor Grand Prix in 1971 but was scooped up by Pat Patrick and Andy Granatelli for 1973. He died a month after his ghastly accident at Indy in ’73 when he received a tainted blood transfusion, according to Dr. Steve Olvey’s book Rapid Response.

Q: It’s easy to find out that Mario in 1969 was the last Indy 500 winner to wear an open-face helmet, but who was the last participant that wore one and what year? Bonus points for the last driver (whether or not qualified) that wore one.

Robert B., Bronxville, NY

RM: That’s easy. Herk. Jim Hurtubise never wore a full-face helmet and made the show at Indy in 1974, but kept wearing it all the way to the late ’70s when he finally quit.

Q: This past week, I happened to read a story about A.J. and how much he missed being at Indy in May. The story mentioned that he had spent the last month or so on a bulldozer clearing some land. It seems every time I turn around, I see or read a story about him spending weeks on his dozer clearing his land. So, does he own half of Texas now, or does he just keep clearing the same land over and over again?

Jim Randall in Indy

RM: I call him every other week and he’s always outside on his “bulldozier” but at last count he had three ranches because he just sold one (for a nice profit I might add) but he’s always looking to buy if he thinks it’s a bargain. And ‘ol Super Tex is a damn good businessman.

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