Robin Miller's Mailbag for June 3, presented by Honda Racing/HPD

Robin Miller's Mailbag for June 3, presented by Honda Racing/HPD

Insights & Analysis

Robin Miller's Mailbag for June 3, presented by Honda Racing/HPD


Q: Robin, you’ve been around a while and I’m thinking you may have picked up on the almost apologetic tone that race winners are taking after scoring victory from their competitors. Specifically, I noticed a common refrain this past week while watching the NASCAR Cup races at Darlington and Charlotte. It seems that the winners “Hate it for <insert non-winner’s name here>” during their victory lane interview. When did drivers ever care that another driver lost a race? Did A.J. “hate it for Gordy” in ’77 when he dropped out late to hand Foyt his fourth?

Andy Rolfe, Brighton, MI

RM: You know the answer to that, Andy. We were sitting on the pit wall one night after an IRL race and the three drivers on the podium were hugging each other, and I asked A.J. if he and Mario “hugged it out” after the 1966 Hoosier Hundred when Tex led the whole race until his brake pedal broke. I can’t print his exact response, but “no” doesn’t quite sum it up.

“I guess this feels good. I feel so bad for Gordy that I can’t really enjoy it right now. Tell him if he needs a talk, a hug, anything, I’m here.” Image by IMS

Q: I just finished watching the Indy 2019 retrospective that aired on NBC. Wow, big kudos to Terry Lingner and his amazing crew for putting such a great program together. Big props also to Mike Tirico, Alex and Simon for their candid and relaxed conversation as they broke down the race as it progressed to it’s exciting conclusion. Perhaps this type of program could be considered in future years as a run-up to Indy. Just a thought…

David, Pittsburgh

RM: Terry worked hard and was pretty proud of it, as he should be, and Tirico is simply the best. Rossi and Pagenaud were also excellent, and it was quite interesting to hear their thoughts on those last laps. It’s certainly possible something like that could be an annual thing, because NBC promotes IndyCar like no one else ever did.

Q: Can you tell us the history of the Turkey Night Grand Prix, a great midget event held here in Southern California? I am itching for the in-person experience, especially my go-to track Ventura Raceway.

Matt Payette, Westlake Village, CA

RM: It started in 1934 at Gilmore Stadium in LA, but from 1960-1990 it mostly ran at the famed Ascot Park. Bill Vukovich, Tony Bettenhausen, Parnelli Jones, A.J. Foyt, Mel Kenyon, Gary Bettenhausen, Bubby Jones, Tony Stewart, Bryan Clauson, Kyle Larson and Chris Bell are among the winners, and Ronnie Shuman is the all-time Turkey Night badass with eight victories. It was 100 laps, and a few years ago shortened to 98 to salute promoter J.C. Agajanian’s favorite number, but it’s moved around the past 20 years, going from dirt to pavement then back to dirt, and currently runs at Ventura Raceway. The Hut 100 at Terre Haute and Turkey Night were the two most prestigious midget races in the country before the Chili Bowl joined that club 20 years ago.

Q: You mentioned the Don Smith Racing Museum in Terre Haute, Indiana, as one of the top three racing museums this week. I don’t believe it was open to the public, but it sounds like you were able to see it. Can you describe some of the highlights of what you saw? From what I understand he was a cousin of Tony Hulman, so I imagine he had access to quite a few one-of-a-kind items.

Scott (born in Terre Haute)

RM: About a decade ago Don had a luncheon for everyone that ever competed at the Action Track (Vigo County Fairgrounds) because he was the keeper, protector and promoter of that glorious dirt track. Afterwards we all went to his “museum” which was three barns packed with some of the greatest treasures in open-wheel racing. Midget, sprints, dirt cars and Indy cars were on display, along with posters, pictures and everything imaginable. I was there three hours and only made it to two of the barns because there was so much stuff to see. There was an auction a couple years ago and A.J. was going to go bid on one of his old cars, but not sure he got it.

Q: Longtime reader of your Mailbag here. I was reading last week’s Mailbag and there was a question about running at the Milwaukee Mile. You talked about the ARCA race that was held there last year, and said how you didn’t see it returning to the 2020 schedule. I just wanted to say that that the ARCA Midwest Tour was actually planning on coming back to the Milwaukee Mile this year on June 14. However with the COVID situation it has been cancelled, and “talks will continue between all parties to determine if a suitable reschedule date is feasible.

Karl K, Tinley Park, IL

RM: Thanks for that update, Karl. Bob Sargent is one of my favorite promoters, and I hope he can pull it off later this summer.

Q: Good shout-out to the Speedrome. Yes, IndyCar should run there. Under the lights. On the Figure 8. The Wayne Arnold Memorial 200. With Kevin (Lillard) O’Neal at the mic. Why not?

Dave Hascall, Noblesville, IN

RM: I think I’d settle for IndyCar drivers in late models running at the oval – don’t think their car owners would go for the Figure 8 and “trouble at the crossover.”

Q: Do you think we’ll see mid-week racing coming up on the IndyCar schedule? How has NASCAR as an organization responded to it?

Jed Blake

RM: Probably not this year, but hopefully some day because you have a captive audience. I think NASCAR has hit a home run with its weeknight races.

Q: There have been reports of Ferrari being interested in entering a car in the Indy 500 – probably the 2021 race. Maybe just talk, but I’m sure most fans and IMS are interested in the entry. Hope it happens. Race fans are likely aware of the Alberto Ascari Ferrari in the 1952 race. Started 19th and finished 31st. after fractured wheel hub put him out of the race. Moving to 1956, another Ferrari was entered. This time, according to Gordon Eliot White’s book “Indianapolis Racing Cars of Frank Kurtis”, Nino Farina had a Kurtis KK500D built in 1955.

The car was shipped to Maranello, Italy and a 4-cylinder 4.5 liter Ferrari 121 Le Mans engine installed. Enzo Ferrari kept a watchful eye. Car was sponsored by the Bardahl Oil Company office of Florence, Italy. Work however was not completed for the 1955 race, and it was shipped and arrived late for the 1956 race. Farina had trouble adapting the driving the oval and failed getting to a qualifying speed and could not compete. At some point the car ended up in Switzerland for restoration. Where is it now? Museum? Barn? Anybody know?

Evert Wolfe

RM: I think we’d all love to see Ferrari here, especially with Charles Leclerc, but as I’ve said it seems like a real long-shot. As for the whereabouts of the restored Ferrari? Try Hemmings, they might be able to help.