Little Valley Can Am season opener preview

Millers Hope to Repeat Family Magic at Little Valley Can Am Opener (Little Valley, NY) July 2, 2003 was a historical day at Little Valley Speedway. Not only was it the first race in the history of the BRP Can Am Super Stock series, but it ...

Millers Hope to Repeat Family Magic at Little Valley Can Am Opener

(Little Valley, NY) July 2, 2003 was a historical day at Little Valley Speedway. Not only was it the first race in the history of the BRP Can Am Super Stock series, but it marked the first time in track history that members of the same family finished one-two-three. Bruce Miller in the No. 80, won the race, followed by his brother Andy driving the No. 17, and his father Dave, piloting the No. 40, as the Wellsville trio, who have been racing together for several years turned the unusual trick for the first time for themselves as well. It was indeed "Miller time." Family members have raced each other fairly often, the Wonderlings, with four members racing in the late model and super stock ranks, come to mind in that regard, but finishing first, second, and third is indeed a rarity. The Miller clan will try to duplicate that feat on Sunday, May 30th, as the BRP Can Am Super Stock Series once again takes the green flag for the first time this year at Little Valley as part of the Memorial Day celebration.

The Millers are no strangers to Southern Tier racing enthusiasts as Bruce, who is 29, and has been racing super stocks for six years, Andy 27 and a five year participant, and father Dave 54, who has been racing since 1975, have raced at virtually all the area dirt tracks, including Little Valley, McKean, Freedom, and others.

The boys started right out racing super stocks, bypassing the normal progression of street stocks, and e-mods (sportsman) before graduating to the bigger cars. Bruce explains, "I didn't really want to spend a lot of money on a street stock because I planned to run a super stock all along. I'd have a lot of street stock parts I'd have to sell. I just decided to start out in super stocks."

Andy took the same route, and basically for the same reason. He explained, "I had priced used street stocks, and it seemed like guys wanted a lot of money. I figured if I'm going to spend that kind of money, I'll build my own car and race super stocks. Also, my father had been racing ever since I could remember, and my brother and I had been building his cars, helping him set them up the whole time. We knew what we had to do. It was just a matter of learning how to drive the things. The first few weeks I'm sure we caused a lot of heartache for everyone else on the track. By part way through the first year I could start up front and win heat races. Then my second year I was able to stay up front and win some races. The hardest thing is learning how to get through traffic."

Dave started his career racing sportsman at Woodhull at the age of 25, moving on to a small block modified, before racing a street stock again when the modified became too pricey. Then he raced "limited lates" at McKean before settling into super stocks since around 1998. Over the years he has several track championships to his credit in different divisions. He observed that the boys began working on the car at 12 or 13 years of age, and began going into the pits as soon as they were legally able to do so. Their interest grew along with their participation.

The first time they all raced together, he remembers hoping that they all would just make the feature and that nobody would have to pack up and go home. They knew that eventually there would be nights when somebody wouldn't make it.

As for running at Little Valley Andy observed, "The speeds are so high I almost think it intimidates some people. They don't go into the corners as hard as we do. I've only won there once. My brother seems to have the best luck there, and my dad's won a lot there."

Last year was his best season so far, capturing the title at McKean and finishing second at Little Valley.

Bruce, who has averaged two wins a year, has a special affinity for Little Valley, but doesn't really know why he does so well there, saying, "I don't know. I wish I could figure out why, so then I could be consistently fast there. The track or the layout must just fit my driving style. I don't have any special tricks. It just kind of happens that way."

For Bruce, the BRP Can Am Series was intriguing right away. He noted, "I liked the idea because I thought it was interesting to go to different tracks. I enjoy a challenge, going to a track we haven't seen before, and for the most part a lot of the people haven't seen before. We're all kind of on equal footing, and it's who can adapt best to different situations (that will succeed). I enjoy setting up and adjusting to the track conditions." Andy felt the same way, adding that without the series, and with McKean shutting down during the fair they had nowhere to race.

Though Bruce often makes changes during the heats and the feature at most tracks, not so with Little Valley. He adds, "At Little Valley it's hard to tell. Most of the time I don't make a whole lot of changes between the heat and feature because of the size of the track, and the surface seems to stay pretty even between the heats and the feature."

Andy adds this about Little Valley. (It's) fun because you're going so fast. The corners are real tight. You go real fast down the straightaways. Then you about stop in the corners, and then you drag race down the straightaways again. We've got to run so much gear down the straightaways it kind of bogs the motor coming out of the corners. Traction isn't a problem. The track's usually good and moist."

The question of racing against his brother and father inevitably comes up. Here is Bruce's take. "I'm aware of them out there. I try to be particularly careful, especially when I'm racing around my dad, but either one really. I hate to bang up two cars. If there's one car banged up pretty bad, the other two might be able to help out at home, but if we get them all banged up, it's not good. My brother and I share a shop, and my father has his shop at the house." As far as racing information Bruce explained that they pretty much share all their information, but don't necessarily set their cars up the same way.

As for how it is to race against his father and brother, Andy said, "I'm usually aware of who's around me. I might be a whisker more cautious around my dad or my brother, but we race just as hard with each other as we do anyone else."

Dave offered this on the subject, "We try to give each other a little leeway. Some of the other people we might lean on a little. We pretty much just race, and whatever happens happens."

Regarding the one-two-three finish in the first Can Am event last year at Little Valley, Bruce remarked, "I was pretty impressed with that. It's usually a feat for all of us to finish a race, let alone on-two-three. That was kind of neat. My dad was a little off on his setup. My brother and I were pretty similar. It just kind of worked out for us."

Andy echoed Bruce's observation, saying, "It's pretty rare that all three of us finish a race, let alone finishing up front like that. We had good heat races and got into the redraw for the feature, and started up toward the front. Everything was just working good that night for all three of us. That doesn't happen very often."

Dave was involved in a controversial incident during the race, making contact with Bill Holmes late in the race. Holmes came from far back and passed him in turn one, only to have contact which saw Holmes spin out, preserving the one-two-three-finish.

Here's Dave's explanation. "Bill Holmes caught up and he passed me, but he slipped sideways, and I tapped him in the corner. It looked different from the stands than it really was on the track. I went to see him afterwards, and he said that he'd already half lost it. I just kind of finished him off. It wasn't that I meant to do it. These cars are so underpowered that if you let off in the corner, you're done. I was just on the gas, and it was just a slight tap. I have nudged people on purpose, but not Bill. It was just racing." (For the record, I talked to Bill Holmes after the race and again after this interview and he totally agreed with Dave's assessment.)

It would be Bruce's and Andy's dream to move up to late models, but being basically self-sponsored the budget won't allow it, though one never knows what the future might bring. Regarding his racing future, Dave, who has raced much longer says that he takes things year by year, and that this year may be his last, but he adds, "I've said that before. We'll see what happens."

Whatever happens in the future, the Millers have already carved a little history in local racing lore, and are looking to create a little more.

-lvs-

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Series Stock car
Drivers Bruce Miller