Earns career best finish and Rookie Honors with new sponsor on board
Chase Miller had a big night at Darlington Raceway in the NASCAR Nationwide Series race on Friday. Matter of fact, it was a career night for the up and coming driver.
First, he earned a career-best finish of eighth place. Second, he shared his first top-10 with the team’s new sponsor on the No. 9 Verizon Wireless/Motorola Dodge. Third, he earned eighth after falling down a lap in the first third of the race and rallied back to get back on the lead lap. And, for the team’s efforts, Miller was the Raybestos Rookie of the Race.
And, he did all this making his first-ever start at the historic, and tricky, 1.33-mile oval and ninth of his young NNS career.
Starting 16th, Miller quickly moved up three positions on the newly-paved track. On lap 53, he radioed in to Kirk Almquist, Team Director, the car was tight. Green flag pit stops five laps later had track bar and air pressure adjustments being made.
That put Miller back into action with a better handling car, only to be lapped on lap 65. By lap 70, he was running 18th with only 16 cars on the lead circuit.
Several more cautions allowed the No. 9 Verizon Wireless/Motorola Dodge team to make adjustments and keep Miller close to using the Free Pass Rule. Making slight contact with the outside wall caused minimal damage to the right fender, but didn’t have any bearing on how Miller drove or the car handled.
With that, Miller moved to 18th where he was the first car one-lap down on a Lap 78-caution restart. But, after getting shoved up the track to lose two positions, he fell to 20th by lap 100 when the caution flew.
A perfectly-executed stop for tires, fuel, track bar and air pressure adjustments left Miller in 20th place as the fourth car one lap down. By lap 127 Miller had worked his way to 16th as the first car one lap down when the caution waved on lap 128.
Back on the lead lap in 16th place after a lengthy red-flag for a multi-car wreck, the driver and crew rallied around each other. When the race restarted on lap 134, it wouldn’t stay green for long with the caution waving four laps later.
Miller had moved up to 15th for a lap 144 restart when five leaders tangled together in front of him. Great driving and spotter work allowed Miller to avoid the carnage and move to ninth place.
Almquist called Miller in to put on four new tires with higher air pressure for a green/white/checker finish. This would allow Miller to run faster on a short run, just like in a qualifying lap.
It worked as Miller gained one more position chasing the checkers to finish eighth. He also achieved his weekly goals of finishing on the lead lap and bringing the car home in one piece.
Chase Miller Quotes
“Wow, what a night. It was insane out there with guys crashing into the wall and each other. I just tired to be patient and stay out of trouble. I was hoping we’d do well, but I didn’t think we’d do this well – I am so pumped up right now. I mean, this is Darlington – the track too tough to tame – and we finished eighth.
“I just kept following around some of the veterans out there and trying to learn from them. It worked as I would see how they would enter a turn and how they’d exit and go up near the wall. I felt bad we crunched up the car a bit in practice on Thursday, but I really have to hand it to Kirk and the team. They fixed it and we didn’t lose a thing. Pit stops were incredible and helped keep me where I needed to be for track position.
“The end of the race was just crazy. I made it through those two big wrecks unscathed and can’t believe we are leaving here – Darlington – with a top-10. They said my mom and dad about fainted in the pit stall a few times with some things that almost happened to me out there. But this finish is great; I’m ready to go to Charlotte and race right now.”