There are many different qualities that make up a good journalist. Some are great storytellers. Others are super sleuths who can unearth the missing details. There are those who are flamboyant and draw in readers through their personality. A few have a deep passion and love for what it is they cover and consider themselves the conscience of their chosen sport.
Robin Miller fell into many of these categories.
Robin Miller is a Hoosier. People talk about racing being born and raised in Detroit, the Southeast and California. For those of us from Indiana, there is no question that is where racing was born and raised to all of its highest forms. Being around the dirt tracks, local asphalt ovals, drag strips and, of course, Indianapolis Motor Speedway instills a love for all things that go fast in any Indiana boy or girl who has the slightest inkling to follow it. Miller was eaten up with it.
Miller wrote about various forms of racing, but his deepest passion was IndyCar. He covered the sport for years for the Indianapolis Star before moving on (he was fired) to numerous print and television jobs. Miller drew a lot of criticism for his strongly opinionated writings, but he always did his research and had reliable sources for those opinions. He famously once accused AJ Foyt of cheating, for which Foyt punched Miller.
His demise at the Star was blamed on several factors but was predominantly due to his extremely vocal criticism of Tony George and the IRL for their split that ruined NTT IndyCar Series racing for decades. His management at the Star was close to George and reportedly had to choose between Miller and doing business with Indianapolis.
Miller was more than a talking head when it came to racing. He worked on several pit crews for the Indy 500. Most all of them were unpaid gigs but gave the people who took the jobs an opportunity to be inside the fence for the Greatest Spectacle in Racing. His first gig was with Jim Hurtubise. He didn’t make it to the end of the month because he supposedly ruined the paint scheme on Hurtubise’s car. While Miller worked on many race teams he was far from mechanically inclined. His good friend, chief mechanic Bill Finley, once stated about Miller, “he is without a mechanical bone in his body.”
Miller, like many Hoosiers, dreamed of being a racer. He chased that dream by buying and driving a Formula Ford from Andy Granatelli. He moved onto a USAC midget that he purchased from Gary Bettenhausen. Miller never achieved much success as a driver and gave up in the early ’80s due to his lack of mechanical skills and a large pile of debt.
During Miller’s tenure with NBC he did the first ever grid walk at the IndyCar race at Iowa Speedway in 2011. Those who despise Michael Waltrip‘s efforts along those lines have Miller to thank. Miller had several different television positions but was probably best known for his occasional appearances on Wind Tunnel with Dave Despain, Still probably the best talking head show about racing ever produced.
To get a brief look into the personality that was Miller, you need go no further than his final appearance on Wind Tunnel. This rant is pulled from a Facebook post by motorsports journalist Matt Weaver:
“I’ve got a lot of hate. I hate the way ABC ruins an IndyCar race, I hate Michael Waltrip’s act, the fact that no one recognizes Scott Dixon on the street, I hate spotters, I despise talking heads in NASCAR that scream, rant and rave about the driver in 15th having a good run, I hate the fact that USAC is still a well kept secret, I hate saving fuel, I hate that Phoenix and Elkart Lake aren’t on the IndyCar schedule, I really hate paddle shifters…”
-Robin Miller on the final “Wind Tunnel”
There are sports writers who claim that you cannot be a fan of the sport you cover and write about it well. There are others who think you cannot write well about a sport unless you are a fan. Miller was a fan — a deeply passionate, highly opinionated fan who only had one thing in his heart. He wanted the sport to be better.
He had opinions that weren’t always popular and were often different from many fans. Like it or not, he articulated his opinions and backed them up with the facts as he knew them. The sport is better because Miller was in it, and the world is a bit worse now because he isn’t in it anymore.
Godspeed, Robin Miller. Have a beer with Hurt for us.
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