Robin Miller's Mailbag for January 13, presented by Honda Racing / HPD

Robin Miller's Mailbag for January 13, presented by Honda Racing / HPD

Insights & Analysis

Robin Miller's Mailbag for January 13, presented by Honda Racing / HPD

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Q: Nice article remembering Pat Patrick. Makes me feel old (which is true) that the people I rooted for in my youth are now passing away. Anyway, I’m sure you’ll get a bunch of these comments, but when you said that the Wildcat was the last American-built car to win at Indy, I think you’re forgetting the series’ partner Dallara, which, while an Italian company, has its IndyCar factory in Speedway. Not to be a nit-picker, but should we give Dallara its due?

Paul, Streetsboro, OH

RM: Let me stress that the Wildcat was built on West 38th Street by Harold Sperb, Dave Flick, Alex Greaves, Bob Hatch, Owen Snyder and George Huening without a wind tunnel or aerodynamicist, but was designed by the talented Gordon Kimball (father of current IndyCar driver Charlie). It was American ingenuity and elbow grease and the last American-built Indy winner. Dallara does a nice job, but it’s an Italian company with a production line and the cars may be assembled here, but it’s hardly a white, red and blue effort.

Q: Come on Miller, the Wildcat wasn’t the last U.S.-built car to win the 500. Technically that was the Rahal Letterman Panoz with Buddy Rice in 2004.

Ethan Donahue

RM: Panoz also won Indy with Luyendyk, Montoya and de Ferran as well, and Elan Technology in Georgia was its birthplace, so I guess technically you are correct. But mass-produced cars with no personality can’t hold a candle to that ’82 Wildcat, so I’ll continue to champion it as the last “true” American car.

Q: Could you refresh us all on the story/history in 1989 between Pat Patrick’s team and Chip Ganassi when Emmo was the team’s driver? Did that team evolve into Ganassi Racing?

Tony Piergallini, Titusville, FL

RM: I believe Floyd Ganassi told Chip that if he quit driving he would buy him a team, and Patrick Racing became Ganassi Racing for 1990. Then Pat resurfaced with Alfa-Romeo.

So of all the American-built cars to have won at Indy since 1982, the Wildcat was the American-est. Image by IMS

Q: My first Indy 500 race I attended was in 1995, and I was hooked. In 1996 Buddy won and I just became a huge fan. That purple and yellow 91 car was a badass machine. I attended every 500 up till 2016. Just getting harder for me to get around, so my son and get our fix at qualifying. Just wondering if you knew what Buddy is up to these days? I know he lost his dad to COVID this year.

Gregg Cutter, Hamilton, OH

RM: He and his lovely wife Kara are running the Tivoli Lodge in Vail, Colorado and keeping an eye on son Flinn as he comes up the open-wheel racing ladder.

Q: My dad used to tell a story of JPJ and his dad at Mid-Ohio in his SCCA days. You know how tight it was to get out of Mid-Ohio after a race on the two-lane roads. Well I guess JP senior wasn’t liking the hold-up, so he put his big black car — a Mercedes, I think – into the other lane and was going like a madman. Someone up the way saw him coming — sure he didn’t know who it was — pulled out of line, and blocked them from going any farther.

JP senior jumps out of the car hot as hell, yelling, and starts running up to the car that blocked the road. Guy in the blocking car gets out, and without a word coldcocks JPS and he goes down like a sack of potatoes. JPS picks himself up and walks slowly back to his big fancy car with his tail tucked. Got in his car and got in line with all the others, and just waited it out with everyone else. Other guy just got back in his car, and that was that.

From the way my dad tells it, JPS was not popular in and around the pits/garages back in the day. But I will give them this: they built a hell of a 935 Porsche, and JPJ could drive that super turbo-lagging Porsche like no one else. Super-talented driver, and was said to be super nice and the polar opposite of his dad.

Ted K.

RM: God, I wish I could have seen that. The fact JP Junior turned out to be such a good person is amazing in the face of being raised by that nasty, evil man.

Q: Thank you for your excellent article on JPJ’s career. I first met John as a fan at Laguna Seca when he took the time to lower himself to one knee and talk with my 5-year-old son about my son’s go-kart racing. Having seen many racers, I was impressed with John’s attitude and demeanor. In later years, when John became a friend, my first impression never wavered, John was not only a great racer, but an excellent human being. He never lost his grace and humility. Like many, I felt time spent with John was most valuable. Thank you for sharing your insights regarding this truly gentle man. Wishing you good health.

Bob Pirtle, Indio, CA

RM: He was humble in victory or defeat and genuinely thankful for the opportunities he got, and made the mechanics feel appreciated.

Q: John Paul Jr. and I got caught up with a spinning car on the Friday open practice for the May SCCA National. Both of us were driving Formula Fords. My car was broke, and the weekend over before it started. As I loaded up to head home, JP showed up with his mechanic and offered to see if they could help patch my car up. It was a sincere gesture — both of us being young, he seemed genuinely disappointed that I was done. It was a brief encounter, but thereafter I was always a fan.

CD, Beer Hill, PA

RM: That doesn’t surprise me, sounds like him.

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