Day Motor Sports Driver Profile: Derek Miller gearing up for all-out assault in 2024

KILGORE, Texas — While we’ve been looking at various drivers in the open-wheel ranks as they get set for battle this season, there are dozens if not hundreds of Factory stock teams across Texas doing the same thing. The division is still enjoying enormous growth, as big-money races lure teams into the mix.

For 34-year-old racer Derek Miller, the Factory Stock class is his playground. He notched four feature wins last year at Highway 19 Speedway, and is gearing up for more in 2024 as his hometown track of Lone Star Speedway returns to action. Miller will also make the occasional trip to Louisiana’s Boothill Speedway. 

“Our 2023 season went pretty well,” Miller said. “We learned a lot last year, we had switched over to a different chassis. So we were trying to learn the ins and outs, what it liked for a setup, that kind of thing. We changed our shock package to try some different things, to see how it was going to go.

“Most people don’t know it, but 2023 was not the best year for me health-wise. I didn’t get to attend as many races as I wanted; I was in and out of surgeries. In fact, we ran the Peters Memorial race at Highway 19 on a Saturday night, and at 8 a.m. that next Monday morning, I was under the knife.” 

It’s been said the true measure of a man is how well he handles adversity. Miller was down, but not out.  

“So it was a pretty rough year for me overall; I had a lot of surgeries on my neck and lower back. We fought those issues most of the year, but overall it was still a productive season. Statistics don’t always reflect how you ran, but I’m not hung up on numbers at this point in my career. 

“I know a lot of guys that if they don’t score a top-five finish, they’re just not excited. With the caliber of racers we have in the Ark-La-Tex region now, I think if you can just make the feature as places like Boothill Speedway, you’re getting somewhere. They have the top 20 or 30 fastest guys in the area.” 

Now in his fifth year on the ovals, Miller was exposed to the sport at a young age and has paid his dues.

“I spent a lot of Saturday nights at Lone Star Speedway growing up watching my uncles race,” he explained. “When I was a kid, we did a little Kart racing, but nothing very serious. I grew up in a single-parent home, it was just me, my Dad and my brother. My mother passed away at an early age. 

“My uncle stepped in and helped my Dad raise us boys. So we didn’t have the opportunity to go race on our own, since Dad worked two jobs just trying to take car of us. But my cousins were into Kart racing, so we were able to drive their Karts once in a while.” 

With a great-grandmother who loved to be at Lone Star, Miller had thoughts of racing there himself. 

“We sat in the grandstands with her every week,” he explained. “As a kid, I always told myself that one day, I would have me one of those race cars. As time went on and I got to a point where it wouldn’t affect my family, I made the decision to pull the trigger. 

“It was actually a bet with my friend Alex Williams that got me into racing. He kept saying I was never going to get a race car. I told him I’d spend my last dollar to beat him on the track. So I went and bought my first car, just to prove to Alex he was wrong. It ended up being much harder than I thought.”

Wherever Miller unloads his machine around the Ark-La-Tex region, he races against the nation’s best.

“At one of my last races at Boothill, I finished third in my Heat and transferred into the feature,” he said. “I was able to follow one of the fast guys there, and kept my car up where the big guns were running. So I think a lot of progress has been made, and I know we still have a lot more to learn.

“I’ll say they used to have the top 10 Factory Stock drivers there every week. Now I feel like they have 20 or 30 that can potentially win on any given weekend. The entire region is loaded with big talent.” 

When Miller puts on his safety suit and gets ready to race, he climbs into a very well-built Hot Rod. 

“I have a 2018 Outlaw chassis that had all the updates in 2022,” he explained. “So I guess you could call it a 2022 car, powered by a great motor from Gary and Zane Dent at 3D Motorsports in Longview. It’s a great combination of a rock-solid car with ample, reliable power. I’m fortunate to have this car.”

Along with his top-notch race car and years of experience, Miller also has several valued supporters. 

“I need to thank all of my loyal sponsors, including Hotsy Pressure Washers, Nortexx, MoBags Suspension, 3D Motorsports, Outlaw Race Cars, Dirt Defender and Hitman Designs. I couldn’t do this without their support. 

“I also want to give a special thanks to my wife, kids and father; Christopher White, Jeff and Greg Hammitt, Tj Evans, Michael Hail and the Rios family. It takes a supportive family, reliable help and lots of good friends to keep any race team moving forward. I’m blessed to have all three in my corner.” 

With the season openers at several tracks just a few weeks away, Miller is ready to go.  

“We’re really looking forward to the new season,” he explained. “I’ve seen the work that Patrick has put in to get Lone Star back up and running, so it and Boothill will be our primary tracks this year. I’ll no doubt get back to Highway 19 a few times, and hopefully to Sabine Speedway over in Many, Louisiana. 

“I’m looking at running between 20 and 25 races this year overall. We practiced last Saturday at Lone Star, and that got me excited to go racing again. The car felt solid, even though it was my first time on the grooved slicks. I was a little apprehensive about them, but now realize they should be just fine.”

By Phil Whipple, Staff Writer
Photo by Rebecca Dean