Q: I am an Indy 500 traditionalist and I had expected Roger Penske of all people to call “Gentlemen, start your engines” instead of the now-fashionable “Drivers start your engines,” but he resorted to the latter. Why did he do it, even though there was no female driver participant in the race, and why is calling “gentlemen” forbidden any more at the races?
Adam, Toronto, Canada
RM: I asked him but haven’t yet received an answer.
Q: The main gate at Indy was awesome! The fans, the sounds, the T-bird flyover and Arie Luyendyk stopping by on the other side of the fence to say hi to fans! Pato And Oliver and Arrow Members stopping by to throw hats over fence and open of boxes of diecast and signing them and tossing them over the fence! The reverberation as the cars rolled into Turn 1! Penske members stopping by and giving a hat to an 8-year-old through the fence! Doug Boles stopped by on our side of the fence in suit and tie and mask to say thank you and had his photo taken with fans. Watching the race on the screen and actually hearing the cars was great! Eating at the Mug and Bun walking back to the airport was really good! Take things one day at a time Robin Miller, stay positive and one more thing – pork chops at Dawsons were great. See you in nine months.
Barney Colborn, Reno, NV
RM: Really cool to hear those stories of Arie, Pato, Oliver and the Penske boys dropping in on you fans outside the track, and combined with the drivers visiting people’s homes in Speedway, it was about as positive an experience as could be expected under the circumstances. Thanks for sharing, Barney.
Q: Thanks to you and your RACER.com cohorts very much for all the super coverage up to and through the 500. It has made a tremendous difference for us as fans. Post-500, which teams and drivers do you feel are making the greatest gains through this difficult season?
Thank you especially for the A.J. interview. One of the highlights of a trip to Indy was almost meeting him in the Speedway Motel restaurant. Having eaten a couple tables away from his, and he sitting sideways at his table, I walked directly towards him as I was leaving: He made eye contact as I approached, with a Dirty Harry, “Make my day — don’t even think you’re going to talk to me” look. It was so perfect, and very much what I had been warned to expect, I burst out laughing as I looked at him.
I swear his eyes squinted a little, and the right corner of his mouth twitched about an eighth of an inch up, but the eye contact continued through my passing by. He’s a great guy, with that incredible integrity, intensity and focus that too few men have for even a few years, let alone over eight decades.
RM: Tex doesn’t like to be bothered while dining but you made eye contact, so that’s a winner.
Q: Best compliments on your latest interview with A.J. Thoroughly enjoy both of you bantering back and forth. I appreciated his comments about how brave and great the before-Foyt old-timers were. Could not agree more, recalling the chats I had 40 years ago with Harlan Fengler about his making 123mph on the Beverly Hills board track in the 1920s. The board track guys were true gladiators in every sense. Take care of yourself, Robin. A. J. and the rest of us appreciate you!
Ron Carbaugh, Eaton, Ohio
RM: He said something about not being nearly as brave as those old guys and you just chuckle thinking about how dangerous open-wheel racing was in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s. But he has a point, those riding mechanics were maniacs. And Fengler was a badass on the board tracks.
Q: Robin, I’ve been reading and listening to you since the early 1990s. Thanks for all the years of insight and entertainment. I stumbled on the recent The Athletic article about you. It was very well-done and I hope others can read and learn a bit more about your interesting career and life. Are you allowed to post a link in the Mailbag? If so, please do and don’t be too humble, as I believe all would really enjoy the content. No other comment or questions other than I hope for improved health for you, if for nothing else than to get you back running around on pit lane for the race broadcasts. All the best.
RM: Thanks Dave, Zak Keefer really flattered me but the worst thing about that article was that now I’ve got to be nice to A.J. forever because he was so complimentary. The link doesn’t work, you have to subscribe for seven days.