Driven to Race movie to premier at Long Beach Movie stars and race cars are pretty much the norm for the Long Beach Grand Prix… except this time its drivers from the Star Mazda Championship presented by Goodyear up on screen, and the graduation of Star Mazda standout, Joel Miller, to the ranks of Indy Lights with the Andersen Racing team.
Driven To Race, showing at the Art Theatre of Long Beach (2025 E. 4th St. / 562-438-5435) on Thursday, April 15 at 2:00 pm and again at 9:00 pm, is a feature-length documentary film that follows eight ambitious young male and female drivers from around the world (including Joel Miller) as they compete in the Star Mazda Championship. Driven to Race also features interviews with Star Mazda graduates Graham Rahal, Marco Andretti and Raphael Matos, as well as such top drivers as Michael Schumacher and Nelson Piquet. The film was produced by Jeffrey Krueger and directed and edited by Brian Spillane. Admission to the film is $7 when accompanied by a flier that can be downloaded from the series web site www.StarMazda.com. Admission is free to holders of IRL, ALMS and SCCA hard cards, as well as members of the Motor Press Guild and American Auto Racing Writers and Broadcasters Association.
One of the stars of the film, Miller is a 21 year-old rising open-wheel racing star from Hesperia, California making his debut in the Indy Lights race at the Grand Prix of Long Beach on Sunday, April 18. The California native is an alumni of both the Star Mazda Championship, one of the top open-wheel driver development series in North America, and the MAZDASPEED Motorsports Driver Development Ladder, the only scholarship program supported by a major global automaker that provides funding for champions in various series to move up to the next level.
Miller won the 2007 Skip Barber Pro Series and raced in the 2008 Star Mazda Championship presented by Goodyear with funding provided by the MAZDASPEED Ladder. He won the season-opener at the 12 Hours of Sebring from the pole and finished second in the championship. He found sponsorship to return to the Star Mazda Championship for a second season in 2009, scoring three podium finishes, eight top-5s and winding up 5th in the championship.
Like his second season in the Star Mazda Championship, Miller's climb to the ranks of Indy Lights drivers comes as a result of his own diligence and prowess at building relationships with sponsors. Lining up backing for his Indy Lights debut involved personally visiting everyone who had helped him earlier in his career.
"I literally just took off driving and I visited every single company and person I knew along the way," Miller said. "You can't walk into a small company and throw a big figure at them and expect them to be able to do anything for you. But with smaller amounts from a lot of different companies and individuals added together, by the end of the day I was able to get close enough to call Dan Andersen and say I think I can do it. I still have some more calls to make, but I feel confident I'll have enough by the race weekend."
Sponsors currently on board include Doug Mockett of Mockett and Co., John Wilkins of Rancho Motor Co., Vance Mitchell of The Mitchell Co., Seers Lumber Co., Daniel Singh, Joe Phillips and Greg Ewald.
In addition to his racing career, Miller is a mechanical engineering major at the University of California, Riverside. Last quarter he recorded a 3.1 grade point average. When he graduated from Hesperia Christian School High School in 2006, he did so as the salutatorian of his class with a 4.0 GPA. But racing is still his career goal.
"This is a one-off ride now, but I hope to turn it into more," Miller said. "This will be the only street course race I've done except for the Star Mazda race at Trois-Rivières in Quebec. I'm fortunate, however, to be working at Long Beach with Yancy Diotalevi, who was my lead engineer on the Andersen Racing Star Mazda team, as well as a number of other Andersen Racing people I've worked with before. My big problem now is how to find tickets and passes for all my sponsors."
Miller will drive Andersen Racing's No. 5 Indy Lights car, while another rookie, Carmen Jorda of Alcoy, Spain, will be in the team's No. 4 machine. The Firestone Indy Lights schedule for the weekend shows practice sessions on Friday (April 16) at 12:15 p.m. and Saturday (April 17) at 8 a.m., followed by qualifying at 12:55 p.m. Saturday afternoon. There is a warm-up session at 8 a.m. Sunday (April 18), before the 45-lap race gets underway at 10:40 a.m. It precedes the IZOD IndyCar race that will get the green flag at 1:15 p.m. All times are PDT (California)