PIRELLI PADOCK PASS: JON MILLER
Jon Miller and his ST Racing co-driver Harry Gottsacker have dominated the Pirelli GT4 America SprintX West Pro-Am championship, clinching the title at Portland with two races remaining on the schedule.
This week in the Pirelli Paddock Pass, Miller fills us in on what has made the pairing so succesful, the significance of his first motorsports championship, and more.
What has been the highlight of your Pirelli GT4 America SprintX West season?
“During any season you have highs and lows. This year we’ve been fortunate to have more standout moments than forgettable ones. Winning races overall is always extremely gratifying.
“So far, Harry and I have two of those; one at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca and the win that clinched the championship at Portland International Raceway.
“That’s a dream scenario, clinching a championship with an overall race win – so I’ll always look back on that with a big smile on my face.
“Another moment that stands out is the Sunday race at the season opening round at COTA. It was a cold, rainy weekend.
“During the few dry practice laps, our previous setup notes weren’t giving us a fast, happy racecar. We kept trying new things and on Sunday we found some magic for the race.
“Harry drove a brilliant opening stint and the team timed the pit-stop to perfection.
“During my stint, each lap felt better than the last and I was having a blast, joking on the radio all the way to the checker.
“It was one of those rare stints that you look back on fondly, where everything was working and you feel satisfied with your performance, regardless of where you crossed the line.
“We earned the hard charger award, a class win and a P4 overall. My wife and son were there to share in the celebrations which is always the best part of getting a result.”
How enjoyable has it been working with Harry Gottsacker and the rest of the ST Racing team?
“This is my second season driving with ST Racing, in 2018 I joined Aurora Straus in the No. 36 BMW M4 GT4 for the balance of the SprintX season after COTA.
“She and I had a successful run together, landing on the podium a few times, including a class win at VIR. I was thrilled that things worked out to come back with ST Racing for 2019 to build on that.
“Having that continuity with the team and the BMW GT4 platform is what made the difference for Harry and me this year. Samantha, Ken and Ben have put together a highly competitive group that is focused on results.
“I think Harry and I process information in a similar way, so communication between us has been effective from day one. He’s young and fast, but his demeanor is calm and methodical.
“He approaches racing like a veteran, driving with him has been a real treat. He didn’t have a chance to test before COTA, and the M4 required a different approach than what he was used to.
“He adapted extremely well once he understood some of the nuances of the BMW.
“Given how different the TCR and GT4 platforms are, the success he’s had with Bryan Herta Autosport Hyundai TCR in IMSA shows how versatile he is.
What would it mean for both ST Racing cars to finish 1-2 in the West Pro-Am points as they are right now?
“This is my first championship win of any kind, so personally I’m extremely proud of we’ve accomplished together.
“I’ve been close before, but we haven’t always had the luck or all of the pieces in the right place at the right time. This year felt different from the get-go, so to execute on that is extremely gratifying.
“Being a two car team, competing against each other in the same class, you might think that there was tension under the awning, but that wasn’t the case.
“We share information freely and having the team finish 1-2 in the West Pro-Am championship would be further validation that this group can compete with any of the bigger teams who have been competing at this level for much longer.”
With so many unknowns surrounding the finale at Las Vegas, how much of a relief is it to have the championship in hand?
:It’s a big relief! Not knowing anything about the track layout or surface does add an extra layer of anxiety, but everyone is in the same boat. Personally, I enjoy the challenge of a new track.
“I’m looking forward to another great, clean battle with our SRO GT4 competitors. We like to win races, so our on-track approach for Las Vegas is the same as always.
“We’re looking froward to celebrating a great season with the team and our family and friends on Sunday evening.”
What programs are you working on for next season?
Prior to the SRO finale in Vegas I’ll be in Europe for a few races. I’ll be at VLN7 and VLN8 at the Nurburgring and the inaugural Spa500 TCR race in an Audi RS3 LMS as part of an all-American lineup with Ferda AutoSport by QSR Racing.
For 2020, some international endurance racing is likely, but I’d love to fit those races in-between a full season at home, in TCR, GT4 or GT3. Some of those conversations are already happening, but there’s nothing to announce just yet.