|Racing Class:||Spec Iron|
|Sponsors:||Miller Contracting Services, Performance Automotive|
|Day Job:||HVAC contractor|
|Favorite TV show:||“Last Man Standing”|
|Favorite Movie:||Too many to list, but mostly action films.|
|Favorite Book:||Ford Parts Catalog|
Robert Miller knows during a race weekend there is a giant bull’s-eye on his Ford Mustang in the Spec Iron class.
Miller has been the driver to beat in NASA’s Southeast region by capturing two consecutive NASA Eastern State Championships and winning the Southeast Spec Iron class the last three years. But don’t expect Miller to give up his spot atop the podium without a fight even as he helps fellow Spec Iron drivers close the gap.
“He wants more and more competition and he wants closer competition. That’s why he’s so helpful to everybody,” said Spec Iron racer Cash Canada, who was Miller’s first driving instructor. “He wants good competition because that makes him a better racer and it makes everybody else a better racer.”
Miller started running Time Trial with NASA in 2007 and won a championship before turning his focus to road racing three years later. Miller was a fan of Ford Mustangs — his first car was a 1969 Mustang — so he started racing in American Iron. After a couple of seasons Miller was getting concerned with the costs in American Iron, so he jumped over to a newly created Spec Iron class.
Miller flourished in Spec Iron because it was a competition between drivers and not just which team had the biggest budget. He likes the lower starting costs for the class, which features Ford Mustangs manufactured between 2005 and 2010, and the abundance of replacement parts.
“I call it the lazy man’s race car. Put gas and oil in it, put tires on it and watch the grass grow around it between sessions,” Miller said.
But Miller and his older brother, Mitch, do everything but watch the grass grow between track sessions. Both are always tinkering on the car even though it arrives at the track fully prepped by Robert.
“He’s extremely driven, extremely competitive and constantly looking for more, and that’s what makes him, I think, so successful,” said Ed McGuire, series director for Spec Iron in the Southeast Region. “He’s willing to do the work and go the extra mile that a lot of drivers won’t do.”
Because Miller runs 15 NASA events a season, maintaining the Mustang takes on greater importance. He does all of the work in a detached garage with a lift next to his home in Monroe, N.C. If you don’t find Miller at the heating and air conditioning business he owns, chances are he’s in the race shop building a racecar.
Miller has built three Spec Iron cars, and currently has one currently for sale. While he builds the cars as a hobby, McGuire says the ready-to-race vehicles help bolster the Spec Iron class beyond the Southeast Region.
Little did Miller know he would have to build a new Spec Iron car after the 2014 Eastern State Championships at Road Atlanta because he crashed into a wall during Time Trials. The crash hung over him in the off-season because the car was primed for a championship. He would have to wait a year, but won back-to-back Spec Iron championships in 2015 and 2016.
“Losing by wrecking, that was a bitter pill, which is why I wanted to win nationals the next year (2015) so much more, just to prove that the car could do it,” Miller said. “It’s a different car, of course, but I just thought I was owed one.”
Miller said while he’s aggressive on the track he doesn’t make low-percentage moves. He reviews videos of previous races on the track but doesn’t lean heavily on data or video. Miller prefers to study fellow driver’s track times and make changes to the car based on how it’s running that day.
“If he lays down a track record, the first thing he’s going to do is go make a change on the car and see if he can go any faster,” said Canada, adding, “He’s very consistent and makes very few, if any, mistakes. It’s hard to rattle him. You can fill up his rearview mirror lap after lap and you’re not going to unnerve him.”
Miller was one of the first drivers to make the switch from American Iron to Spec Iron. To give the class its own identity, Miller encouraged drivers to wrap their cars with comic book characters. Miller’s car features an Iron Man character while other Spec Iron drivers have created Captain America, Superman and Wolverine themes.
“I think (the wraps) actually did more than he or any of us anticipated,” McGuire said. “What it ended up doing was attracting a lot of the younger kids that come to the track and they see this big ‘Iron Man’ on the hood. They can relate to that right away.”
Adds Miller, “I wanted to draw as much attention to the class as I possibly could and that’s kind of how the wrap came about. Everybody asks about that car and it started attracting more and more attention.”
In three years since its inception, the Spec Iron class in the Southeast region has grown to nine cars with about five to seven cars attending each race. Miller is encouraged by the series growth and might one day be joined by two of his adult children in Spec Iron. His oldest son Robert, 29, and daughter Jordan, 24, have run HPDE events but don’t currently have plans to join their father in the Spec Iron class.
Success for Miller isn’t the number of trophies he wins, Canada said, but the number of new competitors he can bring to the class.
“I know he cares about winning, but he’d rather have 10 cars out there racing,” Canada said. “His real passion is to get the car counts up in our series and grow it. I think that’s how he’d measure his success and the success of our series.”