Miller Racing perseveres for two top-10s in season opener
Late-race cautions thwart strategy
The Multimatic Motorsports/Miller Racing team, based in Markham, Ontario, Canada, scored seventh- and ninth-place finishes in the season-opening race of the 2014 International Motor Sports Association (IMSA) Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge (CTSCC) at Daytona International Speedway on Friday, January 24.
The new team, which combines the resources of Canada’s renowned, championship-winning Multimatic Motorsports with the Salt Lake City-based Miller Racing, founded in 2011 by the late Roger Miller, fields two Ford Mustang Boss 302R entries in the CTSCC’s Grand Sports (GS) class.
Driving the No. 158 entry are Ian James, Roger Miller’s longtime co-driver, and Billy Johnson, who comes to the team after a long partnership with Ford and Roush Racing. The sister No. 15 is co-driven by Multimatic veterans Scott Maxwell and Jade Buford. The team’s commercial partners are Ford Racing, Total Care Auto, Prestige Financial and ViON.
The team had mixed fortunes in Thursday’s qualifying session, which was reduced to one flying lap due to a red-flag stoppage. Buford broke his own track record to put the No. 15 on the pole position, while James suffered a mechanical malfunction on his first lap and was unable to post a qualifying time, which relegated him to a 29th-place starting position, the last car in the GS class among a total field of 64 cars.
In Friday’s race, the No. 15 had a relatively uneventful run, starting from pole and running in the top five until the first round of pit stops, despite being down on power. After the pit stop the car was running mid-pack and working its way back toward the front, but a rash of late-race caution flags following the team’s second stop thwarted the strategy and Buford and Maxwell finished the race in seventh place.
Interestingly, the No. 15 car was actually pulled from a Ford museum, having been “retired” after the 2011 season, when it was fielded by Multimatic for Maxwell and Joe Foster. It will go back to a museum and be replaced by another Ford Mustang Boss 302R prior to the next race of the season at Florida’s historic Sebring International Raceway on March 14.
For the No. 158 team the race was a bit more eventful. Starting from 29th, James was judged to have jumped the start and had to serve a stop-and-go penalty in the opening laps. The team pitted the car early to get a better track position, and the plan was going well – with the car actually leading Laps 26-34 of the 54-lap event prior to its final pit stop – until the late-race cautions. James and Johnson were unable to do better than ninth at the finish of the 2.5-hour race.
“The final race for the famous orange No. 15 car!” said Maxwell. “The Multimatic/Miller Mustang handled really well and our pit stops were perfect; we were just really down on straightline speed. So I’m satisfied with seventh, but hungry for more. As usual, Jade did a super job, as did Billy and Ian in the No. 158 car. We just have to focus on Sebring now, and sorting out a new car. I’m confident we will be at the front sooner than later.”
“I want to thank the entire Multimatic/Miller team and Ford Racing,” said Buford. “The team executed a perfect race, and Scott and I got just about all we could out of the No. 15 car. We just didn't have enough to compete with the BMWs and Porsches this time. I'm looking forward to our race at Sebring and finding that extra bit of speed.”
“Our strategy was working but for the proliferation of caution periods in the last half of the race,” said James. “Our car was actually leading at one point. We pitted late for Billy to get in and he re-entered in 15th. He did great to get back to ninth at the end. Our car was down on power; otherwise I’m sure the result could have been better. The crew will be woking hard between now and Sebring to find some more speed in the car. Thanks to Miller Racing, Multimatic Motorsports, Ford Racing, Total Care Auto and Prestige Financial for making this possible. We plan to arrive at Sebring faster and stronger!”
“The whole team worked really hard on getting the No. 158 ready for the race,” said Johnson. “While the result wasn’t what we hoped for, given all of the hurdles that we had to overcome and being down on speed, a top-10 was a decent finish and a good start for the season. Ian did a great job moving through the field twice and I'm looking forward to the rest of the season with him and the whole Multimatic/Miller team. We were a bit disadvantaged, but with some help I know we have all of the pieces to produce some strong results in the future.”
The next race will be the series’ first appearance at Sebring, an historic but notoriously rough track created from a former WWII airbase that has hosted many of the top talents in the history of the sport.
/The Multimatic Motorsports/Miller Racing
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