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Miller building enduring Enduro legacy

April 17, 1999|By MIKE SIRBAUGH / Staff Correspondent

Well, if the temperature warmed up and the precipitation stayed up and the transformer didn't burn up, race fans had another chance to see the unique competition of the Enduro Dash at the Hagerstown Speedway on Saturday night.

Ah, the Enduro. The contest where otherwise sane individuals come together to drive, swerve, push and speed past one another in a 30-lap test of endurance.

Rich Miller, a two-time winner in last season's limited series, was to be on hand to defend his unofficial title. He's the only driver to have won more than one of these circular demolition derbies last year.

The above descriptive phrases are not unfair to a sport that may see a car knocked out of competition on the first lap but unable or disallowed to leave the track. But those words do not quite fit a select group of drivers who have developed their skills to a significant level.

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Miller has been driving "since 1991 or 1992. I don't know, six or seven years." He's really not driving for victories, but for enjoyment. He never finished higher than second until last year when he won two in a row and nearly won a third. But the final big race nearly did his car in.

"The car's still all smashed up from that last big one," Miller said. "We had to bang it back out to be able to run it tonight. I don't think I'm going to run anymore of them big ones, it's like a smash-up derby."

With his background, he should be qualified as somewhat of an expert.

His father, Rick, used to run late models and other classes, even driving a late model sportsman once. Rich himself began when his brother-in-law got an Enduro car, and they did it together.

And even though there are times that Miller might consider giving up racing in the dashes, there is one major reason he continues.

"If I would stop, my Dad would probably jump right in and race it himself. So I'll keep driving and keep Dad involved with our sportsman."

The sportsman is the No. 82 that Daryl Kendall drives and has in first place in the infancy of the 1999 season.

"That car sat all winter," Miller said. "We didn't start working on it until the Monday before the race. We didn't even have new tires, we couldn't afford it so we just used the old ones."

"We've come a long way with this car," Miller added. "We've only had it out seven times and we gotten two wins (one last year) and two seconds. We're going to try to get the other car ready so we can run for the points."

As with many of the regulars at the Hagerstown Speedway, racing is a family affair. His mother-in-law works at the track on race days and his wife, Chandra, has become a full-time employee.

His three children, Ashley, 14; Tiffany 10; and Richie, 18 months, frequent the Speedway, and Tiffany was actually the first Little Miss Hagerstown Speedway when the track went from bikini-clad young women to children.

Miller takes great pride in and thoroughly enjoys his job as a fishing guide on the Susquehanna River and has befriended celebrities such as Joe Gibbs and Don Breaux, the former defensive coach under Gibbs with the Washington Redskins.

Track facts

For the fans who have not yet learned what happened last Saturday at the Speedway, take note.

On Friday, lightning struck the Speedway's sound system, damaging half of the speakers. Saturday, during the late model heat races, power was lost, then regained, then lost for good.

A fire started on top of the utility pole immediately in front of the Speedway office in the parking lot. The transformer was ruined, and repairs were completed at about 9 a.m. on Sunday.

The beginning of the 1999 season puts me in mind of the Twilight Zone episode that had a gremlin on the wing of a jet, fiddling with the engine. Only one passenger could seem to see the gremlin, and everyone else thought he was crazy.

If there is one fan out there who can see the Speedway gremlin, please contact the office.

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