Robin Miller's Mailbag for December 23, presented by Honda Racing / HPD

Robin Miller's Mailbag for December 23, presented by Honda Racing / HPD

Insights & Analysis

Robin Miller's Mailbag for December 23, presented by Honda Racing / HPD

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Q: I’m a longtime reader of the Mailbag and lifelong IndyCar fan. I attended my first race at the old Langhorne Speedway in 1967 and since that time have attended more than 125 IndyCar events. Recently I acquired an old program from the 1927 event at the Atlantic City Speedway board track. This prompted me to become interested in the early events held on the old board tracks, and I was wondering if any of the winning cars from the Indy 500 were the same cars racing on the old board tracks?

Jerry Hair, Carlisle, PA

RM: Nobody knows more about old Indy cars and their whereabouts today than my pal Mike Lashmett, former IndyCar crewman for Parnelli Jones, who runs Vintage Indy Registry. Here’s what he had to say about your question:

“As you may know, the boards existed from 1910 to 1932. At their height 24 noted board tracks existed and most National Championship races were contested on them in the 1920s. By 1930 20 of the 24 were gone and by 1932 none were used. The 10 years I resided in Beverly Hills, CA, I lived four blocks away from the main entrance to the famed Beverly Hills Board Speedway, which was off Wilshire Blvd. at El Camino. Many of the homes in the ‘flats’ of Beverly Hills were built from lumber salvaged when the track was torn down. Our place was believed to have been framed with such. The surface of those tracks were basically 2x8s laid on edge with banking approaching 50 degrees (Talladega is 31 degrees)! When I worked for Bignotti, Louis Meyer was frequently in the shop with his wife June, as was on occasion Harry Hartz and Dale Drake – all veterans of the boards. I use to pick their brains about that era. I recall them telling me that the cars were shipped usually by rail and that in Beverly Hills the train station was on Santa Monica Blvd. Louis said they would unload the cars and drive through town the few blocks to the track.

“In specific answer to your question regarding IMS-winning cars that would have raced on the boards, it is believed that of the six pre-1933 winners in the IMS Museum, the 1914-winning Delage of Rene Thomas is probably the only ‘real’ complete complete car with board track history. The 1922 Duesenberg (Miller-powered at Indy) of Jimmy Murphy now displayed in French GP winning livery and the 1928 Miller of Louis Meyer are not allegedly the real winning cars due to the fact they were assembled with a sundry of parts but are representative of the 500 winners, which would mean they are also representative of having been raced extensively on the boards. I would say for certain that many parts on both cars have board track history.

“So, just those three cars. Please note that in the 1920s almost all the National Championship races were contested on the boards save for Indianapolis. Also in regards to our emails of a few weeks back regarding surviving Indy 500 winning cars, here is a good site to start your research with http://inrd.gotdns.com/indystuff/win.htm.

Q: Read in last week’s Mailbag where Terry Capps was asking if you knew where he could donate his many motorsport books. When I retired six years ago, I donated most of my collection (F1, IndyCar, Le Mans, IMSA, Pirelli, Brembo, and many other books from Fangio, Moss, Regazzoni, et al) to the Petersen Automotive Museum here in L.A. Terry Karges is the executive director now. I called this morning to confirm that they still are accepting books for their automotive/motorsports library collection, but none of the phone numbers would answer because of the pandemic. Many years ago Chris Economaki and I toured the National Automotive Museum in DC and were disgusted in the lack of vehicles and information in our national museum. Thank God for Bob Petersen who founded probably the best automotive/motorsports museum in the world. Just a thought.

Jack Gerken, Fountain Valley, CA

RM: Appreciate the info, Jack. No doubt the Petersen Museum is a godsend for racers. I’ll pass along your message.

Q: This is in reference to Terry Capps’s post in the 12/16 edition of the Mailbag. Is there a library at the IMS Museum? If not, there should be. I’m sure that there are lots of folks like Terry that have books and other printed material who would like to see it preserved somewhere. I was down in the basement looking for something last week and came across a pile of stuff from the Can-Am series circa 1980-’82: press releases, entry lists, qualifying and race results. Several drivers in that era of Can-Am were later front-runners in CART/Indy 500, so I think that stuff would be of interest to IndyCar fans. I’m sure that if I dug deeper I have similar stuff for CART circa 1983-’86. I probably have most issues of AutoWeek and On Track in the 1980s, which have a lot of good data on races that may not be available elsewhere. It would be nice to know the stuff I’ve saved for 30 years is not going to a landfill.

Mark Stetson, Truesports (1984-’86)

RM: IMS does have a library, but you have to make an appointment to use it — no walking in unannounced. And if you have a Speedway badge collection then sell it, because it’s going to be worthless in five more years when a lot of us who care are gone.

Q: Terry Capps posted a comment about donating racing books. The International Motor Racing Research Library in Watkins Glen, NY (www.racingarchives.org) takes books in for benefit auctions or archives and is a great place to visit. I know you are aware of the facility– they are actively looking for collections and donations.

Rob Craig

RM: Thanks Rob, we now have three places for Terry to check out about donating his books.

(ED: The following question and answer caused some confusion among readers, however it has since transpired that part of the question was somehow lost in translation during its journey into Robin’s mailbox, through the answering process, and onto the editorial desk. Hopefully this revised version makes things a little more clear, and thanks to Mr. Turner for getting in touch to let us know. Happy holidays, everyone).

Q: I just randomly remembered sending you this in 2018. Call me Kreskin, I guess! (No, I will not give you NFL picks). Hope you’re doing well.

Hey Miller, longtime reader; I write from time to time whenever I think I have a brilliant idea. So I got to thinking, maybe we should move TMS on the calendar to throw Eddie Gossage a bone. Let’s move the IMS road course race to anywhere else, and let Texas kick off the month of May by racing the first Saturday night. One-offs would get a chance to do a shakedown race (that most of them wouldn’t make due to budget, so overcrowding on track shouldn’t be an issue) and I’m sure TMS would love, and more importantly respect, the honor. Just my two cents.

Stitch Turner, Gainesville, FL

RM: Good call, and I think everyone is happy to have a couple oval races in their pocket prior to Indianapolis. Who you gonna like in the ‘Bama-Clemson game?

Eddie is up for hosting IndyCar at Texas in May. Owens/IndyCar

Q: I thought you might enjoy this story of how my fiancee become an IndyCar fan. I’ve been a fan of motorsports for the last 25 years or so. I met my fiance a little over two years ago. As we started getting to know each other, I gradually told her how much I was into racing, and how much it is a part of my life. Trying to explain your passion to someone who isn’t into racing can be a tough sell. One night at dinner in January of 2019, I told her that attending the Indy 500 was on my bucket list, especially with Alonso attempting to make the 500 that year. Much to my surprise, she responded with, “we can go to that.” Within a matter of minutes, we had purchased tickets to Indy. I couldn’t believe it.

During the months leading up to Indy, we watched F1’s “Drive To Survive” to help her learn a little bit more about racing in general, and you could tell her interest was growing. I told her that Pippa Mann was attempting to qualify for the Indy 500, and her interest peaked even more. As the weeks went on in May, I jokingly told her, “Watch, the year I finally get to go to Indy, I bet you Alonso doesn’t qualify.” Of course, we all know what happened next. About an hour after Alonso didn’t make the show, I received a text from her that said, “You called it.” I laughed, but I also realized, she was showing the signs of becoming a fan of racing. She was excited to see that Pippa Mann had made the race, and she’d have a driver to root for at Indy.

After the race she raved about how awesome the experience was, and understood why I like racing so much. The speed, the sound is incredible in person. It was clear that IndyCar had a new fan.

Fast-forward to around this time last year. We were newly-engaged, looking for our first house to buy. I told her that the area we were looking for a house was the same area as Dale Coyne Racing. She responded with “That’s the Sealmaster car you like, right?” I also told her that Pippa Mann drove for Coyne a few years back. Long story short, we ended up buying a house down the street from Coyne’s shop, and now we get to see that Sealmaster transporter every day (as of now, Santino’s name is still on it). As we waited for the IndyCar season to start this year, we saw Alex Palou’s transporter outside Coyne’s shop as well when we’d drive by. She responded to one of his posts on social media with a picture of his transporter, and she couldn’t believe that he responded to her. I told her that’s another reason I like racing so much. The drivers care about their fans and they’re very personable. After that one response to her by Palou, she’s now a huge Palou fan. People don’t realize how much that one interaction can mean to someone.

We were supposed to go to the Indy 500 this year, but since that was postponed until August, I mentioned that Road America wasn’t too far up the road, so we ended up going there and she enjoyed that quite a bit. When it was announced Indy was going to run without fans, I mentioned Gateway to her. It was an instant yes. With that, I managed to check a new racetrack off the list. Even though the Sunday race at Gateway turned out to be a parade, we still enjoyed ourselves, and even got to meet Chris Blair after the race. I complimented him on what a great job he does with that track. I managed to get one more race in this year, as I had my bachelor party at the Harvest Grand Prix Race 2, to which she responded with, “I’m jealous.” Three IndyCar races in a pandemic year — not bad.

We will be married on 4-3-21, because as race fans, the wedding has to be in countdown fashion, and we’ll have a clip of Mari Hulman George’s command of “Ladies and Gentlemen, start your engines” at the beginning of the reception. And also, 4-3-21 is an off weekend for IndyCar, also a race fan requirement. We have our tickets to the 2021 Indy 500, and plan on attending a few more races this year at Road America, Gateway, one of the Indy road course races, and potentially putting off our honeymoon until August to attend the Music City Grand Prix. Sorry to ramble, just thought you’d like to hear the story of someone becoming a huge IndyCar fan, and end the Mailbag on a positive note. Happy Holidays, and thank you for all that you do with IndyCar, Robin. Your work is fantastic. Hopefully we’ll be able to run into you at Indy in May and say hi.

Patrick, Plainfield, IL

RM: This sounds like the Christmas Story by Donald Davidson.

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