By Mike Henle

VICTORIOUS TEAM: Southern California teenager Matt Miller, third from right in black shirt, celebrates his team’s Class 10 victory in the annual KC HiLites Midnight Special Aug. 5 in Jean, Nev.

Jean, Nev. — Eighteen-year-old Southern Californian Matt Miller is off to a rip-roaring start in the world of off-road racing. Thanks to the many weekends he has spent playing the desert with friends and family for the past several years, he knew he loved the open air of the desert.

The Costa Mesa, Calif., resident, a recent high school graduate from Calvary Chapel High School, will enter the mechanical engineering program in the fall at Cal State-Long Beach, and it’s obvious that he’s on the fast track in off-road racing since he won his first-ever desert race Aug. 5 south of Las Vegas.

Driving a Class 10 entry in the SNORE KC HiLites Midnight Special Miller dove into a race that has been a huge challenge for the past 40-plus years. Started at 8 p.m., the event highlighted the dusk and the darkness that follows provides even more than the typical off-road racing since drivers start the event in the dusk before finishing late at night under the stars of the desert.

With decades-old sponsorship from KC HiLites, the Midnight Special has a little bit of everything and was created by the Southern Nevada Off-Road enthusiasts because the heat of the Nevada desert is way too warm during the summer months.

While the event is a major challenge, it was seemingly a piece of cake for Miller, who teamed with several friends and family members to tame the desert during a debut that might be tantamount to another teenager throwing a shutout in his first-ever major league baseball game.

“I ran a flawless race,” Miller said.

Miller had to outrun Justin Davis for the Class 10 championship.

“Justin was way back, but I was concerned,” Miller said. “My co-driver Justin Meisenholder held me together in the final two laps. I am now pretty much addicted to the sport of off-road racing.”

Like so many others who discover the thrill of off-road racing, Miller is undoubtedly hooked on the sport after winning the KC HiLites Midnight Special.

“I grew up around racing,” Miller explained. “Every weekend, we’d head for the desert. I usually rode my dirt bike and just escalated into what I’m doing now. I will continue to race as long as I have the support that I need. Going to school can be very time-consuming, so I must be able to balance everything.”

“Winning the SNORE KC HiLites Midnight Special is a huge deal and I really want to continue what I started. However, college is very important to me, too.”

One issue faced by Miller was that he failed to tighten the caps on the master cylinder. The end result was brake fluid getting everywhere from on his shoes to all over the pedals of the race car.”

“I just used less brake.”

Miller also had to thank his mom, Laurie; along Rob and Cindy Dimel, who allowed Miller to utilize their garages to prep his car. His sponsors include Jamar Performance, Wicked Creations, GG Lighting, King Shocks and FR Construction.

“Everyone is my teammate,” laughed Miller. “My team is my family.”

Miller said the win was in honor of his uncle Jeff Fyffe, who passed away suddenly after the Battle of Primm last February.

“He was my mentor, and pretty much my everything that I have wanted in life. If I could be half the man he was, I would be set.”

Miller finished third overall behind Jesse Jones in a Trophy Truck and Joe David in Class 1.

Other class winners included Joseph David (1); Scott Bassett (12); Jesse Jones (Unlimited Trucks); Shannon Fisher, 1450 Pro; Justin Smith (5 Unlimited); Ruben Garcia (5-1600); Raul Solano (1-2 1600); Andrew Laurin (Heavy Metal); Jim Rossi (7); Terry Ross (8); Neil Drickey (6100); Joe Lombardo (6100); Kevin Mckeown (3000); Tyler Peterson (9); Michal Brenner (Stock Bug); Broc Smith (SxS Pro Limited); Stacy Clark (SxS Pro Turbo Unlimited); Kyle Coletti (1450 Sportsman); Joseph Cammans (2000); and Lani Austin (Limited Sportsman).

Especially impressive was David’s continued rally that has seen him win the last three races in a row, two of which were overall wins after being a DNF at the first race.

SNORE president John Pellisier said the event went very well.

“It was a great race,” Pellissier said. “The passion for off-road racing really shined on all levels of this event. From our dedicated sponsors to our officials and racers that came out, it was a homerun. It takes so much effort to put on an event. You know you’ve done a great job when it gets quiet after the race starts and you can enjoy the event.

“There were no speakable issues that caused any of us to be spread thin for time.”

The 2017 Patrick’s Signs McKenzie’s Championship Series resumes with the Bob “Weatherman” Steinberger Memorial 48th annual PCI Race Radios SNORE 250 Oct. 7-8 in Beatty, Nev.; and the McKenzie’s Rage at the River in Laughlin, Nev. Dec. 8-10.

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