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

With 200 IndyCar wins in the books, Penske looks for No. 201 at Indy

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The history of Team Penske at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is a storied one that features 16 Indy 500 wins, including a pair of four-time winners in Al Unser and Rick Mears, and number of utterly dominant performances.

Yet, they’ll head to this year’s 102nd Running of the Indianapolis 500 looking to avenge a pair of relatively subpar performances in each of the last two years.

Power was the only Penske driver to finish in the Top 10 in 2016, with Helio Castroneves and Simon Pagenaud finishing 11th and 19th after fuel strategy intervened late in the race. And last year, all the Penske cars were somewhat down on pace compared to other teams, notably the Honda cars.

Power was the only Penske driver to qualify for the Fast Nine Pole Shootout last year – he qualified ninth. Juan Pablo Montoya and Helio Castroneves were 18th and 19th in the grid, while Josef Newgarden and Simon Pagenaud were 22nd and 23rd.

And only Castroneves was in winning contention in the final laps as he battled eventual winner Takuma Sato – Montoya was sixth, while Pagenaud was 14th and the only other Penske running at the end. Both Newgarden and Power crashed out on Lap 183.

This year, however, could see a return to the dominant form we’re used to seeing from the Penske outfit. All four cars entered – Pagenaud, Power, Newgarden, and Castroneves – qualified inside the top nine, with Pagenaud and Power on the front row.

They have all been near the front of the time sheets, especially in laps without a tow from another car, and the indication is that the Penske cars may be the fastest ones in the field.

All told, it leads to very high expectations for a team that already expects highly of itself.

Leading the way for Penske is current points leader and defending IndyCar champion Josef Newgarden. Newgarden’s best Indy 500 finish is third in 2016, but he only has one other Top 10 there – ninth in 2015.

But, with an IndyCar title now under his belt, Newgarden has his eyes set on an Indy 500 win.

Josef Newgarden looks to add an Indy 500 crown to his 2017 championship. Photo: IndyCar

“I think Indianapolis…is certainly next on the list for me,” he detailed in a press conference ahead of qualifying. “It’s not next on the list for the team, they’ve won it many times. The good thing is we have four great opportunities, especially having Helio back. I think we have one of the best opportunities in the entire field to win this race.”

Pagenaud, like Newgarden, is also looking for his first Indy triumph, though his record there isn’t quite as good. He has been fast at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, but only has two Top 10s to show for it – eighth in 2013 with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports and tenth in 2015 in his first year with Penske.

And a Pagenaud win would be somewhat historic – it would be only the fourth time a French driver has won the “500,” and the first since 1920 (Gaston Chevrolet).

Pagenaud explained that this race always holds a place as a top priority, and that success at Indy is all about preparation.

Simon Pagenaud looks to become only the first French driver to win an Indy 500 since Gaston Chevrolet in 1920. Photo: IndyCar

“It really is our number one goal. In Roger and Tim’s heart, it’s the most important one,” Pagenaud declared. “We prepare really hard. The team does a fantastic job at just understanding every bit and component of this new aero kit, trying to extract the best out of the equipment.”

Pagenaud added, “On the driver side, there’s a lot you can do obviously to review the past races, try to focus yourself, try to put yourself into the race before it happens, try to just improve. That’s what we try to do every day. That’s the goal. That’s why this group is so good. We push each other so hard that you always try to push the limits away.”

Power, the man who delivered Penske his 200th IndyCar win, is no stranger to success at IMS, having won the Grand Prix on the IMS Road Course three times. But, he is yet to find Victory Lane on the oval, and that leaves a void in an otherwise stellar career.

Will Power has won the INDYCAR Grand Prix three times, and looks for his first win at the “500” this weekend. Photo: IndyCar

Power spotlighted the opportunity in front of him, and detailed that running in traffic has been a strength thus far through practice.

“It’s fantastic to have that opportunity. Obviously very focused on (trying to win),” he revealed. “I feel like we have a really good opportunity to win this year. I mean, I think Chevrolet has brought a really good engine. I feel like we’re really fast. Running in traffic and such, I felt like we’ve been pretty strong, especially when you get to the front.”

Castroneves is the only Penske driver with Indy 500 wins on his resume. But, with three wins to his name, Castroneves is more than familiar with IMS glory.

Now a part-time IndyCar driver who races full-time in the IMSA WeatherTech Sports Car Championship with the Acura Team Penske outfit, Castroneves’ sole focus is on getting that elusive fourth win.

Helio Castroneves looks to join the four-time winners club at the Indy 500. Photo: IndyCar

And he has momentum on his side too, coming off a debut IMSA win for the Acura Penske outfit at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. A fourth Indy 500 win would put an exclamation point on the month for Castroneves.

“I think about it every day,” he said when asked about how often he ponders getting that fourth win. “It was one of those incredible ones, I have phenomenal car, the Pennzoil car was really strong last year. Obviously coming back here, first of all, I want to thank Roger and (team president Tim Cindric) for giving me the opportunity to be back at the Indy 500. It’s such a special place for so many people. Just to be back and able to continue our goal and pursue for the number four, it’s incredible.”

Pagenaud and Power will flank pole sitter Ed Carpenter on the front, starting second and third respectively. Newgarden starts fourth, while Castroneves will start eighth.

Follow@KyleMLavigne