The name Joey Miller is familiar to race fans across the Midwest. In 2005, he was a rocket in the ARCA Racing Series, capturing Rookie of the Year honors and finishing second in points. The Minnesota driver went on to race a season in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series before hanging up his helmet.
“I was bitter and mad at racing and the world when I came back from North Carolina and racing trucks,” Miller told Speed51.com. “It took me a long time to realize I was the reason I wasn’t successful. I had a bad attitude and wasn’t real nice to people. So I came home and started my own home building business and pretty much focused on that.”
Over the past few years, however, Miller has popped up again, dabbling at tracks across the Midwest. For the first time in 10 years, he’s running a full schedule and has never been happier behind the wheel.
“It's taken until now to actually have fun racing again. I've always had the racing itch but I just didn't want to work that hard at it,” laughed Miller. “I've sold everything I had several times and I always end up buying more and starting over. This time it's just different, it's just been fun! There isn't pressure and nothing is expected, I mean I am going to win though.
Miller’s motivation? His family. The 31-year-old and his wife, Deanna, were both involved in the old ASA Series and reconnected a few years ago. The two now have a daughter, Carlee, who is four and a son, Corbin, who is 18 months. Deanna grew up around racing and now Miller says has helps push him behind the wheel.
“Why now? Honestly, my wife, Deana,” said Miller. “It's something that we have in common, she's very passionate about (racing) and she grew up around it so she gets it. Heck, if I screw up in the car she lets me know it. We both wanted our kids to know and understand the sport. We love the friendships, the values and the life lessons racing has taught us. It can give you the highest of highs & then humble you quickly.”
In true family spirit, Miller’s schedule this year includes running for a championship at his home track of Elko Speedway (MN) and traveling to Columbus Motor Speedway (OH), his wife’s home track, on off weekends.
“We leave our third car at my father-in-law’s house so we didn't need to tow it back & forth. If we hadn't got rained out at Columbus four or five times at the beginning of the year we'd have a bunch more races in for national points by now.”
Miller has seen success at both tracks this year, finding victory lane four times at Elko Speedway and once at Columbus Motor Speedway. He credits his success to hard work, something he may have lacked years ago.
“What's been working is how hard we have been working,” said Miller. “When we decided to run the full season I asked Mike Resop to help me and it has been wide open in the shop ever since. We are out there every night and I'm always trying to sneak in the shop when I can during the day. Mike & Bob (Cumbow) are my main help. I have Phil & Nate on race days, but no paid help like the old days. This is a 100-percent let's have fun and go win some races deal.”
After a pair of third-place finishes in Ohio, Miller finally got the win at Columbus last weekend. With this being the track’s final year of racing and the family ties it has to his in-laws, it was a very special trip to Victory Lane for the Miller family.
“To win there was emotional for sure,” said Miller. “It was great to have our kids there. I'm not really an emotional guy but that was one win for sure I wanted. To see my wife in tears, my father in law choked up, my kids so excited, that's the moments and the memories I will treasure.”
Miller hopes to treasure another moment at the end of the year, by winning an Elko championship. He currently sits second in points, just 23 back of current leader Jacob Goede.
-By Jana Wimer, Speed51.com Midwest Editor – Twitter: @JWimm22