In late 2017, I was 23 years old and sufficiently sick of searching for a job. In this day and age, applying for a job always follows a typical pattern: you fill out a form online and click submit, you get a generic email saying your application has been received and will be reviewed, and then you never hear from the company again. I was in my final months of school and I was hell-bent on working in racing, but no matter how many jobs I applied for or how many cold emails I sent, I didn’t have much in the way of responses, let alone offers.
Though demoralized about my chances of ever getting a job in racing, I had been an enormous motorsport fan all my life. The Mailbag on RACER.com made for scheduled reading each Wednesday morning, and there was one week when the preamble that used to start every Mailbag gave me an idea: “Your questions for Robin should continue to be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org We cannot guarantee we’ll publish all your questions and answers, but Robin will reply to you.”
Perhaps I was being devious, perhaps desperate, perhaps opportunistic, but if Robin was going to read an email from me thinking it was a Mailbag entry, then it gave me an opportunity to plead my case as I begged for help with getting a job in racing. I crafted an email in which I professed my love for the sport, did my best to sell myself as a good engineer, then brought it all home by asking “is there anyone you know and feel comfortable putting me in contact with that could help me get a foot in the door? I know this isn’t the point of your Mailbag and I’m sorry to bother you, but I’ve been such a huge fan my whole life. I would love to be working in IndyCar.”
Robin immediately put me in touch with Tino Belli (Director of Aerodynamic Development at IndyCar) and was even helping me suggest engineering projects to get started on right away; things he thought would make IndyCar better. In a single response that couldn’t have been more than four sentences, Robin had not only helped me get a foot in the door, but had kicked the door down and thrown me through the threshold. I was working remotely for IndyCar by the start of 2018 while I finished up school, moved to Indianapolis and attended my first 500 in May after I graduated, and the very next week I was on the road traveling with the series to Detroit. All this thanks for Robin’s willingness to interact with fans, help the series, and take a chance on a kid who just wanted to be a part of it all.
I finally met Robin in person later in 2018 at Portland. I had to wait for him to finish talking with a flock of fans, but I introduced myself and then told him bluntly that he had changed my life and made this dream of mine come true. I said I had no idea what possessed him to put his faith in me, but I was grateful that he had, and I didn’t think I could ever repay him. He remembered me instantly, and we talked about some of the projects I was working on. He gave me his RACER business card – something I still have to this day – as I tried to thank him one final time.
“Oh, don’t worry about it. Kids like you are going to be running the sport one day,” I remember him saying. I was stunned at how deeply he believed in me.
Robin’s reporting on the sport he loved is legendary, but for me his willingness to champion a cause because he believed it would make the sport better will be his legacy. Famously outspoken in his opinions, Robin’s position on the direction of the series, a driver who deserved a ride, or in my case an engineer who just needed a chance, were motivated purely by what he thought IndyCar needed to continue being the best.
As people eulogize and reminisce, each with their own personal memories of the man, it doesn’t surprise me whatsoever to see it come to light just how many things he did to help the sport grow and just how many fans he engaged. Such was his modesty that I don’t think his impact can ever be fully appreciated.
That Robin Miller was the reason I was able to break into IndyCar is a badge of honor I wear proudly as both a professional and a fan. I can draw a line from that first opportunity working for IndyCar to everything I’ve done in racing since, so I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say I wouldn’t be where I am today without him. But what’s even more profound to me is the fact that I am just one small drop in the bucket of good deeds that Robin did during his life in the name of racing. He leaves the racing world a better place than how he found it, and I know I speak for the racing world when I say we couldn’t be more grateful for him.