MILLER'S FORTUNE IS MILLER'S BAD LUCK IN MODS By Matthew Dillner
Classic Mod Race Proves It Aint Over Till It's Over
Strolling through the pit area in the infield of North Carolina's Caraway Speedway, you can see several typical Short Track cars; Four-Cylinder cars, Camaro and Nova Street Stocks and even Trucks. But in those same pits Friday night sat one of the most unique of all types of racecars, Modifieds. Twenty two ASA/SMART Tour Modifieds lined up in a row with exposed air cleaners, headers and those big open wheels as far as you can see.
As you walk further down the row of Modifieds there sits a big Advance Auto Parts tent. A team that seems to have it all; nice looking cars and a ultra professional image that tops everyone in the series. If you are Modified fan, especially in the South you know who's ride this is.
Walking down the line you pass a black #73. It's LW Miller's car. If you have followed the ASA/SMART Tour at all last year, you know this young gun is the man to beat. Miller, a former Featherlite Modified regular, came down south last season and spanked the SMART Tour mainstays to win the championship.
Last year, Miller was shunned by some, in a series that has had a reputation for not being too kind to outsiders. But the likable bouncy kid has now won over their respect and friendships. Miller also was trying to win all the cash at Caraway because he was donating all of his winnings from the night to the Victory Junction Gang Camp.
LW Miller sits on his #73 Modified. (51 Photos)
Sitting in a white plastic chair with his feet up on a set of tires, sits the “King of the Southern Modifieds” Junior Miller. The man has won almost half of the championships in SMART since the series inception in 1989; seven to be exact. But rather than thrashing on the car, the team appears relaxed eating and talking while their legendary driver shuts his eyes for a quick nap.
But anyone who was napping certainly didn't enjoy shut-eye for too long.
When the switch is flicked and a Modified starts, it can startle even the most seasoned Modified veteran.
Junior Miller gets a little nap before a night of wild Modified action. (51 Photos)
The excitement was building when a full-field of Mods came to life in the mountains of Asheboro, NC. In a beautiful July 4th tribute, the first four starters of the race carried the American Flag out of their drivers side window.
With the flags handed back to the officials and a packed house looking on... it was time to race. The green flag dropped and the roar of 600 horsepower shook the aluminum seat beneath you.
Junior Miller, much to the fans delight, made quick work of front row starters Brian Pack and Earl Baker to take the lead. And in no-time the Modified great had nearly half of the field lapped and very little action to worry about in his rear view mirror.
Meanwhile, the other Miller... LW... didn't appear to have the fastest car at Carway. He dropped back early but kept himself on the lead lap.
But they always say in racing, especially Modifieds, “it ain't over till it's over.”
While one Miller was slacking and another was dominating, another veteran Southern Modified driver, Jay Hedgecock, was working his way through the field with the precision of a surgeon. Hedgecock was floating his OUCH #41 (OUCH stands for Organization for Understanding Cluster Headaches) on the high groove, saving his tires but pouncing with each opportunity to advance.
It took a while, and the aid of lapped traffic, but Hedgecock caught Junior Miller setting up a classic duel. The two drivers danced with each other, sliding and flirting with contact while maneuvering around lapped traffic.
But it was lapped traffic that spelled doom for Junior Miller. With Hedgecock breathing down his neck, they approached Burt Myer's #1 car. Miller appeared to skip left-side wheels on the apron in turn one, which threw him into Myer's machine and sent them both spinning in a cloud of smoke.
“I got into Burt down there,” explained Miller. “He said he didn't get into me but somebody ran me down across the curb. Then someone said Jay got into me and turned me around. I don't know what happened to tell you the truth.”
“He walked by the trailer here and one of our guys asked him what happened and he said he wasn't sure,” said Myers. “I was just running the high groove and next thing you know I just get hit in the right rear. After further review and talking about it with Junior ,he told me that he got ran over the curb. He thinks Hedgecock got into him and shot him up on the curb and into me.”
Hedgecock saw it a different way.
“We were going into turn one there,” said Hedgecock, “and it looked like he just got into the curb and it shot him up into Burt. It turned both of them around. It was just a racin' deal because he saw me coming and was trying to get away and running hard.”
With only a handful of laps to go, it looked like Hedgecock would run away with the rest of the show.
(Cue the sound of the record screech)
Like mentioned above, it isn't over until it's over.
Laying dormant most of the race, LW Miller now had fresher tires than anyone in the field. It was then that last year's SMART champ, who outsmarted everyone in the tire conservation department, to show his cards.
Miller marched to the front and battled Hedgecock wheel to wheel in the closing laps. And the end of the race was truly entertaining with the veteran battling the smart but hard charging youngster. Miller had the tires which enabled him to steal the win. .
Miller's win was important on a lot of fronts. For starters, the win earned Miller a guaranteed starting position in this November's North vs. South Shootout at Concord Motorsports Park, where the top modified drivers from the north invade and battle with the top southern drivers.
But more importantly, Miller's win helped out a lot of people outside of the North Carolina track. LW donated all of his winnings to Kyle Petty's Victory Junction Gang Camp.
“I like to do something patriotic on the fourth of July and lately have been watching all of the stuff about the Victory Junction Camp on the television and decided to do that,” said Miller. “We're small-time racers. We're not Tony Stewart where we can donate a million dollars. What we won and donated tonight, to us, is a lot. If the little guys like us could all step up and help out. It is such a great cause for the kids. I hope the rest of the small American's can step up and help out.”
LW may be a little guy in stature and in the racing world, but he has a big heart and a ton of talent. The 30-year old Mod ace showed it at Caraway on Friday night, starting out slow but coming up fast at the end and winning big.
So the next time you go to a race, don't get caught napping. You may miss something spectacular. Don't automatically think what you see is what you'll get. If you do you will be surprised, because with the Modifieds, it ain't over till it's over.
Jay Hedgecock was on the move at Caraway and is always one of the guys to beat in the Southern Modified ranks. (51 Photos)
Junior Miller's slick number 69 rockets around turns one and two, the corner that caused his demise late in the race at Caraway. (51 Photos)
LW Miller's #73 at speed at Caraway.
The Fireworks light up the sky behind Miller's victorious car. (51 Photos)