The way Ron Miller sees it, the bigger the challenge, the more interested he gets.
This latest one immediately grabbed his attention and, well, it might be his biggest one yet.
The longtime racing veteran stepped out on a limb with his latest foray in drag racing, jumping into an Extreme Pro Stock car at the ADRL’s most recent event, the Kansas National Guard Independence Drags V at Heartland Park Topeka.
That in itself isn’t a big deal, but that doesn’t touch on the major details of this challenge.
The XPS car, owned by Dwayne Rice, sat idle for more than two years until Miller jumped in it at the very last minute. To say it wasn’t in racing condition for the last two years would be an understatement, but we’ll get back to that.
First, let’s look at the even bigger challenge
For Rice to agree to let Miller race in one of the ADRLâ€™s toughest and most competitive classes, he had to agree to run a wedge motor instead of the traditional hemi engine.
That makes Miller and the XPS car a distinct rarity, but that doesn’t bother Miller. In fact, it’s exactly what he signed up for.
â€œMy expertise is with wedge engines and Dwayne said I could run it, but we couldnâ€™t put a hemi in it,â€ said Miller, who actually only drove the car because it did have a wedge engine.
â€œWe knew it would be a tough deal, but we wanted to see if we could make this thing competitive.â€
With very little time to prepare, the goal was simply to qualify in Topeka. Miller, though, just missed out, finishing in the No. 17 spot with a 4.232. He was in the field until the final qualifying session on Saturday, just missing out when Brad Waddle went 4.225 to slip in.
Miller, though, wasn’t too distraught. The car showed promise and there’s plenty of potential remaining, especially considering the car topped out at just 167.70 miles per hour, three mph less than any other XPS car in Topeka.
The car sat on jackstands for the past two years, leaving an incredible amount of work for Miller and his small team that includes Dave Forstes, Gary Wallace, Kirk Ertel and Miller’s wife, Sharon.
They somehow finished it in time for Topeka and Miller was more than happy with the finished product.
â€œThis really was a last-minute deal,â€ Miller said. â€œTwo months ago, this engine was in a million pieces and this ran one race in 2007.
â€œItâ€™s got cylinder heads you can buy from (General Motors) and this is a true wedge engine. Our runs here were the first weâ€™ve made on the car. We really have no clue on the tune-up and weâ€™ve changed everything on it.â€
That, though, is part of the enjoyment for Miller and his team, which dubs itself the “Over The Hill Gang, and they expect to see improvements as the car gets more runs.
The 62-year-old Miller is no stranger to Pro Stock cars and drag racing, but he still wasn’t totally sure if driving the car was a matter he should pursue.
XPS driver Doug Kirk convinced him and Miller has been all-in since then, enjoying the process even as he’s been put seemingly behind the eight-ball.
There are plenty of challenges that remain just to stay competitive with this talented field, but Miller wouldn’t have it any other way.
â€œThereâ€™s a lot left in this car, so I think weâ€™ll be alright,â€ Miller said. â€œOur goal is to get things worked out so the car feels good for the next race (in July in Michigan).
â€œWeâ€™re going to run the rest of the season in the ADRL and we just want to go as fast as we can.â€
(Photos by ADRL/Richards)