Robin Miller’s Mailbag for December 30, presented by Honda Racing / HPD

Robin Miller’s Mailbag for December 30, presented by Honda Racing / HPD

Insights & Analysis

Robin Miller’s Mailbag for December 30, presented by Honda Racing / HPD

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Q: When was the last time that IndyCar had a race in November?

Chris Fiegler, Latham, NY

RM: Champ Car ran Mexico City in November of 2007.

Q: Robin, any little whispers about a third engine supplier? What would be the rough cut-off date for an announcement for a new engine supplier so it would have the necessary time to build and test?

Ron, Toronto

RM: All quiet on the engine front, but it’s almost 2021 and the new engines are introduced in 2023 so I’d say it’s almost too late now.

Q: I just learned of the passing of former IndyCar team owner Bob Fletcher. He was 100 years old. In the 10 years he entered cars at Indianapolis, he employed a list of very talented drivers. Art Pollard, Bobby Unser, Pancho Carter, Bob Lazier, and George Snider were among them. I was hoping that you could recall some special memories of Mr. Fletcher and his team, or better yet, write one of your well-done tributes to him.

Bruce, Ft. Wayne, IN

RM: You forgot Lee Kunzman and Jimmy Caruthers, two of USAC’s best, and Kunzman would have been a potential champ before his second devastating injury in December of 1973. Bobby Unser scored Fletcher Racing’s only two wins in 1976 but the Cobre Tire Specials were always fast and well prepared. I didn’t really know Bob other than to say hello, but he was one of those owners who seemed to come out of nowhere and formed a good team, but was notoriously ‘frugal’ according to a couple of his drivers.

Q: I wouldn’t believe that no one’s asked this question in the past, not only between fans, but also to the drivers themselves. But I’ll put it to you now. What do you think would’ve happened if, in the mid 1960s, A.J. and Parnelli would’ve been Champ Car teammates? In addition to the battle of the driving talents, who would’ve gotten the upper hand politically in the team?

Anthony V, Indianapolis

RM: I can’t imagine either one agreeing to it because they were so competitive, and I doubt there would have been much sharing of information. They might not have made it through high school, but they had miles of street smarts and knew how to get what they wanted and needed. The only time they ever came close to being anything resembling teammates is when Tex drove the Parnelli chassis in 1979 (finished second at Indy) and 1980.

Bourdais doesn’t need any reminders about the last time the calendar ran into November. Dan R. Boyd/Motorsport Images

Q: I’m watching the 1980 Indy replay and Jackie Stewart mentioned that horsepower was down to an average of around 600hp. Do you know what happened to cause this? I didn’t remember that fact.

DJ Odom, Anderson, IN

RM: Thanks to ‘boost insider’ Steve Shunck (and his Carl Hungness yearbook) we have an answer: “Going into the month USAC dropped turbocharger boost levels to 48 in HG across the board. Previously the levels were 50 in HG, and before that 80 in HG. The rule change slowed cars down by as much as 8-10 mph, and drew the ire of many competitors. Outspoken critics included A.J. Foyt who referred to it as “taxicab racing,” and Johnny Rutherford who said it made it difficult to pass other cars.”

Q: Greetings Robin, hope you are having a good holiday season. My question is about Russ Lake. Since you both ran in the same circles, I was wondering if you knew him personally, and if so, how is he doing and if you have any stories you could share? Russ, even though I’ve never met him personally, is responsible for me being the IndyCar fan that I am. I even had the honor of attending his Wisconsin Motorsports banquet a number of years back.

John Risser, Muskego, WI

RM: Russ is the oldest living racing photographer (84) I know, and no finer person exists in Wisconsin or anywhere else. His dad (Ted) was involved in Triple A and USAC when Russ started shooting races at the age of 14 with the guidance of Armin Krueger, another legendary shooter. To date he’s got over one million negatives and images of the Milwaukee Mile, Indy 500 and racing all over the Midwest. He was seriously injured in the 1971 pace car crash at Indianapolis but recovered after six months in the hospital and was back aiming his camera the next May. He also founded Wisconsin Motorsports Charities and raised $450,000 for Ranch Community Services, a facility for disabled adults. He says he’s going to publish all his photos in a book, and I can’t wait to see it.

Q: Me and a buddy were having a discussion about air-cooled engines and how much less weight the cars have to carry without water and a cooling system. Did an air-cooled engine ever qualify or try to qualify for the Indy 500?

Jim Doyle, Hoboken, NJ

RM: Historian Dave Scoggan says: “The Stein twin-Porsche in 1966 was air-cooled but it did not qualify for the Indy 500.” Author/historian Rick Shaffer says: “The only racing car with air-cooling I can recall was the 1968 Honda they introduced before the French GP. Surtees refused to run it in the race and they let Jo Schlesser drive it instead. It was his first F1 race, but he crashed and died in a fiery accident. They built another model and I think Hobbs raced it in the Italian GP that year. That car is in the Honda museum at Motegi. The turbine cars at Indy did not have radiators, but I don’t think you could call them air-cooled engines.”

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