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Two-time top rookie enjoying success

March 13, 1999|By MIKE SIRBAUGH / Staff correspondent

How often do you see a rookie of the year coming off a rookie of the year season?

Jeremy Miller, 27, of Littlestown, Pa., accomplished the feat of winning rookie of the year honors last season at the Hagerstown Speedway in the late model division. It was not a unique experience for the well-seasoned driver. In 1997, he was rookie of the year in the late model sportsman class.

An experienced rookie. It sounds like an oxymoron, but in the world of racing, it's all about what you drive and where you drive it.

In reality, Miller has been racing since 1987, except for a two-year layoff in 1990-91. He began racing semi-late models, mostly at Lincoln Speedway and at Susquehana, in a car owned by his parents, Keith and Linda Miller.

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He also took the wheel behind a thundercar that he co-owned with his uncle, Kevin Miller, when they frequented Lincoln, Susquehana and Trailway. He has tooled around at Selingsgrove, Bedford, Potomac and Winchester speedways, sometimes in street stocks, making a stop or two in Hagerstown.

Miller joined the late model sportsman class at Hagerstown and enjoyed success similar to what he was used to. He earned three victories in a row, including the prestigious Toney Armel Memorial, a 50-lap feature that is the premier event for the sportsman class.

"We always won four races every year," Miller said, "until we came to Hagerstown. We won three in the late model sportsman and then really nosedived last year, barely winning one."

While his wins have come a bit less frequently, he has still racked up 117 career victories and has done well wherever he has raced and in whatever he has driven.

After last season's fine showing - finishing ninth in the points race with seven top 10 finishes - Miller and his crew plan to make a serious run at the 1999 points, but he knows it won't be easy.

"The track is what makes it so tough," Miller said. "It's so unpredictable. The people, too. It doesn't matter what class you run in, the people are serious. Out of all the tracks, Hagerstown has the toughest competition."

"There are people who do well at their home track but find it tough at Hagerstown. It's a nice facility, and it seems that in other parts of the country, there is no racing in this area unless it's in Hagerstown."

The Miller crew is just that, a family-owned and operated racing business that Miller describes as "a low-key, small, confined deal, nothing glamorous." Jeremy, his parents and uncle Keith are the entire operation along with Jeremy's fiancee, Michele Kessel. Miller continues to get his motors from Charlie Garrett Racing Engines.

But it's hard to pinpoint just who owns the car. Each defers to another, so Miller just says, "The business owns it." The "business" being Miller Fabrication, Inc., the family's sheet metal business in Littlestown.

So what does the business expect for this season?

"If we win five races, I'll be happy," said Miller. "We were getting so frustrated (early last year), I was getting close to quitting. But then we tried a new car we got from Bart Hartman, and we did better and got a win. He's been a big help."

"Everbody wants to win races," said Miller. "I don't know how many races we'll win, if any. But now we're in a class that the competition is greater and the people are better. I feel, as far as car and motorwise, we have the stuff to win."

"But if we can't consistently finish in the top three, we might not continue. With our experience, we should be able to do well. Everybody (in the family) loves racing, so this is what we do. But if you don't get something back (monetarily), then it's not worth it."

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