Aside from the sheer thrill of spending virtually a whole day behind the wheel of a 300-hp Champ Car Atlantic machine, they also learned a great deal about what lies in store for them in the future.
The test was made possible by support from the Pacific Coast Motorsports Champ Car World Series team, Buttonwillow Raceway, the Champ Car Atlantic Championship, Cosworth USA and Cooper Tire.
"This was a fantastic experience," said Barrett, 18, from Los Osos, Calif. "I had a great time working with everyone at US RaceTronics and really enjoyed driving the Swift 016.a Atlantic car. I learned a lot about what it takes to pilot these cars successfully and how important it is to get up to speed quickly. Driving the car is more physically demanding compared to the F2000 that I currently race. It gave me a good reference on what I need to work on most with my training program in terms of strength and endurance."
Miller, 19, from Hesperia, Calif., was equally ecstatic after gaining his first experience of an Atlantic car.
"This was the first time I have driven a ‘no-lift-shift’ car," declared Miller. "It made life nice and easy with the shifts. (And) the amount of grip and braking capabilities the car had was amazing. For example, you can put 1500 psi on the brake pedal initially and the car will not lock a front tire. What an amazing feeling!
"I was really surprised about my physical condition," he continued. "[Indianapolis-based] Pitfit Training has prepared an excellent schedule for me with daily workouts. The only difficult area for me physically was with my neck and that will continue to get better with more on-track testing."
US RaceTronics team principal Shane Seneviratne was impressed with his two young charges after putting them through their paces.
"The test turned out even better than expected," said Seneviratne, whose vast experience in the sport includes guiding recently crowned Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series champion Jon Fogarty to the first of his two Atlantic series titles in 2002 as team manager for Dorricott Racing.
"We tried to create a low pressure environment for the drivers and set some basic objectives to meet on the first few outings. Both of them followed instructions well and we slowly stepped up the intensity of the test as they completed more laps and got more confident with the cars. At the end of the day it was clearly evident that they deserve to be the recipients of this scholarship. They are well-rounded, professional and very talented drivers with a bright future."
Barrett and Miller will spend the next few weeks concentrating on their existing commitments in domestic competitions. Barrett will be looking to extend his lead in the Pacific F2000 Championship this weekend when he contests a pair of races at Infineon Raceway. Miller will compete next at Virginia International Raceway on October 6/7, when he hopes to clinch the Skip Barber National Presented by Mazda title, and with it an opportunity to earn a drive in the 2008 Star Mazda Championship.
The pair will then turn their attentions to the Formula Palmer Audi Autumn Trophy in England, where they will fly the patriotic Team USA Scholarship colors in six races over two weekends in late-October and early November.
Previous Team USA Scholarship winners include 1996 Champ Car champion Jimmy Vasser (1990); Champ Car and IRL race winner and current American Le Mans Series contender Bryan Herta (1991); Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car standouts Memo Gidley (1995), Paul Edwards (1998) and Andy Lally (1999); 2004 Indianapolis 500 winner Buddy Rice (1997); this year’s Indianapolis 500 Rookie of the Year Phil Giebler (2000); Champ Car race winner-turned Nextel Cup competitor A.J. Allmendinger (2001) and current Star Mazda Championship leader Dane Cameron (2006).