NA-F2000: Bryce Miller's Season Off to A Great Start

Miller's Season Is Off to a Great Start PARSIPPANY, N.J., Jan. 21 - Go-kart star Bryce Miller of Bernardsville and Florham Park, N.J., competed in his first two Formula 2000 events recently in Florida and brought home a...

Miller's Season Is Off to a Great Start

PARSIPPANY, N.J., Jan. 21 - Go-kart star Bryce Miller of Bernardsville and Florham Park, N.J., competed in his first two Formula 2000 events recently in Florida and brought home a second and a third in a four-year-old Van Diemen, thoroughly impressing the railbirds.

It was a great start to the season for the 19-year-old University of Vermont freshman, who plans to go pro this year and compete in the 14-race U.S. Formula 2000 series. Sanctioned jointly by the Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) and the United States Auto Club (USAC), the Formula 2000 series is only two steps below Indy cars and the Indy 500.

The Florida events were SCCA national races at Sebring Jan. 10 and at Moroso Motorsports Park on Jan. 17. Formula Atlantic, Formula Continental (Formula 2000) and Formula Mazda cars all competed in different divisions in these races, part of the Winter Nationals. There were 35 starters at Sebring, where Miller qualified 15th and finished third in his division, and 32 starters at Moroso, where he qualified and finished second in his class. That race was a real thriller, because he fell to third early and regained second in the last turn on the last lap, taking the runner-up spot by a mere 2 feet.

The drivers placing ahead of him at Sebring were in a 1998 and a 1997 Van Diemen, respectively, while Miller drove a 1995 Van Diemen borrowed from J.J. Cunnane of Glenside, Pa., the brother of Miller's crew chief/engineer, Brendan Cunnane of Lansdale, Pa. The only Formula 2000 car ahead of the Miller entry at Moroso was a '98 Van Diemen.

Prior to these two races, Miller's only experience with a Formula 2000 car of any kind came in testing sessions using two different Van Diemens at two other tracks. He had never driven at either Moroso or Sebring in any other kind of car either, so the courses were also new to the 5'9", 155-pound, blue-eyed blonde teen.

"I had been there to watch my dad race when I was really little, but I never saw those tracks before otherwise," said Miller, who literally grew up in the pits.

Miller's dad is Paul Miller, who is well known in racing circles as a former IMSA GT and Trans-Am competitor. He drove a factory-backed Porsche for many years in his 25-year racing career. He also owns car dealerships in Parsippany, N.J.; Woodbridge, N.J.; and Rockland County, N.Y.

"If you would have told me Bryce would come home with a second and a third in his first two national races in a four-year-old car, I never would have believed it," the proud father said. "He's been driving karts since he was 8 and he won a national karting championship at 11, but the first time he's really been in a race car was last summer when he ran in the Skip Barber Formula Dodge series. This was a borrowed car and we didn't have a data acquisition system; it was all sort of an experiment, and we're pretty pleased with the results."

"It was unbelievable how fast Bryce was right out of the box," said Brendan Cunnane, the 1995 "Crew Chief of the Year" in the U.S. Formula 2000 series. "The kid is for real."

Last year Miller set several records in the Barber Formula Dodge series and earned its Rookie of the Year award.

Of his two latest races, the younger Miller thought Moroso was the more challenging event. "Moroso was tougher because my car was going away; we didn't have an adjustable swaybar, and that hurt us a little," he explained. "We burned the front tires off the car; Brendan was saying that we should have been on a harder compound of Goodyears."

Sebring had its share of excitement, too.

"We qualified in the dry and we missed the set-up a little, so we had to start way back," recalled Miller, who is majoring in business at the University of Vermont. "Then it rained for the race, so we had our work cut out for us to move up through the field."

That kind of challenge is what race car drivers live for, and Miller hopes to make the sport his profession. "My favorite drivers are Mika Hakkinen and Gianni Morbidelli, and if everything works out according to my wildest dreams, I'll race in Formula 1 or Indy cars or even both someday," he said. "All of those drivers had to start someplace too, and I'm trying to follow in their footsteps with my karting background and then moving up into formula cars."

Miller plans to tackle the entire U.S. Formula 2000 circuit this season. "I know it's going to be a step up from the national events, and it'll be a little more pressurized and competitive," he predicted. "All of the races are televised on cable TV and we're looking for sponsors. Now that I've had a taste of it, I can't wait until the season opener at Phoenix in March."

The entire U.S. Formula 2000 schedule, which is subject to change, is:

Round 1 March 26-28 Phoenix International Raceway Phoenix, Ariz. 1-mile oval with Pep Boys Indy Racing League

Rounds 2-3 April 29-May 1 Charlotte Motor Speedway Concord, N.C. 1.6-mile modified oval with Pep Boys Indy Racing League

Rounds 4-5 May 21-23 Mosport Park Bowmanville, Ont., Can. 2.459-mile road course with BFGoodrich Tires Trans-Am Series

Round 6 June 4-6 Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course Lexington, Ohio 2.4-mile road course with BFGoodrich Tires Trans-Am/USRRC

Round 7 July 16-17 Atlanta Motor Speedway Hampton, Ga. 1.5-mile oval with Pep Boys Indy Racing League

Rounds 8-9 July 23-25 Road Atlanta Braselton, Ga. 2.52-mile road course with BFGoodrich Tires Trans-Am

Round 10 July 30-Aug. 1 Trois-Rivieres Street Circuit Trois-Rivieres, Que., Can. 1.6-mile street circuit with Trans-Am/Toyota Atlantic

Round 11 Aug. 13-14 Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course Lexington, Ohio 2.258-mile road course with CART FedEx Champ Cars

Round 12 Aug. 27-29 Pikes Peak International Raceway Fountain, Colo. 1.0-mile oval with Pep Boys Indy Racing League

Rounds 13-14 Sept. 24-26 Miami-Dade Motorsports Complex Homestead, Fla. 2.21-mile road course with USRRC

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Series Other open wheel
Drivers Mika Hakkinen , Skip Barber , Gianni Morbidelli , Paul Miller , Bryce Miller