Pennsylvania has long been a hotbed for some of the finest open wheel dirt track racers in the United States of America.
Gavin Miller of Allentown, Pa. is among the new breed who struck a chord on the USAC NOS Energy Drink Midget National Championship trail in 2023.
His efforts earned him Max Papis Innovations Bob Stroud USAC National Midget Rookie of the Year honors for his efforts in the seat of the Eibach Springs – TRD/LynK/Speedway Toyota for the famed Keith Kunz/Curb-Agajanian Motorsports team.
In doing so, the 16-year-old Miller became just the third Keystone State native to receive the USAC National Midget Rookie of the Year reward in memory of Stroud, the longtime supervisor for the division. John Andretti (Bethlehem) in 1983 and Andrew Layser (Collegeville) in 2019 are the only previous Pennsylvanians to achieve the feat.
All told, Miller accumulated 56 feature laps led, five top-fives and 14 top-tens in 26 feature starts while finishing eighth in series points. But assuredly, the highlight of the year came in June during USAC Indiana Midget Week at Bloomington Speedway where he raced to his first career series victory in what was just his 10th career series start.
On a restart just before the midway point at Bloomington, Miller slid his KKM teammate and fellow first-time USAC win seeker Jade Avedisian for the top spot, and from there, went undenied for the remaining 16 circuits to earn the victory as he became the first Pennsylvanian to capture a USAC National feature win of any kind since Steve Buckwalter during the Indiana Midget Week round at Gas City I-69 Speedway in 2010.
With the win, Miller also became just the second driver to win his first career USAC National Midget feature at Bloomington’s 1/4-mile clay oval. The only other driver to accomplish that was none other than Kyle Larson, who also wheeled a KKM owned car to victory on the red clay, just like Miller.
Up to that point, to USAC fans, Miller had been known for his passing prowess within the series ranks, passing more cars throughout USAC Indiana Midget Week than any other individual with 35 positions advanced in six events, which gave him the title of Indiana Midget Week’s ProSource Passing Master.
“It was definitely a surreal feeling,” Miller recalled of his Bloomington victory. “Getting that first win is always going to be my most favorite and special one. It was definitely one of the goals I set for myself, but I didn’t think I was going to get a win that soon. Not many people get to say that they’ve done it, so it’s really cool.”
Miller’s win also came on the heels of a “what could’ve been” moment when he flipped out of the race while leading 13 laps into the 30-lap feature just four nights prior at Circle City Raceway. Despite not expecting a winning effort to arrive quite so soon, Miller began to realize he had the potential to run up front consistently. But a major part of growing as a racer is withstanding the natural learning curves that occur along the way, but readily admitted that a couple more opportunities slipped through his fingers.
“I thought I could get more, but I threw away a couple,” Miller noted. “I guess you’ve got to throw away a couple in order to learn from your mistakes. I think I’ve made most of them in the book so far. You are still going to make mistakes here and there, especially the one at Merced (Speedway). I had never flipped that badly ever. So, that was a first. But I definitely went into this year not knowing much and came out the other side learning from all those mistakes and showed improvement.”
The Merced moment in November saw Miller going for the lead on lap two down the back straightaway when he clipped the outside guardrail and flipped seven times in all. The accident forced him to miss one night of action the following evening, but also served notice of how far he had come. Now he was battling for wins, while the year before, he made just two feature starts in eight USAC National Midget appearances during the 2022 campaign.
“I was definitely watching more races and getting more seat time, which really helped,” Miller explained. “I wanted it bad; I wanted to run up front and learn from past mistakes and it all has come together from learning from my crew chief and strategizing too. I feel like it all must come into play, and I feel like we’ll be even better next year, especially now having a full year under my belt.”
It was just a few years ago that Miller emerged as a decorated USAC .25 Midget racer, accumulating a total of six championships between 2015 and 2019. Now, he seems to be on the cusp of becoming a regular front runner in USAC National Midget racing. He’s also displayed his sticktoitiveness, bouncing back from heartbreak to win mere nights later and even rebounding from a big wreck to jump in the saddle and move forward.
“Not giving up is the biggest part of it,” Miller chalks his attitude up to. “And just being calm, cool and collected and forgetting the past. You can’t really dwell on it. You’ve got to just keep on moving on. If you can’t do that, then you’re just kind of stuck. You’re focused on what you did wrong, and you want to learn, but you’ve got to keep moving on and focus on keeping getting better.”
- Flowdynamics Sprint Car Drivers Are Ready for 2024 Usac/Cra Opener at Perris - February 24, 2024
- Eddie Tafoya Jr. Begins the Most Important Season of His Racing Career - February 24, 2024
- Billy Pauch Jr. Wins BELFOR Property Restoration East Coast Indoor Dirt Nationals in Trenton - February 24, 2024