2110 Miller 1 Online
Robin Miller does a standup for the Speed Network at the Chili Bowl. - by DAVE ARGABRIGHT

Remembering Robin Miller: October 27, 1949 – August 25, 2021

And they were. Among all the racing people he knows – and Foyt knows everybody – Robin became one of A.J.’s closest friends. After Robin’s passing A.J. released a heartfelt tribute to his late friend.

Some nuggets in that story are very revealing.

First of all, not many among us have the guts to square off with A.J. Foyt. But guts were a hallmark of Robin’s career: he feared nobody. Even when his opinion brought him the threat of pain and suffering, he called it like he saw it.

2110 Miller 3 Online
Robin Miller – JOHN MAHONEY PHOTO

Secondly, Robin was a big enough man that he was willing to forgive and forget. He could look back at the episode and laugh.

Countless people have been mad at Robin at one time or another, but that’s not what defined him. What defined him was his endless devotion to the sport he loved.

In the 1970’s Robin’s work at the Star led him to closely follow area sprint car racing. He became friends with a great many of the top stars in USAC, and ultimately the World of Outlaws. Larry Rice, Bubby Jones, Steve Kinser, Chuck Gurney…on and on and on.

Along the way Robin became acquainted with Jan Opperman. Opperman’s sensational career was interrupted in 1976 when he suffered serious injuries at the Hoosier Hundred, and in the years following struggled to make a comeback.

In 1981 Opperman again suffered catastrophic head injuries in another sprint car crash, robbing him of nearly all normal functions. Opperman, now both broke and broken, eventually landed at the home of his aging parents, who took on the impossible task of caring for their stricken son.

It was an extremely difficult situation, with both Jan and his parents struggling in every way: financially, physically, and emotionally.

A couple of years later Indianapolis radio personalities Bob and Tom decided to release a racing-themed benefit CD containing many of the parodies featured on their show. They were uncertain, however, to which charity to direct the proceeds. As the release date approached Tom Griswold mentioned to Robin that he was still looking for the right charity.

“How about Jan Opperman?” Robin asked him.

“Who’s Jan Opperman?” Griswold replied.

Robin explained the situation, and made a case for his old pal. Griswold was convinced, and over the next few years thousands of dollars were raised for Opperman and his family. Robin led the way in promoting the benefit CD’s in his column in the Star.

The money made a real difference. Opperman’s parents were able to purchase a van with a lift, giving much-needed mobility to Jan. They avoided losing their home due to medical expenses.

The Opperman family was ultimately lifted from suffering by the generosity of racing fans who bought the tape, and it happened simply because Robin wanted to help a friend who was suffering.

Despite the rancor sometimes directed his way, and despite his tough exterior, Robin was a deeply caring man. Throughout his life he directed his energy countless times toward fund-raisers, charitable events, whatever it was that could raise money for a struggling racer or racing person.

For the past several years a collection of drivers, mechanics, media people, promoters and the like have gathered each Friday before noon at Charlie Brown’s Restaurant a couple of blocks from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Amid sandwiches and pancakes and iced tea, Robin was the chief organizer and emcee of a loosely-based gathering of racing old-timers.

He was the loudest guy in the room, and it was a big room filled with loud people. His oversized personality was in perfect form, passing around old racing pictures and encouraging others to share a racing story – or two.

When Robin was diagnosed with cancer in 2018 the Friday luncheons became more important than ever. Anybody he talked with throughout the week got the same message: “Hey, come join us for lunch on Friday!”

Beyond the keyboard, beyond the microphone, these were the most enjoyable moments of Robin’s life. He was a people person, through and through. Racing meant everything in the world to him, and he genuinely loved the people who made racing happen – from top to bottom.

Rest easy, ol’ buddy. No more pain, no more worries. What an amazing, interesting, eventful life you led. You were a man with the guts to tell the tough stories and the skill to tell them with style. Never gonna forget you.

error: Content is protected !!