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Don Miller Helping People Walk All Over Former Drivers

Rick Minter | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Thursday, May 21 2009
Driver Ryan Newman and his former boss, Don Miller.

Driver Ryan Newman and his former boss, Don Miller.

By Rick Minter | Senior Writer
RacinToday.com

Mooresville, N.C. – Don Miller has gone from working with some of the sport’s fastest cars and most talented current drivers to working with cars and drivers that likely will never race again.

And he absolutely loves it.

As president of Penske Racing South, Miller was the overseer for the preparation of the cars driven by Rusty Wallace and others, including Ryan Newman, who still joins Miller on regular sessions restoring and driving their collections of vintage cars.

Today Miller is chairman of the North Carolina Auto Racing Hall of Fame. On Wednesday, he was front and center as the City of Mooresville held a ceremony to unveil its Walk of Fame on the sidewalk in downtown Mooresville. The stone logos in the pavement honor the members of the hall.

Among those on hand for the ceremony were Richard Petty, David Pearson, Buddy Baker, Bobby Allison, Ned Jarrett, Teresa Earnhardt and Terii Parsons.

Current Cup driver David Stremme was there too, for the same reason as many others. “Don Miller asked me to come,” he said, his presence on a busy day showing once again the respect Miller carries in NASCAR.

As the festivities concluded, Miller stood on the podium and seemed as proud as he once was when Penske cars drove into Victory Lane.

“It took us five years to do get this done, but from the response we’re getting it was worth it,” he said. “When we started getting these stones made in Texas, the guy that was going to do it passed away, so we had to start all over.

“We were finally able to pull it all together.”

Miller said transition into his current duties wasn’t as awkward or difficult as it might seem.

“I’ve always been involved in a lot of charities, and this is all hooked directly to the North Carolina Auto Racing Hall of Fame, which is a foundation and that foundation supports the abused children of the Carolinas.

“It wasn’t even a step for a stepper. I just moved over and kept on going.”

 Miller said he spends a day or two a week in the museum, which is located near the intersection of I-77 and Exit 36 in Mooresville. Other days are spent on various charity projects, and the rest is spent under the hood of one of his or Newman’s old cars.

He rarely attends NASCAR races, and he says that’s fine with him.

“I don’t miss the competitive side,” he said. “I don’t miss the hustle and bustle, the deadlines, but I do miss the people a lot.

“But this is the next part of my life, and I’m going to live it as hard as I lived the other one.”
Miller said he doesn’t believe the opening of the NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte will affect his smaller facility.

“It’s all NASCAR where this is every type of motorsports,” he said. “Ours is never going to be the biggest one. We just want to make it the best one.”
To that end, there are plans to expand the facility, adding wings decicated to drag racing and open-wheel racing.

“It’s going to take a little time,” he said. “We get no state or city funding, and we’re not going to get any bail-out money. We’re going to grow slow, be methodical and be here for a long time.”
And Miller said he plans to be there for a long time himself.

“I was born and raised in Chicago, spent 22 years in St. Louis and now I’ve been here for 21 years,” he said. “Mooresville is my home. This is where I’m staying. I love it right here.”

Rick Minter | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Thursday, May 21 2009
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