become somewhat of an authority on the subject and hopefully it will
enlighten some people on the consequences of trying to tell the truth.
And I want to thank my bosses at SPEEDTV.com in advance for indulging me and letting me explain why I can’t hold a job.
For 32 of my first 50 years I had the good fortune to be a
reporter/columnist at The Indianapolis Star, which was somewhat of a
miracle since I’d flunked out of that academic pillar at Ball State.
I covered my first Indy 500 for The Star in 1969 and by 1975 I was
racing midgets in USAC and writing a racing column 52 weeks a year
(mostly on USAC). By 1977, I’d become the lead racing writer for the
only newspaper in the country that truly cared about motorsports.
From ’77 until 2000, my May ritual was write the daily lead, a column
every other day and contribute to our Pit Pass notebook. When you threw
in the Bob Tom radio show every morning (I worked with the
irreverent Jay Baker on Dick’s Picks from Gasoline Alley) and the
trackside TV show I did every night, it was a long but fun day that I
loved. And it got even better the Thursday before the race when I
emceed The Last Row Party (an event that roasted the 31st, 32nd and
All this background is necessary to illustrate what happened in 1996.
When Tony George divided open wheel racing with the formation of the
Indy Racing League, changed the qualifying procedure (you surely
remember 25/8) at Indy and replaced Andretti, Fittipaldi, Rahal,
Sullivan and Unser with Bronco Brad Murphey and Racin’ Gardner, I went
on the attack. In print, on local television and on my nightly radio
show on WIBC, I railed against the IMS pres almost daily and he
explored pulling my credential but was wisely talked out of it.
Now, I still covered Indy like always, writing the news and
accomplishments of the day along with feel-good columns on Tony Stewart
and Mark Dismore, but continued to pound T. George. I treated the
competitors like any other May because they put on the show and it
wasn’t their fault Indy had been forever damaged.
Of course the interesting thing was the rest of my local media
brethren. They all knew this wasn’t the real Indy 500 but nary a
disparaging word came out of their mouths. Just all that happy talk and
gushing about Joe Gosek and those big crowds watching qualifying. It
was see-no-evil on TV and hear-no-evil on radio for a solid month and I
was the ONLY voice speaking out on the obvious emasculation of May.
That summer I got gassed from my five-night-a-week radio gig at WIBC
because management claimed the “ratings” were disappointing from 7-10
p.m. on AM radio. Yeah right. I got gassed because IMS officials told
owner Jeff Smulyan that WIBC could become the official station of IMS
but not until they got rid of me.
The Star had tried to become business partners with IMS since the
mid-’90s but its marketing staff was told “never” as long as that
$# Miller was still writing for the paper. In January of 2001,
the Gannett Nazis showed me the door because, drum roll please, I’d
tainted the paper by helping Kenny Brack start his website, supposedly
broke a racing story on CART’s website, borrowed money from Tom Sneva
(after he quit driving) and used vulgar language in some emails
A week after I was escorted out of the building, The Star and IMS became partners. What a coincidence.
Channel 13, the local NBC affiliate that I’d worked for since ’95, kept
me through 2001 before becoming “news gathering partners” with The
Star, who demanded I get the boot and, naturally, I did in 2002.
Oh yeah, I wasn’t allowed on Bob Tom anymore either, because I’d
lambasted Tony once when those two radio jocks had suggested the “buzz”
had returned to the Speedway.
But let’s fast forward to 2007. The Indy media is all a bunch suck-ups
who either want to keep their pace car, free Indy tickets or jobs with
the IMS network so they’ve never uttered a discouraging word about May
during all these years despite the fact they privately acknowledge it’s
lost its crowd, luster and pedigree.
And many of my old racing “friends” who turned on me and called me a
Commie bastard for criticizing Tony have since admitted the obvious,
Indy has been reduced to a one-day event and is never coming back like
it was in 1995.
Owners, mechanics and drivers who praised Tony and cursed me in the
late ’90s now take his name in vain because they’ve all been left
behind as the IRL morphed into CART Lite, to quote A.J. Foyt.
I worked for ESPN from 2001-2004 before it stopped covering motorsports
and went to work for SPEED while continuing to freelance for Autosport
and Champ Car’s website. How can he be objective on open wheel racing
if he gets money from Champ Car, was the question many IRL zealots
When either series did something stupid and needed to be reminded, I
wrote about it on SpeedTV.com and talked about it on SPEED Report or
Wind Tunnel. Even though Champ Car agreed to let me be semi-critical a
few times about schedules, venues and decisions, I’m sure SPEED would
have preferred if I only wrote for them.
Well, now I’m all theirs.
After last Sunday’s critique of Champ Car’s state (which by the way was
mild compared to some of the commentaries I’ve written about T. George
over the years) on SpeedTV.com, I was informed my services were no
longer required on Champ Car’s website. (For the record, I’d predicted
my dismissal to a couple of friends on Sunday night).
So let’s recap. For reporting the demise of the Indy 500, I lost four
jobs, lots of money, several friendships and to this day I’m persona
non grata on every Indy radio and TV station except the ABC affiliate
during May. Oh, and the Indy Star acts like I never existed on their
pages for five decades.
For pointing out that Champ Car has a shortage of common sense, cars,
leadership and good judgment on this web site, I lost a nice
Of course this is the big difference between myself and intelligent
life. Obviously, I understood the potential consequences of my actions
in 1996 and again this past weekend. Keep my mouth shut, toe the party
line and collect my checks – facts and reality be damned.
But I can’t play that game of looking the other way when Champ Car
tries to fire Tony Cotman or lying about how much drama there is on
Bump Day at Indy nowadays.
My problem is that open wheel racing is my family, my job and my
passion. Watching it be destroyed is maddening and frustrating. Nobody
in this country has written more positive stories about Indy, Indy cars
and open wheel than myself. And nobody has been as critical. A healthy
faction of CART owners hated me in the late ’80s and early ’90s, and
the IRL brain trust has felt that way most of the past 11 years. Now
they both loathe me and that’s perfect – I must be doing my job.
Naturally, I understand a lot of people in my business maybe can’t
always say what they feel because they’ve got families to feed and
can’t afford to lose their job. Telling the truth in the media is
usually risk vs. reward. You risk losing money, friends and stability
for taking a stand while the reward is the conviction of your
Auto racing has always been driven by bitching, cheating, lying and
stealing other’s peoples drivers and sponsors – it’s the nature of the
beast. Indy car racing has always been mismanaged regardless of the
call letters. NASCAR has always written its rule book in pencil. USAC
has always been stuck in the 1950s. The AMA has always ripped off its
riders. Sure there are some great people and stories in motorsports and
telling them is the most enjoyable part of our jobs.
But it’s a cut-throat business that demands more honest analysis and
usually settles for saccharine shows on TV complete with cheerleading
or insulting features about Michael Waltrip’s pain over the cheating on
Thankfully, there are old rippers like Ben Blake, Ed Hinton, Monte
Dutton, Gordon Kirby and Brock Yates who are never afraid to hold
people’s feet to the fire. Thankfully, SPEED provides me a national
forum and doesn’t tell me what to say or write.
In the movie A Few Good Men, Jack Nicholson’s character said: “You want the truth? You can’t handle the truth.”
And the truth is, not many racing people can.
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