Miller (2nd from right) with the Dempsey Racing team at Road America two weeks ago.

Sports car community reflects on Roger Miller’s passing

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The racing fraternity, and the niche that is the North American sports car community, is a tight-knit bunch. So it came as a shock to most to hear of the passing of Roger Miller, son of Utah business legend Larry H. Miller, after this weekend’s GRAND-AM Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge race in Kansas. Roger Miller was 45; he was a regular in CTSCC and made several starts in the Pirelli World Challenge GTS class, in both cases, in a Ford Mustang Boss 302.

Although this is by no means exhaustive, here are some quotes and tweets remembering Miller that have emerged over the last two days.

QUOTES FROM DEMPSEY RACING TEAM

Patrick Dempsey: “The news hit us all hard, a shocking and deeply sad loss of a dear friend. We can’t express enough our sorrow and sympathy for Roger and his family. He was an integral part of our team and, more significantly, such a great friend for much longer than that. Our relationship with Roger and his family started at Miller Motorsports Park several years prior to racing with him and it was always a pleasure. Just a fantastic person, great teammate, and I am so glad, Joe, Ian and I and other members of our team were able to spend some time that will now be cherished with Roger just two weeks ago at Road America.”

Joe Foster: “What a shocking loss to all of us. Roger was a friend and I so enjoyed his passion for all things friends, family and racing.  While not losing focus on family and business, Roger had put a huge effort into his on-track performance and had made big progress.  Patrick and I really enjoyed his company at the races along with Cheri and the kids.  I am just numb and I can only think of his family at the moment.”

Ian James: “Devastating news, Roger was without doubt one of the nicest people I have had the fortune to call a friend. Generous almost to a fault, always making sure everybody else had what they needed, and a burning passion for racing that was unrivaled. He started racing later in life but he just kept getting better and better every race, I will truly cherish the good times and his ever present smile that would brighten anyone’s day. My thoughts and prayers go out to his wonderful family that he cared so much about.

TWEETS

Al Carter (@alcarter3): Hard to believe the surprising news of the passing of Roger Miller. Condolence to his family and all those he knew.

Tyler Cooke (@TylerCooke116): Still can’t believe the news of Roger Miller passing yesterday. We raced with him at Kansas. #RIP

Turner Motorsport (@TurnerMotrsprt): Extremely sad to hear unexpected death of Roger Miller, a friend and racer in the Grand-Am Series. Thoughts and prayers with his family.

Scott Maxwell (@smaxwell27) Thoughts go out to all the friends and family of Roger Miller. He will be missed.

Gunnar Jeannette (@gunnarjeannette): Really sad to hear of the passing of Roger Miller. He was a great guy & passionate racer.

Calvin Fish (@calvinfish): Shocked to hear of passing of @continentaltire driver Roger Miller. Just so so sad, great guy with lots to live for.Thoughts to family #RIP

Pirelli World Challenge (@WCRacing): Our condolences to the friends and family of Roger Miller. You will be missed by your racing family. @NASAUtah @rlmlr

Andy Lally (@AndyLally): Really sad to hear of the passing of Continental driver Roger Miller this morning. A very passionate racer and great guy. RIP.

Jeremy Scott, MRN Kansas pit reporter (@jscottontheair) : Wow, sad news to hear that Roger Miller has passed away. This after finishing 11th in yesterday’s CTSCC race. Prayers to the Miller family.

Matt Cleary, Sunday Group Management (@sundaygroup): Very sad news of Roger Miller passing. His dad was big reason  for Mustang Challenge @FordRacing

Spencer Ryan Hall (saltcityhoops) : Sorry to hear about the passing of Roger Miller, the son of Larry H. Miller. He was a father of 9 kids & a 28-year employee w/ LHM companies

David Locke (lockedonsports, Jazz announcer): Stunned to hear news of Roger Miller’s passing.  Always enjoyed our talks about technology and cars.  Deepest thoughts to Miller family. DL

Ryan Eversley (@ryaneversley): I’ve just learned that Roger Miller who races in our @CT_Challenge has passed away. We just raced together yesterday in Lambos and CT. #RIP

(Updated) NHRA shocker: Englishtown ceases drag racing operations immediately, cancels NHRA Summernationals

Photo courtesy NHRA
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If put in baseball terms, Wednesday morning’s news from the NHRA is comparable to Yankee Stadium closing down for good.

One of the most popular and longest-running race tracks on the NHRA national event circuit — Old Bridge Township Raceway Park in Englishtown, New Jersey — announced in a statement that “it will no longer host any drag racing events at its facility, effective immediately. This includes the 49th Annual NHRA Summernationals, scheduled to take place this June.”

This is massive — and terrible news — for NHRA fans, particularly those on the East Coast, as the track more commonly known simply as “Englishtown” has long been a destination point for fans in the New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Delaware and Maryland area for decades. That not only includes NHRA national events, but also local bracket racing at the track.

Few details on the decision to stop all drag racing events are known. However, the track has long struggled being landlocked and unable to expand its runoff area for cars that have problems stopping under their own power. That is especially problematic for Top Fuel dragsters and Funny Cars, which are the most powerful cars in the sport and, due to the 10,000 horsepower they produce, often need longer stopping distances.

NHRA Funny Car driver Scott Kalitta was killed in a crash at Old Bridge Raceway on June 21, 2008, when his car was unable to stop in the runoff area and collided with a portable crane past the runoff area.

NHRA spokesperson Jessica Hatcher told NBC Sports in an email Wednesday morning that the sanctioning body will not look to find a replacement venue for Englishtown on the 2018 racing schedule.

As a result, the 2018 Mello Yello Drag Racing Series schedule will shrink from 24 to 23 going forward with Englishtown’s departure.

” ‘Stunned’ is the perfect word to describe how we are all feeling right now,” Hatcher said. “For 2018, we are focusing on the remaining 23 events and do not foresee any additional changes to the schedule.”

UPDATE: Hatcher reached out again to NBC Sports later Wednesday afternoon with an addendum that could be promising for race fans in other markets: “Upon hearing the news about the Englishtown track, we’ve received a significant level of interest from other track operators about hosting a national event in 2018.  We’re not sure if this is possible for 2018, but we’re definitely looking into it, if not for 2018, then perhaps for 2019.”

New NHRA president Glen Cromwell said in a media release, “NHRA drag racing events have been held at the track in Englishtown for almost 50 years. The Summernationals have played an important part of our heritage and we hope that fans in the area will try to make it to another of our events.

“Our focus remains on making the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series a memorable experience for our fans, racers, sponsors, partners and tracks.”

The nearest venues to Englishtown that will host NHRA events this season are Maple Grove Raceway outside Reading, Pennsylvania (105 miles west of Englishtown) and New England Dragway in Epping, New Hampshire (310 miles northeast).

The Napp family, which owns Old Bridge Township Raceway Park, issued a statement that the facility will remain open and continue business as usual going forward — with the exception of eliminating all drag racing events, both national and local.

“Old Bridge Township Raceway Park, the Napp family owned and operated business announced today a reorganization of the company’s business operations,” the statement said. “To achieve this goal, Raceway Park will no longer conduct quarter mile or eighth mile drag racing events effective immediately.

“Raceway Park will retain and use the ‘stadium’ portion of the facility including the VIP hospitality tower and grandstands and continue most of its operations including the spring and fall auto swap meets, numerous car shows, both motocross racing and practice, kart racing, as well as drifting, a full schedule of road course activities, mud runs, monster truck shows, musical concerts, & festival events and more. The long standing Old Bridge Township Airport, owned and operated by Raceway Park will also continue to operate as normal.”

From a driver’s perspective, veteran NHRA racer Shawn Langdon, who is switching from a long career in Top Fuel to Funny Car this season for Kalitta Motorsports, won in Top Fuel at Englishtown in 2013 and laments the decision to drop drag racing there.

“It really caught me by surprise because I had not heard a thing about that,” Langdon said. “It’s unfortunate because that place has such rich history and so many great things have come out of that race in the past. It was a track that meant a lot to the Kalitta family and with Scott. They always wanted to win one for Scott. We’d have loved to have the opportunity to go back to the track and win that race for Scott.”