As the 2012 racing season gets underway, we at The Winners’ Circle realized we had some pressing questions. Like, where do we go this year to inhale the most burnt rubber? Which fans throw the best tailgates? And why on earth would anyone pack his entire life into a Mustang GT and spend his year driving from Sprint Car to Sprint Car race – 78 races in 2011 alone?
What are we talking about? Meet Shawn Miller: public relations guy, social media manager and auto racing fan extraordinaire.
We should say right off that you don’t do any PR for us. We came across one of your blog posts online, about the life you led in 2011 and it intrigued us.
You attended 78 races last year, zig-zagging coast to coast, north to south, and back again. What is that about?
Well, I’ve got a public relations business, Inside Line Promotions, and I represent Sprint Car drivers. I do anything from weekly press releases to maintaining social media and websites, generating merchandising and other marketing materials, that sort of thing. There’s other people who do that, too, but they do a lot of it by phone, versus me, where I’m on the road fulltime. Last year, like you said, I went to 78 races. This year, I’ll hopefully beat that. My dream is to attend 100 races in a year.
But c’mon, doesn’t it get a little old, after a while? For instance, we here at The Winner’s Circle like chocolate, but if we eat too much we get a stomachache.
People have told me, “Man, you’re going to burn yourself out.” I say if that happens, great, what a way to go. I love the smell of the race track. The taste you get in the back of your throat. I feel like it was born into my blood. If I’m not at a race track, I’m going stir-crazy.
You sound like the perfect guy to ask about Sprint Car racing. Like, here’s a question – if we were going to hit one racetrack this year, which one should it be?
My favorite last year was Eagle Raceway in Nebraska. It’s a high-banked, 1/3 mile track. The fast part of the track is up against the wall. Literally, the right rear tire is up on that wall, especially in turns one and two. It’s also really tight — the drivers are so close to each other they’re nearly rubbing tires. If you make an error, it can turn into disaster quickly. If you can’t get excited after watching races like that, then racing just doesn’t excite you.
Nebraska. That’s a long way to go for one race track. What if we want to hit a bunch of races in a few days?
Ohio definitely had the most tracks. There’s a ton of tracks within a couple of hours of each other. And all the races were good races. They’ve got a really solid core of racers.
What if we’d like to party as well? Where can we find the best scene?
Pennsylvania. You know, on an average race day, I’ll get to the track about two in the afternoon, and usually there aren’t any fans there yet. But in Pennsylvania, when I got to the track, the parking lot was just about full already, at 2 o’clock! People are having tailgating parties, drinking beer. There was as much going on outside the race as there was inside. There are diehard fans out there. They love the sport, eat, drink and breathe it. It’s great to be around people as hardcore about Sprint Cars as I am.
Being that hardcore must be the thing that keeps you going – that keeps anyone going on that kind of road schedule.
It is a blast, don’t get me wrong. I wouldn’t do it if I didn’t love it. But you don’t get a lot of sleep, you’re in your car a lot of the time, you’re eating food that isn’t particularly healthy because that’s all that’s available. It’s kind of a grueling lifestyle.
Obviously, you have to have some sort of passion for it. Knowing you are doing something you love is very rewarding.
Also, too, being at the track goes back to me and my dad. Growing up in Oregon, this was the one thing we did together. We’d go out to Cottage Grove Speedway, about a half hour from our house. So for me, racing is about family, and it’s great to see that, too, with racers and other fans. Within the racing community, it’s like a fraternity, a brotherhood if you will.
You’ve always wanted a life at the racetrack, then?
No, not exactly. For some reason, when I was a teenager, I didn’t go to the races. I did other sports, but not racing. Then I was attending college at the University of Oregon, getting a journalism degree, and I got an internship working for the Cottage Grove newspaper. They said they needed somebody to cover the track, would I do it. I went down there, saw those guys do their first hot lap, and I was completely hooked again.
So you worked in newspapers for a while, then did some media work for the American Sprint Car Series Northwest Region. Eventually, though, you decided to step out on your own.
In 2010 I went on the road with a team and we followed the ASCS National Tour. This past year I decided I need to have a business with multiple clients. I had to go where the opportunity was, so I moved to Missouri, near Kansas City, near Brian Brown and Danny Lasoski, two racer friends of mine [whom he now also represents]. It was like I was blind, trying to feel it out, see what was there. This year, I realized I needed to be more central, so I’m moving to Tulsa, Oklahoma.
Right now [interview conducted 1/9/2012]. My car is totally packed with bags – the only space available is the driver’s seat. I’m headed to the Chili Bowl tomorrow; when it’s over on Saturday, I’ll start looking for a place to live.