Miller Opens 2008 KONI Challenge with top-five at Daytona Orlando-based racer Jon Miller got his 2008 Grand-Am KONI Challenge season off to a fast start recently, taking a strong fifth-place finish in the No. 99 Weeden Consultants Automatic...
Miller Opens 2008 KONI Challenge with top-five at Daytona
Orlando-based racer Jon Miller got his 2008 Grand-Am KONI Challenge season off to a fast start recently, taking a strong fifth-place finish in the No. 99 Weeden Consultants Automatic Racing BMW M3 with co-driver David Russell the season-opening Fresh From Florida 200 at Daytona International Speedway. Miller, who raised eyebrows as he shrugged off difficult and changing conditions to take third on the nearly 100-car grid, kept his foot in it as the green flag dropped, immediately challenging another BMW for the lead and securing it in a clean move.
"It was nice to be starting up front of such a huge field," said Miller, who will complete his studies at the University of Central Florida this spring. "I had some bad luck here last year so I was really looking for some redemption. I was focused on making a clean start and settling in to a good rhythm. Coming into turn 1 I had a run on the leader, but I decided to back off and follow him down to the horseshoe. I wanted to push him pretty early in an effort to run with him and gap the cars behind us, or force him into a mistake. I was able to slip into the lead in turn 6 on the first lap and I never looked back. I had such a great car that I was able to build a lead of over 10 seconds at one point. I didn't need to be overly aggressive with the ST traffic because of this, and it was a real joy to run at the front."
The run at the front marked the first laps that Miller has led in KONI Challenge competition, and he proved it was no fluke as he led for a race-high 28 laps before turning the controls over to co-driver David Russell during a pit stop. Russell rejoined in second and fought inside the top 3 until the final laps. He and teammate Jeff Segal in the #09 car worked together, trying everything to get around the two Mustangs in front of them, but the horsepower differential proved to be too much.
"Dave did an awesome job, as always," said Miller. "It was a treat to get to drive with him, because he and I have been friends for a long time. It's always so tough to be sitting in the pits, watching your co-driver go by. You've got to trust that he will do his best and when you get out of the car, it's out of your hands. I had total confidence in Dave and I was glad to see him and Jeff working together at the end of the race."
Locked into a battle for the final spot on the podium, things looked to be crumbling down as an ST-class entry lost control at the entry to the bus stop corner and made heavy contact with the drivers side of the No. 99 Weeden Consulting machine.
"I was watching the live Speed Channel coverage in the pits and I saw the crash happen with less than ten minutes to go. I couldn't believe how hard the hit was, and once I recovered from the shock of that, I realized that Dave was still circulating and he didn't even lose a position! I have a bad history in that corner, but this time it was just a bit of body damage, so I was relieved to see the car cross the finish line with a top-five finish."
Miller and Russell pick up valuable championship points with their strong finish and Miller hopes to continue the trend of strong drives at the front of the field and strong finishes for the rest of the season. Miller's 2008 plans are not final yet, but he plans to continue to compete for the KONI Challenge GS championship at the next round at Lime Rock Park in Connecticut on May 26th