Driver Spotlight: Joel Miller
Driver, No. 07 SpeedSource Mazda SKYACTIV Diesel
How has it been transitioning from open-wheel to GX to Prototype in the matter of three years?
“My time in open wheel cars provided a great foundation when making the transition to sports cars. Being part of Mazda’s open wheel ladder program from karting up to Indy Lights was the only way for me to move up via the scholarships that were available. The transition to the GX class required learning some patience. Some on the driving side but at the end of the day it is a race car, you understand the limit, and drive it. The side that I had to learn, and am still learning, is the endurance side. I am able to learn from the years of experience that Sylvain Tremblay has with endurance racing which has been a great help. The transition to the P2 car has brought the driving side similar to my open wheel days with downforce, braking capabilities, and chassis related items. The fun part about the P2 car for me is you find the limit, step over it slightly, come in and speak with your engineers, make it better, and then go do it again. The car simply asks for more. I cannot wait for our next phase in the development of Mazda SKYACTIV P2 program, and translate John Doonan’s vision for this program into on-track success.”
Talk about your dual role at SpeedSource, also working with the team on the engineering side.
“Most people do not know this, but yes I hold a B.S. in mechanical engineering from the University of California Riverside. However, my number one job is driving the race car, being physically prepared as well as mentally prepare. One area the engineering background has helped is the on track driver to engineer communication. Since we are in a program where we are developing new parts for our SKYACTIV Diesel engine, or chassis components, I can communicate with our engineers in their vocabulary. Another part that I have the opportunity to be involved with is Mazda’s STEM program (Science Technology Engineering Math) with my engineering degree. This program goes to the local high schools in the areas of our events with a show car, and I get to show the students all the STEM aspects of our sport. When the students hear about the other jobs our sport carries beyond the driver, team members, or car designers the Q&A sessions could go on for hours.”
What were some of your goals for 2014, and have you met them?
“Our Mazda SKYACTIV program is in year two of its multi-year program. Mazda and SpeedSource have continued to move this program in a positive direction with every race. Each day my goal is being everything Mazda hired me to be. Specifically this year, my personal goal in driving was figuring out what makes the P2 car tick. One person who has helped me here is Jeff Braun with his vast experience in the sport. Starting the year we needed to work on our reliability which was succeeded at Sebring when the No. 70 crossed the finish line never having to go behind the wall. Our next step was closing the gap to the lead cars in the prototype field which was seen at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca as well as the GP of Indianapolis. The next logical step is attaining the teams first top-five finish. We have two races left and anything can happen at Petit LeMans!”
Are there any tracks not on the 2015 schedule that you would like to see in the future?
“Personally, I would like to see Indianapolis back on the schedule in 2015. That is definitely the open wheel side of me speaking a bit but the new circuit this year was good. I think everyone saw that once we started racing on it. The corners had good passing opportunities, technical and rhythmic sections, and an ultra-smooth surface. Mid-Ohio and Montreal are circuits that I wish could be added. The series has done a good job on the tracks thus far so would not want to lose out on the ones we currently run on. I would like to mention one thing about Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca and Road America, could we make these races longer?”
How has the move been from California to Florida? What are some of the biggest differences and what do you like about Florida so far?
“My wife and I left family and friends so that was definitely an adjustment. A few nice things that Florida presents for a driver is the championships does not leave this state until April, all winter testing is located here, most of the races you stay on the same time zone, and it is possible to find direct flights. My wife, Madison, and our little dog, Elsa, are enjoying Florida and find something new to do all the time.”