Miller ready for next step on Mazda ladder
MONTEREY, Calif. - In one of the more closely fought championship chases in its nine-year history, the 2007 BFGoodrich/Skip Barber National Presented by Mazda was won by 19-year-old Joel Miller of Hesperia, Calif. Winning the Skip Barber National title earned him one of the most significant championship bonuses in North American open-wheel racing – a paid ride in 2008 with a leading Star Mazda team, valued at roughly $350,000, courtesy of MAZDASPEED Motorsports Development and Skip Barber Racing.
Miller joins recent Skip Barber National champions Raphael Matos (2003), Marco Andretti (2004), Gerardo Bonilla (2005) and Jonathan Goring (2006) on the Mazda Motorsports Ladder. This ladder begins with high-level karting, progresses to the Skip Barber Regional Series then the BFGoodrich/Skip Barber National Presented by Mazda. The next step is the Star Mazda Championship Presented by Goodyear, followed by the Cooper Tires Champ Car Atlantic Championship Powered by Mazda. From Atlantic, motorsports top rungs are just one step away.
Miller won five Skip Barber National races this year, more than any other previous champion with the exception of Grant Maiman in 2002. He was on the podium a total of 10 times and, significantly, finished fifth or better in 11 of the 14 races.
Despite the apparent dominance, the championship wasn’t decided until the final weekend at Virginia International Raceway in early October. Over the course of the year, 13 different drivers made the podium – including seven different race winners – and only by virtue of Miller’s top 10 finish in the first of the weekend’s two races did he clinch the title and its championship bonus.
Miller began racing at age 9 in karts; by 2005 he was the championship runner-up in the Snap-on Stars of Karting series – then won the title the following year. It was also in 2006 that he earned sponsorship at the Skip Barber Karting Scholarship Shoot-out, money that he used to enter a couple of Skip Barber National races.
Late in 2006, Miller was named the recipient of the Skip Barber/Stars of Karting Scholarship, which earned him a paid season of 2007 Skip Barber National competition. In March of this year, Miller won another karting championship, in the increasingly prestigious Florida Winter Tour. And just before Miller clinched the Skip Barber National title, he and Patrick Barrett (another Skip Barber graduate) were chosen as this year’s Team U.S.A. Scholarship winners. They are slated to compete at Brands Hatch, England, Oct. 27-28 and at Snetterton, England, Nov. 3-4, in a six-race formula car championship.
Last week, Andersen Racing, in partnership with Team U.S.A. founder and president Jeremy Shaw, tested Miller in Andersen Racing Star Mazda cars at Virginia International Raceway. Miller completed 74 laps at the road course in Alton, Va. Team owner Dan Andersen said Miller was not only quick but provided excellent feedback throughout the session. “It was the first test I’ve ever done in a Star Mazda car, so a lot of it was just learning the car,” Miller said of the test. “Working with [engineer] Mike Reggio was a good experience.”