Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Six Quick Questions With Joel Miller

It'd be tough not to root for Indy Lights driver Joel Miller. After multiple wins in Skip Barber and Star Mazda, 2010 saw him work his way into his first two Indy Lights starts. After his first Lights race at Long Beach, he drove from the back of the field to finish 9th at Sonoma. He doesn't have any plans of stopping there. Joel took a timeout to answer our latest edition of Six Quick Questions, from his progress up the Road to Indy ladder system to (of course) plans for 2011. I think you'll definitely like where he's coming from and what he has to say.

What's your journey been like to the Indy Lights series so far, and how's this offseason been treating you?

JM: My journey to the Firestone Indy Lights Championship started when I first began karting at the age of 6. Since then I have progressed up the Road to Indy ladder system from karting, Formula Ford, Skip Barber National Championship, Star Mazda Pro Championship, and now the Firestone Indy Lights Championship, thus winning at every stage. The journey has been proven difficult however, never giving up has gotten me to the next stage in my career. This offseason has been extremely busy! We have been making phone calls to potential partners, reaching out, creating new opportunities and trying to make deals come together. I really want to be on the grid at St. Petersburg!

There's been some definite changes to the Road to Indy, with Mazda coming on board as a sponsor and a scholarship for the Lights champ. What do you think of the changes, and what other changes would you like to see implemented for Lights and the Road to Indy?

JM: Mazda coming on board is superb for the driver because if they win, they then get to progress up to the next level. I have managed to benefit from this ladder system greatly over the years from winning championships since karting and it is a terrific thing for drivers. For example, I won the Stars of Karting Championship in 2006 which had gotten me the scholarship for the Skip Barber National Championship for 2007. I then went on from the Skip Barber National Championship taking the Title, which landed me the Mazda Scholarship to move up to the Star Mazda Pro Championship in 2008. I won the opening round in the Star Mazda Pro Championship in 2008 and ended up finishing 2nd in the championship that year. Without the help of Mazda, it would have been difficult to make it out of karting, but by proving I could win, I was able to progress farther up the ladder. So with this example, the changes are all in the right direction for the sport. As for me, I would like the chance to show what I can do in the Firestone Indy Lights Championship and go for that scholarship for the Indy Lights champion. If I had to choose one thing to implement to the series, it would be for the Indy Car teams to field an Indy Lights car in the Championship with direct connection. This would allow a much closer link for a Lights driver to move up within the team they are already associated with and gain the knowledge of the higher series. This might enable the teams assets from the Indy Car to be shared to the Indy Lights effort in terms of funding, sponsorships and marketing.

What's it like out there for Lights drivers trying to find sponsorship right now? Do you think things are heading in the right direction for IndyCar and Indy Lights?

JM: Right now trying to find funding for Indy Lights is a huge challenge and obstacle. However, things are moving in the right direction, but at a much slower rate than I would like to see. Trying to sell signage on the side of an Indy Lights car and other marketing aspects is a very tough task, which is why I have resorted to other means of getting a great ROI for the companies/people who partner with and sponsor me. For example, we held a large charity celebrity poker tournament before the Sonoma Grand Prix last season which allowed me to compete in the event with Bryan Herta Autosport. The main promotion for the companies was to be apart of the poker tournament branding, advertising, online coverage, pr, and cross promotions with other celebrities and athletes as it reached a whole different audience. It was a tremendous success and we thus hope to extend our marketing and public relations possibilities even further this year through other new means of exposure. The number one question that is asked from every company I approach concerns the television coverage. Almost every entity wants to know if the races appear on a name/ branded broadcast station. If this was to happen amongst the Indy Lights Series, then I think the search for support would pick up drastically. Another example I can share is in 2008 with my sponsor K&N Air Filters. K&N had signed onto my program for 2008 because of the television schedule the series had, but when the series lost the television package for 2009, I had lost the sponsor.

What's been your favorite moment so far in your racing career, and if you could race at any one track, which one would it be?

JM: My favorite moment thus far in my racing career would have to be between winning the ICA Championship for Tony Kart in karting and taking my first start in the Firestone Indy Lights Championship at the Long Beach Grand Prix this past season. When I was 9 years old I attended the World Championship of Karting race in Europe as a spectator. I saw that the Tony Kart team was the best and the best drivers were racing in the Formula Super A category. At that point I told myself I wanted to win for that team in a comparable category when I was old enough. This was one such goal I was able to complete in 2006. It was a similar story and goal about the Long Beach Grand Prix which I finally got the chance to race in during this past season. As per your question of racing on any track in the world? There is still one last place in which is still a life-long dream of mine to race at and that would be the famous Indianapolis Motor Speedway. This is a track that is absolutely amazing, full of life and has the fan-base that make a drivers heart beat. I look forward to that day!

What's your drive and motivation? What pushes you to be a successful professional racer? What inspires you when you need it?

JM: My drive comes from my grandfather who started me in the sport with karting when I was younger. Nothing was ever good enough unless I won each race and even with a win I could have done something better. He was also a hard worker and believed if you work hard, believe in yourself and give it everything you have, you will achieve your goals. He never gave up on a goal and neither will I. I had grown up on his farm before I had even started racing, thus took all those traits to heart. He is definitely an inspiration to me to be a successful professional racer and he inspires me to go all the way within my career.

Lastly, you know we have to ask--how's 2011 shaping up for you? Do you see your participation in Indy Lights increasing this year?

JM: Well, positivity and hard work is what has gotten me this far. I wish I could say I have a ride in the Firestone Indy Lights Championship lined up for 2011 and look to start testing next week, but this is not the case quite yet. I am praying for a successful beginning of the year as many of the people and companies we have been talking to in December took some early holidays. We have put forth some great efforts and tremendous ideas for offering great ROI's, marketing concepts and advertising to various businesses so I hope to see a few businesses onboard soon here.

Thank you very much for your time, to all of the Indy Car/ Indy Lights Fans for your support and I look forward to seeing everybody on the grid at St. Pete!

Contact: Monarchy Media Management
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