Robin Miller's Mailbag for February 24, presented by Honda Racing / HPD

Robin Miller's Mailbag for February 24, presented by Honda Racing / HPD

Insights & Analysis

Robin Miller's Mailbag for February 24, presented by Honda Racing / HPD

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Q: Unlike the “Great American Race,” a dark horse rarely wins the Indianapolis 500. But in all your years of covering the 500, who would you consider the unlikeliest winner?

Dave Morganson, Plainfield, IN

RM: Damn good question. Big Al (1987) and Little Al (1992) were two unlikely winners but not because of their ability, rather their circumstances that month. Dad drove a hastily-assembled show car and his son had a Galmer chassis that lagged quite a bit behind the Lolas, but they used their savvy and some Speedway luck to make Victory Lane. A lot of people thought Arie Luyendyk was a big dark horse in 1990 and it was his first IndyCar triumph, but he’d been quick all month. I guess Graham Hill would rank pretty high because of his lack of oval experience and pace in the race, or maybe Fred Frame, who started 27th and scored his lone IndyCar win in 1932.

Q: Last week, fresh from being inducted into the Motorsport Hall of Fame in the media category you stated: “NASCAR only made safety a priority after its biggest star was killed. To hear NASCAR brag about its commitment to safety is a joke.”

If any series should be subject to deliberate open criticism from the perspective of safety it’s IndyCar, as it continues to be the absolute worst performing series in that aspect, and that remains front and center with a growing number of new drivers refusing to run ovals. It is mindless to accuse NASCAR of wrongdoing when the net result is complimentary of its two-decade-long pursuit, regardless of your perceived opinion of its merit. Please clarify your statement, or better yet, retract it all together.

Lucy from Toronto

RM: I think you need a lesson in racing safety history. CART invented safety in racing, from Wally Dallenbach to Carl Horton to Dr. Steve Olvey to Dr. Terry Trammell to Steve Edwards to Lon Bromley to Dave Hollander, and then Tony George added the most important ingredient. CART had the first full-time safety team that traveled to races, they had Olvey and Trammell on-site to provide instant care (see Alex Zanardi) and they worked hand-in-hand with Dr. Robert Hubbard and Jim Downing on the HANS Device. CART had the first formed seats for driver protection (which, by the way, NASCAR rejected when Scott Pruett tried to use one) and Olvey instituted a concussion protocol that is universally accepted today in most sports. Dean Sicking and George introduced the SAFER barrier in 2002 and it’s saved immeasurable deaths or serious injuries. NASCAR reluctantly started mandating it a few years later. Ditto for the HANS Device. And NASCAR still doesn’t have a full-time safety team. (Find the video of Dale Jarrett’s car burning up and watch the response time). If you listen to the FOX announcers long enough you’ll be convinced that NASCAR was the leader in driver safety. But all it did was gradually follow open-wheel racing’s lead.

The original CART/Horton safety team. Carl Horton is in the gray jacket next to PPG’s Jim Chapman and CART’s Steve Edwards, with Lon Bromley on far right. Image via Steve Schunck

Q: IndyCar and NASCAR already scheduled a doubleheader in August at Indy. Are the two series still interested in doing something like that in the future at another track that could be converted into a roval? I can see them going to Charlotte, maybe Texas Motor Speedway, but Daytona may be asking for too much. Your thoughts?

Brandon Karsten

RM: I think Jay Frye and NBC are still interested if the right track and date can be found, but nothing is going to happen until things return to normal (if they do) so it’s not on the front burner right now.

Q: For many years I’ve been disappointed by the lack of press IndyCar gets in newspapers. Seems like since the infamous and ridiculous split, IndyCar lost it identity and status in the public eye. Maybe back when they were called Champ Cars and most drivers were daredevil Americans it was more attractive, but it’s still great, highly competitive racing — but nobody cares. Even the 500 only gets a paragraph or two in the local papers, and other races will only get the running order at the finish after the high school wrestling results! What do we need to do to change this?

Jim Fischer, Mentor, Ohio

RM: Not much can be done, Jim. Newspapers are dying on the vine and more and more downsizing is taking place, and the motorsports writer has all but been eliminated. It comes down to space and choices when the paper is going to press, and IndyCar just doesn’t generate enough interest.

Q: I’ve read that the Monaco Grand Prix is in jeopardy of being cancelled again this year due to COVID. Hardcore F1 fans think the race should be permanently cancelled because it’s turned into an expensive parade. If Monaco does fall off the F1 calendar permanently, do you think there is a chance that IndyCar could step in and fill that void? Roger Penske has a history with F1 and it would be great exposure for IndyCar. I think the racing may be a bit more entertaining than F1, but would be interested in your thoughts.

Dave Fowler, North Carolina

RM: I can’t imagine that scenario, because Monaco is sacred ground to F1 and The Captain isn’t a big fan of foreign races — let alone muscling in on the world’s most famous street race. And I can’t imagine IndyCar being asked to replace it anyway. No, we’ve got Long Beach and it’s our treasure.

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