Q: When I was eight or nine years old, my dad took me to the first day of time trials at the Speedway. We were sitting on the front straightaway in Grandstand C. All the cars came out and circled the track real slow to warm up the engine and tires. All except one car, he got on the gas as soon as he left the track. He came down the front straightaway so fast and loud that it shook the grandstands. I asked my dad who that was; Dad just shook his head and took another drink of beer and said it was that “damn Hurtubise.” Been a Hurtubise fan ever since. My question is, what ever happened to his brother Pete who was always his mechanic? I lost track of him.
RM: Probably in 1963 with the Novi. Pete is alive and kicking in North Tonawanda, N.Y.
Q: Great seeing your interview with Takuma Sato and Bobby Rahal. Last week’s Mailbag photo of you as a racer and your funny comments about not checking to see if your car would fit the trailer and breaking the ring gear points to a missed career as a humorist. You are to racing what announcer Bob Uecker is to baseball. Uecker is starting his 50th year doing play by play in Milwaukee, where he was born. His self-depreciating humor got him the title “Mr. Baseball” from appearances on the Johnny Carson Show. His baseball career was mostly spent in the minor leagues, as was yours. He did play during a legendary era, as you did in racing. His big break came making Miller Lite commercials. He became one of the “Miller Lite All Stars.” Did you have any chances to get in TV commercials for race sponsors? Wonder, too, if the first time you met A.J. was when he punched you?
Bob Hunt, Lodi, WI
RM: No, I was very fortunate to have any sponsors, but Dave McIntire Chevy and an apartment complex were kind enough to back me, and all I did was a few movie parties. A.J. didn’t punch me, or I wouldn’t be here today — he slapped me on the back of the head — and prior to that we had gotten along famously. It took about a year, but we made amends in 1982 and today he’s a good friend and we talk almost every week, and I feel very lucky.
Q: What’s with calling TT racers at the Isle of Man maniacs? They are incredibly skilled and have control over their bikes that most people can’t imagine. Racers come in many forms, and I don’t appreciate the slam. I don’t hear you calling A.J. and the other open-wheel drivers of their era names. Imagine if you did they would cuff you.
Walter Graf, Falls Church, VA
RM: How about amazingly brave, skilled maniacs? My point was that they provide the most breathtaking show on the planet — if you can stand to watch it.
Q: Given your renowned ineptitude for all things mechanical, I want to know which tool(s) in the garage were your favorite to daydream, “That thing looks cool. I wonder when we need that?” I am not a gearhead. My dad was/is. I learned the terms “feeler gauge” and “piston ring compressor” after seeing them in the garage when I was a kid.
RM: When I took my physical for the Army I got called into a private room where a sergeant confronted me. “We see guys like you in here every day, thinking you can avoid Vietnam by flunking part of your written test.” I had failed to properly identify a crescent wrench and Phillips screwdriver, and they were convinced I’d done it on purpose. I never touched a tool until I bought my first race car, and it was not a match made in heaven.
Q: With ARCA running at Milwaukee Mile on August 29 this year, what is the likelihood of IndyCar returning to the Mile in upcoming years on same weekend with ARCA? Could make for one great weekend of racing, wouldn’t it? Maybe add Indy Lights to the mix, with Lights running on Saturday after classic Indy cars driven by some retired legends (Dario Franchitti etc.) have taken to the track earlier in the day, with IndyCar qualifying happening after Lights race. Could go as far as to add some big off-track activities such as Q&A sessions with legends that won there like Foyt, Andretti, Unser Jr., Paul Tracy for example.
Jymy Ojanen, Finland
RM: I don’t see any future for IndyCas at Milwaukee, and we let this letter run because you’re from Finland and probably don’t know the Mailbag rules about Milwaukee, MIS, Cleveland or Marco Andretti.
Q: I like the current TV guys and the wee bit of tension between Townsend Bell and Paul Tracy. It’s toned down a lot now, so either the bosses said to knock it off, or they reached some kind of truce? I kind of liked their competitiveness and thought it brought an edge to the race. I was a fan of Tracy back in the bad boy days, and frankly, who knew he would turn into a very good IndyCar sportscaster?
RM: I don’t think anyone has ever said anything to them about their differences of opinion because it’s good TV. My NBC boss at the time asked me who would be good in the booth and I suggested P.T. because he was a winner, always spoke his mind and people knew who he was. He still owes me a steak dinner.
Q: Any long-time railbird will tell you that watching and listening to your favorite racing personalities and meeting them can be two very different things. While many are what you would expect, or hope, them to be, there are those that fall short. Bob Jenkins is neither of those. He was more than you could hope for, and I had the extreme pleasure of meeting Bob and speaking with him at the Speedway HoF dinner the night he was inducted.
He was approachable, friendly and gracious. A down to earth gentleman. All that you see of the man is what you get. We spoke for several minutes before the dinner, and I told him that in all the years of following the 500, listening to Sid Collins on radio and later Tom Carnegie and Jim Phillipe at the Speedway, I felt that he was a more than worthy successor to those great voices. Being in the Speedway and hearing him on the PA meant I was home again. He greatly appreciated that and thanked me. I meant every word. He is truly a treasure to us race fans. We are praying for a speedy and complete recovery. Please forward best wishes from me and my wife, Yvonne. He doesn’t know us, but we sure know Bob and we’re pulling hard for him. Thanks for your heartfelt piece on Bob.
Jim Mulcare, Westbury, NY
RM: The “Beloved Jenks” pretty much says it all, because Bob doesn’t have a mean bone in his body nor any enemies, and his interaction with you is simply how he goes through life. Thanks, I sent him your note.
Q: My questions pertains to the safety of the autonomous IndyCar. Will the autonomous car have an aeroscreen? If so, if there was a wreck, how long would it take the safety team to extract the hard drive?
Jared, Reading, PA
RM: God I love it when our writers make me laugh out loud. I believe the time will depend mostly on whether the safety team is refilling their drinks or taking the nachos out of the oven.