We are just days away from an event that everyone looks forward to all year long and who better to speak with than the man behind making it happen, Jason Miller.
#1 -- Who is Jason Miller? What have you done? What do you currently do?
I am the Event Director for Maryland International Raceway, and the track has been owned by my family for the last 23 years. When my parents first purchased MIR back in 1989, I started off handing out time slips at the ET Shack at only 15 years old, then moved on to selling souvenirs, selling tickets, pouring race fuel, working the water box, unclogging toilets, picking up trash, working the clocks, parking spectators and so on. When I turned 18, I wanted more responsibility and started to learn tech inspection, starting races, learning the timing system for repair of fiber optic and other systems, running the staging lanes, and various other positions. I guess you can say I worked just about every position at the racetrack. At about my mid 20s I was fascinated by promoting and track prep. My dad taught me virtually every part of the business and promoting, and gave me the title of Event Director which I still hold now. So in other words, I am the “Chief Cook and Bottle Washer”. My duties as Event Director include everything from promotions and media, to staffing the racetrack and track prep, to fixing a sink in the bathroom or still picking up trash. No one in our family is above any position.
#2 -- What initially got you into motorsports and drag racing? What form of drag racing is your passion when it comes to your free time?
My dad used to travel around the country to bracket race since I was born. So as I was growing up I was at the track every weekend and loved it. It just all fell into my lap. Many people don’t know this, but I used to be a motorcycle racer, and still consider myself one even though it has been more than 6 years since I have entered a motorcycle race. I used to race motocross at a young age when I wasn’t traveling with my dad, and when I was 16 I started to drag race motorcycles. I quit drag racing in 2006 to focus even more on MIR and its events. But I enjoy all forms of drag racing through and through and import drag racing just appealed to be from the very beginning when EIP Tuning first presented it to us back in the early 90s.
#3 -- A lot has been said about all the improvements that you have made to the facility over the last year. It is great to see track owners really working on their facilities to keep them in the best condition possible. The racers and fans really do appreciate it. Is there still a list of improvements you have on the agenda for the track into the future?
Our family has spent a lot of money on MIR over the last 2 decades. We spent over 2 million in track improvements in the year 2000 and have made steady improvements almost every year. In 2007 we built a new concession stand and restroom facility, purchases 15 additional acres, and repaved the entire pit area. It was the second largest expansion we have done at MIR since we purchased it. Last winter we did a few more things with starting line and bleachers, and purchased a 2nd
fire truck and 2nd
ambulance. My dad and I still have more plans for MIR as dollars allow. We would like to put in LED scoreboards, elevated seating, and a new restroom facility on the North side of the track.
#4 -- The World Cup Finals is one of the most talked about drag races of the year. This year from what I have gathered it is expected to be larger than ever before. The last 2 years you have had difficulty actually finishing the elimination rounds of the event. What do you have planned this year to try and avoid not completing the event?
The World Cup Finals has been very special for me. I created the event 17 years ago as a 1 day event with 300 racers and about 2,000 fans and have watched it grow into a 3-day event with over 600+ serious race teams and 20,000 fans. It’s a great feeling to see so many racers and fans passionate about what you created. WCF really brings out everyone’s passion whether you are a GM fan, a Ford fan, a Honda fan, or any other make. It really has turned into our Super Bowl at MIR. What I and my staff aim to do every year at WCF is give them a well organized event, in a time frame on the calendar with unreal atmospheric conditions, and a racing surface prepped to the max. With those elements and the passion of the racers, it has exceeded our wildest expectations. For the 2012 WCF, we had to make the tough decision to drop the ET Bracket class that has been a part of WCF since the beginning and expand the event to a 3-Day event on Fri, Sat and Sun, with parking and tech on Thursday. Every year we take steps to fix the problems of the previous year, but the event grows so rapidly that the step we have taken somehow only puts us back behind the 8 ball with more event growth. The multiple changes this year will ensure we are ahead of the game and I can’t wait!
#5 -- Amazingly with the huge array of cars that compete at the World Cup Finals the racing is generally neck and neck. This is a tribute to the rules package that seems to give everyone a fair place to race. How much time is involved keeping the playing field level? Are a lot of adjustments necessary throughout the course of the year to ensure the close competition that we all come to expect at the event?
Maintaining close competition for WCF is no doubt one of the toughest parts of the event. We must monitor multiple different series throughout the season on how cars are performing and keep up with revisions that are made in their series and why it was done. Throughout the season I probably spend several hours a week just looking at results day and night from events across the country every single week. When we start drafting the WCF rulebook in the summer each year, I sit down with various groups at different times from just about every genre in drag racing and discuss adding more combinations and cross over classes and revise combos we already have if need be. There has to be close to 300-400 hours every year in the WCF rulebook from research, to meetings, to drafting them on paper.
#6 -- I come from a Sport Compact background so naturally my questions are biased towards that direction. How do you feel about the current state of Sport Compact Drag Racing? Where does it go over the next 4-5 years from the trends we are seeing currently?
I feel that import drag racing is coming back. There are many great events across the country and so many caliber teams and shops out there that build customers whatever they want. Every form of motorsports enjoy a “honeymoon” phase, and I believe the import drag racing events of the early 90s was just that… a honeymoon phase. Things fell off a bit after that, but things are turning around now and I feel that it is headed in the right direction.
#7 -- Besides the World Cup Finals, what is your favorite event to put on at Maryland International Raceway? What event brings the best fan support?
Besides the World Cup Finals, it really is a toss up between our Ford Fever Classic, our MIROCK Bike events, and the IREV events. I enjoy all of them every much. The World Cup Finals by far draws the biggest fan attendance every year. Besides the WCF, it was events like Pinks All Out, and our Mountain Motor Nationals Pro Stock race.
#8 -- Drag Strips seem to have a tough time staying in business and putting on quality events. It seems to be a monthly occurrence at least hearing of drag strips that are near closing. What do you have to do at Maryland International Raceway to avoid this from happening? Do you get pressure from local residents, government, etc with what you do?
There are many different things that can put a drag strip out of business: too much rain, poor weathermen forecasts, lack of support due to poor management, bad location in relation to population, unrealistic curfews, problems with neighbors, etc. We actually have a great relationship with St Marys County and the neighboring communities that border MIR. We are very fortunate to have a 1am curfew, and we never break it so we can keep the peace with neighbors. So basically we work as hard as we can sometimes putting in 90-100 hours a week doing the best job we can to make sure racers and fans have a great experience at MIR.
#9 -- This isn't even a question. This is a statement. Thank you for having clean bathrooms. You have no idea how irritating it is as a racer or fan going to some of these tracks we attend with horrendous bathroom facilities. It is the little things that go a very long way.
Thank you. We are very proud of our restrooms here at MIR. Often when we have a VIP come visit the track during the week, and want a tour that is the first place we take them. Right to toilets! Haha.
#10 -- If you weren't doing the Maryland International Raceway thing what would you be doing? What are your hobbies outside of your professional life?
That is a good question! I have pondered that before and I probably would be at theme park, or a vacation resort, or maybe even in behind the sets at the movies. I really enjoy making sure everyone has a good time and love the entertainment business. We are in the entertainment business as much as we are in the racing business. Outside of my professional life, when I find the time I am normally ripping it up on my dirt bike or scuba diving. I have a great girlfriend Angela who assists me on our big events and she has an awesome 10 year old daughter Cortni. The two of them really have become my life outside of MIR.
We appreciate your time Jason and we look forward to watching this upcoming weekend turn out as great as we all expect.