MOTOR RACING : Miles Has Taken His Own Route to Father’s Sport
Second-generation race drivers have become commonplace as the Unsers, Andrettis, Pettys and others have raced together as fathers and sons.
Peter Miles is not exactly a second-generation driver, although his father, Ken, was one of America’s leading sports car drivers in the 1960s, but he is a second-generation racing personality. Instead of becoming a driver, Peter chose to become a mechanic and is crew chief for Ivan Stewart’s successful Toyota desert truck.
Ken Miles was killed at Riverside International Raceway while testing a prototype Ford sports car nearly 25 years ago. He had just unofficially broken the track record and was estimated to be going about 175 m.p.h. when something broke in the car and it abruptly careened end over end into the infield.
Miles was 47. Peter was almost 15.
A few months after the accident, Peter went to work on weekends with Dick Troutman, a friend of his father’s, at the Troutman and Barnes custom car shop in Culver City. He stayed with them for 14 years.
“I never did lean much toward racing, unless you call chasing around up on Mulholland Highway racing, but with Troutman and Barnes I had on-the-job training in the business of working on cars,” Peter said as he put the finishing touches on Stewart’s V-6 truck for Saturday’s 17th annual Tecate SCORE Baja 500. “I’ve been with Cal Wells and PPI (Precision Performance, Inc.) for five years, starting as a fabricator and then a mechanic before I became crew chief on the desert truck, and I’m happy right where I am. I love the desert and I love listening to the sound of Ivan’s engine.”
Stewart won the Nissan 400 overall championship in March in Nevada in his only 1991 desert outing. Last year, he became the first driver to win both desert and stadium championships in a truck.
Miles’ work will be about over once Stewart climbs into the cab and hits the streets of Ensenada in search of his third consecutive Baja 500 victory.
“I’m the crew chief, but no one rides with Ivan,” Miles said. “There is only one seat and there is no room for anyone else. My job is to make sure the truck is ready, Ivan is ready, and the crews are ready.
“Once the race starts, I hopscotch back and forth across Baja in a pickup chase truck, trying to keep ahead of Ivan. We carry spare parts and anything we feel he might need if he breaks down. We check his progress by watching our helicopter that stays above him all the way around the course. We don’t expect him to stop, except four times for fuel.”
Stewart won his first Baja 500 in 1974, driving a two-seat desert buggy. Since then, he has won 10 times racing in three different classes.
“The technology of the vehicles is far more advanced than it was,” Stewart said. “Peter and PPI have developed a Toyota truck that is unstoppable, virtually bulletproof. We proved it with the six wins last year, and it ran perfect in the Nissan race.”
Vehicles in the 500--actually closer to 460 miles--will start early Saturday morning in front of the Riviera Convention Center in Ensenada and do most of their running in the rugged highlands on the west side of the peninsula before finishing in Ojos Negros, about 30 miles from Ensenada. The vehicles will parade into Ensenada at the conclusion of the race.
Ken Miles never drove in an off-road race--the first Baja 1,000, which was the original point-to-point desert race, was not held until 1967. However, he did drive a Porsche Spyder in the Carrera Panamerica road race the length of Mexico in the early 1950s, shortly after arriving from his native Britain.
Before his death, on Aug. 17, 1966, Miles had his finest season. He won the 24 Hours of Daytona and the 12 Hours of Sebring in a Ford GT with Lloyd Ruby as his co-driver. He and Denis Hulme had been deprived of victory in the 24 Hours of LeMans through a technicality. He was testing the Ford J car for Carroll Shelby’s LeMans team when he was killed.
“Ken was the greatest test driver in the world,” Shelby said at the time. “He was our baseline, our guiding point.”
There is no difficulty in naming Richard Petty as the No. 1 stock car driver of all time. After all, “the King” has won 200 NASCAR races--including seven Daytona 500s--and seven Winston Cup championships. No one else has won more than 105 races, four 500s or four championships.
How about rating the top 10, in order?
That is much more difficult, but “NASCAR Video Magazine” conducted a poll of motor racing reporters and broadcasters that emphasizes a driver’s statistics, style and impact on the sport. The results, with a profile of each, appears in the newest bimonthly edition of the video magazine. Benny Parsons, a former Winston Cup champion who gained a few votes himself, is host of the 60-minute video.
Besides Petty, only two current drivers are on the list. Dale Earnhardt is ranked second and Darrell Waltrip fifth.
The top 10: 1. Richard Petty; 2. Dale Earnhardt; 3. David Pearson; 4. Bobby Allison; 5. Darrell Waltrip; 6. Cale Yarborough; 7. Glenn (Fireball) Roberts; 8. Junior Johnson; 9. Curtis Turner, and 10. Lee Petty.
STOCK CARS--Sears Point Raceway, in the Sonoma Valley area north of San Francisco, will stage a full weekend of NASCAR racing with the Kodalux Processing 200 Saturday for Southwest Tour drivers and the Banquet Frozen Foods 300 Sunday for Winston Cup drivers. The 300-kilometer race Sunday is No. 12 in the championship series and is one of only two road races on the 29-event schedule. Rusty Wallace is defending champion in the 74-lap race around a 2.52-mile course. Ricky Rudd, winner of the inaugural Sears Point race in 1989, holds the track qualifying record of 90.954 m.p.h. Pole qualifying is set for Friday.
POWERBOATS--The Pacific Offshore Power Boat Racing Assn. will hold its 11th annual Marina del Rey Race for Sight Saturday off the Marina del Rey breakwater. The California Yacht Club and Powerboat magazine are co-hosts of the 131-mile offshore race, which is a fund-raiser for the Guide Dogs for the Blind, Inc., of San Rafael. More than 30 boats are expected to be in the water for the 10 a.m. start.
Scott Pierce will replace two-time defending Gold Cup champion Tom D’Eath in Bernie Little’s Miss Budweiser when the unlimited hydroplane season opens Sunday with the APBA Gold Cup race on the Detroit River. D’Eath suffered a broken back during a stock car race on May 25 at Charlotte, N.C.
SPRINT CARS--Santa Maria Speedway will hold its annual Golden State Challenge race for winged cars Saturday night. . . . After 12 races in the Midwest, the California Racing Assn. returns to California this week with Ron Shuman the new series leader by 97 points over fellow Arizonan Billy Boat. The CRA will race Saturday night in Petaluma.
MOTORCYCLES--Regular scratch and handicap speedway racing will return to the Orange County Fairgrounds Friday night after a six-week schedule taping Speedway America TV programs, which showcased side cars in addition to first-division riders. Speedway racing also continues Thursday nights at Lake Perris, Saturday nights at Victorville and Wednesday nights at San Bernardino’s Glen Helen Park.
Team Green, winner of last year’s Baja 1,000, has split up for the Baja 500 Saturday. Larry Roeseler, the team leader and recent winner of the Virginia City Grand Prix for the seventh time, will ride with longtime teammate Ted Hunnicutt on a Kawasaki.
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