Welcome to the Robin Miller Mailbag presented by Honda Racing / HPD. You can follow the Santa Clarita, California-based company at: hpd.honda.com and on social media at @HondaRacing_HPD and https://www.facebook.com/HondaRacingHPD.
Questions for Robin can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org. Due to the high volume of questions received, we can’t always guarantee that your letter will be printed, but Robin will get to as many as he can. Published questions have been edited for clarity. Views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of RACER or Honda/HPD.
Q: This week is Veterans Day, and I was wondering if you know of any veterans that have ever raced in IndyCar? If so, how successful were they?
James Jackson, Livonia, MI
RM: Lots of WWII veterans, a few from Vietnam and one from Korea, but the best known came out of WWI and that was Eddie Rickenbacker. A four-time Indy 500 starter, Captain Eddie made his name by shooting down 21 enemy planes, winning the Medal of Honor and Distinguished Service Cross. He then bought IMS in 1927. Two-time Indy winner Rodger Ward flew B-17 bombers and was a P-38 fighter pilot before being recruited as an instructor because of his skills. Billy Arnold, the 1930 Indy winner, joined the Army Air Corps a week after the attack on Pearl Harbor and rose to the rank of brigadier general. Sam Hanks, the ’57 winner, also joined the Army Air Corps, and 1951 winner Lee Wallard was with the Navy’s Seabees.
Jimmy Daywalt, an eight-time Indy starter, was a tailgunner on a B-24 and Art Cross, the first rookie of the year at Indy in 1952, served as a tank commander in Europe. Polesitter Johnny Thomson was the captain of a B-25 bomber in Italy. Cactus Jack Turner spent three years on the Pacific front. Three-time Indy starter Ray Crawford was a decorated pilot of a P-38 and shot down six enemy planes to earn the Distinguished Flying Cross. Iron Mike Nazaruk, who lost his life at Langhorne after finishing second in the 1951 Indy 500, served as a U.S. Marine in the Battle of Guam and Guadalcanal and vowed to become a race driver if he lived through the war.
All-American racer Dan Gurney spent two years in the Army as an artillery mechanic before launching his brilliant career. Three-time Indy starter Steve Chassey was on the front lines in Vietnam for two years and won the Soldier’s Medal for bravery, while Pete Halsmer flew a helicopter in ‘Nam and Hurley Haywood served in the 164th Aviation Group. And longtime car owner/builder Rolla Vollstedt landed at Normandy on D-Day and was struck twice by machine-gun fire to earn a Purple Heart. Apologies to those I left out because I’m sure there are more vets who deserve recognition, but I’m glad you asked the question James.
Q: Oliver Askew says: “Don’t be surprised if my IndyCar career is over.” I saw this on another site. I thought he held his own and had some really good results. Is there an outside chance he’ll find a full-time ride with Meyer/Shank or Dale Coyne Racing?
Alistair Fannell, Springfield, MO
RM: I think Oliver was just being realistic about his situation (no money), so if he could come up with sponsorship he might have a shot at Coyne or Carlin. It sucks because he had some good drives and packs a ton of potential, but he understands how hard it is nowadays to get hired without bringing sponsorship.
Q: I was curious about your answer to a question in last week’s Mailbag about rivalries in IndyCar when you mentioned Santino Ferrucci and Rinus VeeKay vs. the rest of the paddock. I know Ferrucci has gained a bit of a reputation for past racing incidences and some silliness in iRacing. But I wasn’t aware VeeKay was disliked in the paddock. Or did I misinterpret your answer? Are the two friends?
RM: I didn’t say they were disliked, but both have ruffled a few feathers with their aggressiveness and that’s usually the outcome when kids push their way to the front instead of quietly running 15th. I have no idea if they’re friends, but IndyCar still needs a rivalry.
Q: Any ideas why Ganassi never considered Bourdais for the No. 8 or No. 10 cars? He’s a proven winner and even drove (and won) his Ford GT car for Chip. On the surface, it seems like he and Dixon have similar driving styles.
RM: What if I told you that Ganassi did offer him a seat a couple years ago but he couldn’t get released from his contract?
Q: I loved the story about Juncos and Sting Ray Robb. I hadn’t heard of him, but will definitely keep him on my radar going forward. It’s the young guys like him and all the others that kept me coming back this year to watch races. I’m hopeful Cap’n Penske sees the value of bringing along young talent and makes it a priority. What would you suggest he do to make sure we learn about guys like Sting Ray before they hit the big show?
RM: The best way is to invest in the feeder system. That’s what The Captain is doing for 2021, and I think everyone is looking forward to seeing what he does in Indy Lights.
Q: I know IndyCar fans love to bitch, and I am one of them, but I also can appreciate the history we are watching with Scott Dixon. What an incredible talent! And you have to give kudos to Chip Ganassi, Mike Hull and the rest of CGR for 13 championships. I for one am going to love watching Dixon and CGR and their attempt to tie A.J.’s seven titles. And if Newgarden stays at Penske, I have a feeling a decade from now we might be saying the same things about Josef that we are saying about Dixon right now.
Thank you for your story about Ricardo Juncos. I forgot how many of the guys now in IndyCar drove for Juncos. Went to the St. Pete race with some Pennsylvanians who have transplanted to Florida and his guy Sting Ray Robb (what an awesome name) is going to be another one to watch. Guys like Juncos are exactly the type of guys that Andersen and Penske need to support on the Road to Indy and in IndyCar, because the current crop of owners, and fans like myself, aren’t getting any younger. Do you think Ricardo can field a car for the NTT series in 2021? Thank you and everyone at RACER for all the great coverage in 2020.
Scott St. Clair, Erie, PA
RM: All I know is that Juncos is working on sponsorships for Indy and the series and it’s not exactly a fertile market, but I’m hoping he find backing and bring Sting Ray all the way to IndyCar in a couple years. Thanks for reading.