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Robin Miller, Southport graduate and renowned IndyCar writer, dies at 71 after battle with cancer

Robin Miller, Southport graduate and renowned IndyCar writer, dies at 71 after battle with cancer

A young Robin Miller works with IndyCar driver Jim Hurtubise on his crew. (Photo provided by Steve Shunck)

Rick Shaffer put it simply about his longtime friend Robin Miller.

“He was the best (IndyCar writer), no doubt about it,” Shaffer said. “He had an easy-to-read style. He was a natural at what he did. He would say his early stuff wasn’t good, but he was wrong. He was good from the get-go. He was good when he was writing for the Southport High School paper.”

Miller, a 1967 Southport High School graduate, died in an Indianapolis hospice Aug. 25 at age 71 after battling cancer. Miller had been diagnosed with multiple myeloma a few years ago and was diagnosed with leukemia earlier this summer.

Miller, who openly confessed he flunked out of Ball State as a freshman, was inducted into the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America in a special ceremony at Indianapolis Motor Speedway Aug. 13. The official ceremony is in Pontiac, Mich., in late September but Miller knew he would not be able to make it. 

“Racing has lost one of its most well-respected journalists and most beloved personalities,” stated Roger Penske, chairman of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. “Robin Miller achieved his dream as his lifelong passion for motorsports led him on a path to becoming the premier reporter in open-wheel racing. For more than 50 years, Robin covered the sport he loved with a fierce drive, a great sense of humor and uncompromising honesty. I know that Robin was truly touched by the support he received across the motorsports community over these last few months as he battled his illness.”

Four-time Indy 500 winner Helio Castroneves poses for a photo with Robin Miller. (Photo provided by Steve Shunck)

Penske said it was a fitting that the Hall of Fame ceremony was at IMS, “a place that meant the world to him.”

Miller told his many friends the three days he spent at IMS were the best days of his life. Miller was celebrated by both IndyCar drivers and NASCAR drivers that weekend.

A member of the Indiana Sportswriters and Sportscasters Association Hall of Fame, Miller most recently worked for RACER.com and NBC Sports. 

Miller got his start at the Indianapolis Star and through the years developed a reputation as one of the most well-respected racing writers nationally. He was able to break countless stories because of his contacts and dedication, Bill Benner said. 

Miller was the best man at then-Indianapolis Star colleague Benner’s wedding. They started at The Star at nearly the same time.

“Robin and I had an incredible journalistic joyride together that lasted for more than 30 years and a friendship that extended beyond that,”  Benner said. “He was the most fiercely loyal person I have ever known. The Little Guy never had a greater champion. He was bold. He was brash. He was outrageously profane on occasion. But he would do anything for anybody. Nobody ever had a better handle on open wheel auto racing, but beyond that Robin was a tremendous writer about other sports. It’s cliche to say but there was nobody like him.”

From left, Robin Miller, Indiana Pacers and broadcaster coach Bobby “Slick” Leonard and former Pacers player Bob Netolicky. (Photo provided by Steve Shunck)

Shaffer, a 1970 Southport High School graduate, first met Miller when his older brother, David Shaffer, brought Miller over to play driveway basketball. 

Fifty-six years later, Shaffer dedicated his auto racing book of Indy 500 memories, released in February, to Miller.

“That’s what he meant to me,” Shaffer said. “I wrote he was my brother from another mother.”

Billy Shepherd, a 1968 Mr. Basketball at Carmel High School, became friends when Miller covered Butler University his sophomore year.

“He always reminded me he was the best student basketball manager Southport ever had,” Shepherd said.

They eventually became great friends.

“He was a great storyteller,” Shepherd said. “He had stories for everybody. He made all of his friends feel like they were his best friends. When he came into the room, people just lit up. You might have heard the story before but it was always funny.”

From left, IndyCar legend Mario Andretti, Robin Miller and another IndyCar legend A.J. Foyt (Photo provided of Steve Shunck)

Mark Miles, president and CEO of Penske Entertainment Corp., stated he knew Miller for years but it was when Miles entered the motorsports world he discovered Miller had an “unmatched passion and energy for our sport and his tremendous dedication to our entire community. Robin was both a true friend and trusted confidant who never shied away from giving his honest opinion and blunt, but often invaluable, advice,”

Dave Shepherd, Billy’s younger brother and 1970 Mr. Basketball from Carmel, set up a GoFundMe page to help with Miller’s medical bills that have piled up through hospital stays and treatment. 

“He was one of a kind,” Shepherd said.

To contribute, visit gofund.me/f410a473.

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