It's been an interesting career for Matt Miller. Lots of highs, lots of lows, and even a period of no racing at all. But he has survived it all and is considered a threat to win in any level of competition.
Miller's father was a road racer in the SCCA, but Matt has found his groove on dirt.
More often than not, it seems that a racer from a racing family will pursue the particular type of motorsports the family has followed. That might be the trend, but it certainly wasn't the case here.
Matt's dad was a Formula Ford SCCA road racer, about as far away from a snarling Dirt Late Model as you can get.
"You know, I never thought that much about road racing or any kind of open wheel racing, but I did pretty well running the Quarter Midgets when I was a kid," says Matt, who hails from Whitehouse, Ohio.
Saying he did "pretty well" might be an understatement, as between ages 5 and 10 he won over 200 features, running on the national level in Ohio and Indiana.
Then, for seven long years, an amazing thing happened to the racing career of Matt Miller. He quit racing completely from age 10 to 17-nada! Nothing!
"Sort of went back to being a normal kid, and I found out that I was pretty good in sports in high school," Miller says. "I played both football and basketball, and I even got a little small college interest in football." After high school, Matt started college at the University of Toledo and has completed most of the requirements for a degree. Dirt racing soon reared its head, however. "I plan to complete college when the racing is over," he says.
That could be quite awhile.
"One of the biggest surprises of my life came when my dad bought out a Dirt Late Model team when I was a teenager, and suddenly I was going to go racing," Matt recalls. "I sure didn't know what these cars were about, but I decided to at least give it a try."
Looking back, it was a great decision.
"I ran a couple races," he says, "and I was starting from zero with those cars. The car seemed so big to me, and during the learning process I tore up a lot of stuff. It was not pretty!"
In 1990, Matt moved his fledgling show to Oakshade Speedway, a 31/48-mile dirt track in Wauseon, Ohio, initially running a lower-powered Semi-Late car. He won two races. Encouraged with that success, Matt got back into a Dirt Late Model and even went to the famous World 100 at Eldora Speedway.
The following year, he started running up front at Oakshade and showed an impressive seven wins while earning championships on both Friday and Saturday nights. "I was also happy to be the UMP Ohio State Champion that year, and won the UMP Outlaw Nationals over [Hall of Famer] Bob Pierce, which was a real thrill for me," he says.
In 1992, still running as a family team, the Millers started hitting the road more, running at places like Eldora and Wayne County Speedway.
After a seven-year absence from racing, Miller easily transitioned from high school footba
After more of the same in 1993, Matt didn't race for the following two seasons. "Just like it happened to lots of guys, I also had a NASCAR dream, so I moved south to try and make it happen," he says of that period in his life. "But as so many before and after me have found out, if you don't bring any money you can forget it."
In 1997, things really fell into place, allowing him to run at the top level. "I joined up with Denny Thornton, who was still driving at the time, but he quit and put me in a new car. Made my first World 100 and even won a heat race, beating Dale McDowell and Jack Hewitt."
So he started Dirt Late Model racing again. "Still a family deal. I bought a car and tried to get back in the dirt groove."
During the final two years of the '90s, he was on the road almost continuously, running with several series.