Great Minds Think Alike

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If you’ve been reading this site for very long, you know how much I appreciate and respect Robin Miller of NBC Sports and Racer.com. That goes against the grain of many fans because they either (a) don’t care for what he says or (b) don’t like the way that he says it. Like him or not, he has a long track-record of almost everything he says coming true – long before anyone else is reporting it.

The best example I can think of is when the sisters of Tony George ousted him from his role as CEO of IndyCar and IMS back in 2009. Robin Miller had been the only one reporting this for a month before it actually happened. During that month, Miller took a beating on social media for spreading false rumors just to make Tony George look bad. More than a decade later, we now know that Miller was dead-on accurate with his story.

I don’t agree with all of Robin Miller’s opinions, but I agree with most of them. Back in the early 2000s, Miller was always a champion for driver Memo Gidley. I never really understood his fascination with Gidley. I considered him a decent driver, but not the hottest American driver out there. Did Gidley ever get a fair shot in IndyCar? Probably not. He had stints with Derrick Walker, Gerry Forsythe, John Della Pena and Chip Ganassi – but always as a replacement driver in midseason. He was entered to qualify for the Indianapolis 500 three times, but never made the race. His lone IRL start was a twenty-first place finish for Dreyer & Reinbold at Fontana in 2002.

But that is one of the few exceptions when I have disagreed with Robin Miller. My opinions usually coincide directly with his; whether it is about a driver’s ability or which direction the series should go.

Most of you have probably seen the article he wrote this past Monday for Racer.com where he posted his Top-Ten list of things he wanted to see Roger Penske change for the Indianapolis 500. Some I agreed with, but surprisingly – I disagreed with more than one thing on his list. Rather than copy and pasting his list, I’ll just paraphrase the wording of those I do and don’t agree with and tell why.

In his first statement, Miller said that he thought the purse should be increased dramatically. While I agree with that wholeheartedly and even with how to go about it, I took issue with an example he gave. Miller suggested that Penske should find a $5 million title sponsor and pump that money directly into the purse. OK, I can go along with that. For the past four years, we’ve had the Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade and then Gainbridge. That’s something I wasn’t in love with, but I accepted it as a sign of the times.

But when Miller said that he was fine with something along the lines of “The Menard’s 500 at Indianapolis” – that’s where I draw the line. The Indianapolis 500 cannot be called anything else. Period. When college bowl games started adding corporate sponsorships to their names, again – I saw it as a sign of the times. For example, I was OK when the Gator Bowl became the Mazda Gator Bowl in the mid-eighties. As the different corporate sponsors changed throughout the years, they still kept the name “Gator Bowl” in there. But they lost me when they dropped “Gator” and simply became the TaxSlayer Bowl. If my team is playing in the TaxSlayer Bowl, I at least want to know where it is. I always knew where the Gator Bowl was. The TaxSlayer Bowl? Not so much.

Call me old-fashioned, but the Menard’s 500 just doesn’t conjure up historic images in my head. Some things are just too sacred to change.

I also disagreed with Robin Miller’s second item on his list, when he said that Roger Penske needed to bring back the apron that was taken up after the 1992 race. He cites the 1982 and 1991 races as to why the apron inside each of the four turns needs to be brought back. This has been one of Miller’s hot-buttons for years, but it’s never been one of mine.

I’m more ambivalent about the apron than anything else. I’m not an advocate for it, nor am I opposed to it. It just doesn’t matter to me. I’m not an engineer and I’m not going to pretend to know whether or not the apron created a more violent angle whenever a car hits the wall. But I do know that the 1993 race, immediately after the apron was taken up, was one of the more exciting races of the decade.

I’m not saying Roger Penske should never bring back the apron, but I can think of a lot of other things I’d like to see before that massive undertaking is approached.

Miller’s third item, I have mixed emotions about. He says IMS should put up fencing between the main straightaway and the pits. He notes that only luck has prevented a car being launched into the pits and/or the Tower Terrace. Kevin Cogan’s 1989 crash comes to mind, but his car didn’t hop over the pit wall – it just went into the pit entrance and he slid on his side for several hundred feet.

My hesitation on this is extremely on a selfish basis, but it’s still a concern. Like many, my seats for the Indianapolis 500 are along the main straightaway. I sit in Grandstand A, across from the pits, just south of the entrance to Gasoline Alley. One reason why I chose those seats is so that we can see the action during pit stops. We already look through the fencing that goes along the outside of the track. With an extra layer of fencing and cables to look through, our view of the pits will be fairly obscured. I realize that all it takes is one tragic incident, and fans will question why such fencing was never up in the first place – so I tread lightly disagreeing with Miller on this one.

I completely agree with Robin Miller on items Four, Five and Six; which address upgrading restroom facilities, widening the area along Georgetown Road and allowing mechanics and media to park inside the track again. I’m especially in favor of the one addressing media parking. Until 2014, the media was allowed to park inside the track all month – not too far from the Media Center. In 2014, we were banished to Lot Two, on the outside of the track across Georgetown Road. Not many of you will sympathize with me on this one, but carrying cameras, laptops and personal belongings all that way every day of every weekend in May gets old. And when it rains, Lot Two quickly turns into a quagmire.

Item Seven, I have no real opinion on. It involves the gambling legislation and getting pari-mutuel betting windows at the track. I don’t gamble and I’m not keen on the gambling world infringing upon the Indianapolis 500. But I realize that is an untapped source for revenue, so I know it’s eventually coming. But personally, I’m not looking to that day getting here.

Items Eight, Nine and Ten I completely agree with. To be honest, I wasn’t even aware about Item Eight which says that fans shouldn’t be charged to park for practice and qualifying. I’ll admit that I have had free parking at IMS since I started this site. The last time I paid to get into qualifying was in 2009, and we parked in the infield. My parking was included with my admission fee, which was only $10 at the time. I know that infield parking is much more limited than it was then, but do fans now have to pay to park for practice and qualifying? If so, by all means parking should be free.

Item Nine dealt with building a new museum big enough to display all the cars in the entire collection. I agree with Robin Miller, that it’s stupid to have a “secret” collection down in the basement that only a select few can see. Since I’ve never been to the basement of the museum, I think they should display all the cars, all the time.

Robin Miller’s Item Ten says that the BC39 on the Turn Three infield dirt track should be run in May when an open wheel crowd is there. He further proposes to give the winner a ride in Carb Day’s Freedom 100. I completely agree on both counts.

So out of ten items on Robin Miller’s list, I really only had a partial disagreement with three of his points – changing the name of the race, bringing back the apron and adding fencing between the main straightway and the pits. And I agreed with parts of each one of those.

The rest, I completely agreed with. It’s funny how great minds think alike. And for those that think I’m arrogant in comparing myself to Robin Miller, this is very much tongue-in-cheek.

George Phillips

13 Responses to “Great Minds Think Alike”

  1. For anyone in the area, the museum has cars from the basement on display right now. Also, the year end sale is this Saturday and always has some great deals. I’ll be visiting both.

    https://indyracingmuseum.org/ims-museum-to-open-from-the-vault-presented-by-bank-of-america-on-nov-20/

  2. Paul Fitzgerald Says:

    I agree with Robin on everything except the name…it is the Indianapolis 500 and should always be that.

  3. Indianapolis 500.

  4. Agree with Robin on the apron, agree with George on the fencing and the name of the event.

  5. billytheskink Says:

    I know Robin is stumping for bringing money into the sport by any means necessary, but I’m not sure he’s much of marketer. I expect any sponsor buying into the name of the Indy 500 is going to want to make sure that “Indy” and “500” remain next to each other in the name… because the name of the event is a huge part of the value of what they would be sponsoring! Sponsors for the biggest college football bowl games know this too, which is why a sponsor has yet to supersede words like Cotton, Orange, Sugar, and Rose. Those words have the brand value that the sponsor is buying, and so too does “Indy 500”.

    Cars getting airborne and wrecks in general are quite uncommon on the front straight and near the pit wall. Perhaps it is better to be safe than sorry, but fencing on the pit wall has never really seemed necessary. It certainly would have done little to prevent the scariest pit road incidents I can recall at IMS, which all resulted from a wrecking car sliding into the pit entrance. Maybe a short segment to keep anything from striking the side of the scoring pylon would be sufficient.

    I would support moving the BC 39 to May if you could get Indycar drivers to participate and/or if you could get NBC to televise it again. Part of why it works quite well when paired with the Brickyard 400 is that a handful of NASCAR drivers also show up. They may still come if the race was held in May, but it is undeniably easier to get Kyle Larson in your midget race when he is already in town for a NASCAR race.

    I fully support bringing USAC guys into the Freedom 100 and Indy Lights in general, though I think it should probably be through a scholarship to a series champion. The BC 39 winner would probably need a bit more testing time than they could get prior to the Freedom 100 if they had never raced a Lights car before.

    Rather than move the BC 39 to May, I would rather see IMS find a way to revive the Hoosier Hundred on site (would it be sacrilege to run it on the 2.5 miles?). I would be more apt to give a Silver Crown winner a Freedom 100 ride than a midget winner, especially if the Silver Crown winner just ran 100 miles on the 2.5 mile oval.

  6. Agree with Robin on the apron (strongly). That should be at the top of the list. It should never have gone away.

    Agree with George on the fencing and the naming of the event.

    Disagree with both on mechanics and media parking in the track. How about thinking about the customer? Not much room left in that infield for parking anyway. Use those trams to take these folks from the parking lot. Think about the paying customer.

    I believe that you have to pay for parking in the infield for both races (Grand Prix and 500). Assume the Brickyard 400 as well. Until now have not had to pay extra to park for qualifications or practice. The paying for the infield parking was the bright idea of the Boston Consulting Group. It was implemented 5 or 7 years ago. As a result, during the Grand Prix, a good part of the turn 3 area is empty of cars. They should get rid of all the parking fees for the infield as it was for decades.

    The race on the dirt track should stay with the Brickyard 400 for two reasons. One, any room in May? A lot more people there and parking. Second, Nascar drivers have been part of that. Would Indy drivers have the time in May?

    Finally be careful what you wish for with updating the rest rooms. With individual urinals, the lines could increase substantially for the 500.

  7. It would be nice to see the garages upgraded but some how incorporate the green and white wooden garages Look of old….👍

  8. Most of Robin’s suggestions, I could take or leave (although I’m not sure what his whole deal is with who get to park in the infield or how much they pay to be there…he did a whole multiple post thing on Racer.com about how much the drivers were paying to have their buses in the RV lot like 3-4 years ago and how he thought the Hulmans were soaking the drivers), but the one that I wouldn’t personally budge on is the apron. The apron went away for a specific reason: cars that spun when that far away from the wall (as opposed to being in the generally accepted racing line, just above the white line) had just enough time/distance at 220-ish MPH to make one full rotation and run into the wall head on (this is exactly what happened to Nelson Piquet and Jeff and Mario Andretti in 1992 that resulted in all of them having various levels of serious leg injuries). I had the opportunity to meet the gentleman who was over the project of installing the warm up lane (we share a college alma mater, and he came to speak at one of my senior level classes), and someone asked him about the warm up lane/apron. He did a nice job of explaining the exact physics behind the situation, and that was about all of the explanation I needed. Also, what exact problem is reintroducing the apron fixing? Did we not have a 500 with like 75 lead changes just a few years ago? Passing is more than possible at Indy, at least for IndyCars. Increasing the risk of breaking drivers’ ankles again isn’t worth a couple extra passes, at least in my opinion.

  9. Miller always told me that the SAFER barrier has saved countless lives. I say that the HANS device has saved countless lives and the supposedly SAFER barrier has made things worse.

    Go through any video you want and try to find the SAFER barrier flexing anying more than an inch upon Indycar impact. Now if you hit it straight on in a NASCAR you’ll get deflection but in an Indycar no way. The SAFER barrier is excellent in concept but horrible in execution.

    Any recent Indycar crash into the barrier that results in a car going OVER the barrier instead of just sliding sliding along it is just a video of a car spearing the barrier and being torn to shreads ….. as recent years have shown.

    If you don’t like that, picture yourself at 120 mph sliding cockpit side down along that cheese grater ride that Wickens took.

    Miller was and is wrong and you’ll never change my mind.

  10. Uh, that would be spearing the fence.

  11. James T Suel Says:

    Iam right there with you on Robin Miller. While I find things I disagree with him on , most of the time hes right. He has more inside info than anyone in the business. I dont like the fence deal at all. Dont really care for name sponsor. We are both close.

  12. I enjoy his “tough guy” videos.

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