LONG BEACH, Calif. (April 16, 2000) Johnny Miller took his ...
LONG BEACH, Calif. (April 16, 2000) Johnny Miller took his #64 Automationdirect.com/UPS Corvette from fourth on the grid to the win at the Johnson Controls 100 Presented by Simple Green BFGoodrich Tires Trans-Am Series race today, part of the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. It was a hard fought race, and a hard fought victory, as Miller had to wait four hours after the conclusion of the event to be declared the winner.
"This is for the whole crew," said Miller after picking up his first career Trans-Am win. "For all the long hours they've put in, and all the frustration. I couldn't have done it without them. And this is just the first of many more."
For Miller, born in Los Angeles and knocking on the door of his first career win for some time, it was only fitting that the win should come at Long Beach. In each of the past two races here, Miller has qualified in the Fast Five, including a front row start in 1998, his career first. In 1998, he finished third here. In 1999, he finished second; there was only one more podium position left to claim for the 1996 Trans-Am Rookie of the Year, and that was what he accomplished today.
Miller qualified on the pole at the first Trans-Am race of this year, setting a new track record at Sebring, Florida. He led 11 laps there, nearly half the race, before getting caught up in a last-lap accident and finishing in 16th. At Charlotte, mechanical problems hindered him in practice and qualifying, leaving him sixth on the grid, but in final practice he was running laps within hundredths of a second of fast-qualifier Paul Gentilozzi. Unfortunately, more problems in the race put him on the sidelines early.
At Long Beach, Miller was among the fastest all weekend. He grabbed the lead in the 34-lap, one hour timed event on the 28th lap. A miscommunication of the remaining time led officials to send the field off on a controversial 35th lap, but a post-race review revealed that the time limit had expired by the end of the 34th lap, and final scoring was adjusted to reflect that. Thus Miller's win was preserved. The win also puts Miller in the lead for the Johnson Controls Triple Crown, which awards $20,000 to the driver accumulating the most points at the Long Beach, Detroit, and Las Vegas rounds, as well as three bonus championship points.
"I feel sorry for Tomy Drissi," said Miller after the event. Drissi was declared the first winner, after Miller was caught up in a lap 35 accident. "In fact, I feel sorry for all the folks who had finishes taken away, and for all of us, really. It's a tough situation, and sort of taints everything. There were times in the past we thought we should have won; this was finally our day. It just doesn't feel like it now."
Miller jumps from 29th to ninth in overall season points, with 39. He is third in laps led for 2000, with 18, behind Paul Gentilozzi (53) and Brian Simo (19). Next up is Mosport, in Bowmanville, Ontario, Canada, on Sunday, May 21.