Matt Miller, of Orland Park, Ill., made the most of his rookie appearance at the 2009 SCCA National Championship Runoffs at Road America, capturing the C Sports Racing title by just 0.128-second over Jacek Mucha, of Laval, Quebec. James French, of Sheboygan, Wis., finished third to complete the podium.
Miller qualified second, but took advantage of his front-row starting spot to claim the lead into Turn One aboard the No. 82 HarryMillerAppliances.com/Hoosier Elan MZR-2.0 Mazda. Polesitter Brian French, of Sheboygan, Wis., was the first to challenge Miller, retaking the lead on the second lap entering Turn One, but Miller grabbed the lead again in Turn Five of the same lap.
Staying cool through further battles with Brian French's son, James, and Mucha over the race's closing laps, Miller was able to hold the lead for the 13-lap, 52-mile race.
"We had a really strong motor all weekend and I knew we were going to have a good start," Miller said. "As long as we qualified toward the front, I knew we could get through Turn One near the front. We just needed to maintain a good pace and keep the car on the track, but these guys [Jacek Mucha, Brian French and James French] didn't make it easy.
"At the beginning, Brian got me coming down the front straight. He went a little wide in Turn Three and that allowed me to get a run on him into Turn Five. From there, I was just maintaining a gap. Then James was catching me. I definitely had the advantage on the straights, but the brakes were fading toward the end of the race. Then, I saw Jacek coming. He was really flying, so we were fortunate to get the win today."
Mucha earned his fifth career runner-up finish in CSR. After qualifying fifth, Mucha drove his No. 07 Phoenix-Innotech Swift Toyota steadily through the field. Passing the younger French for second place with two laps to go, Mucha then pulled up to Miller's tail. Despite turning the race's fastest lap in a time of 2:04.996 (115.204 mph), Mucha fell just short of making the pass.
James French's third-place finish in the No. 46 Motorsports Enterprises LTD Swift 014 Toyota came after passing his father for second on lap three, then dueling with both Miller and Mucha for the remaining 10 laps.
Brian French finished the race in fourth place in the No. 45 Motorsports Enterprises Ralt RT-41 Toyota. Jim Downing, of Atlanta, Ga., finished fifth after starting seventh in the No. 63 Downing Atanta Peach Day Mazda.
Samuel Damon, of Auburn, Calif., earned the Sunoco Hard Charger Award after improving five spots to ninth place in the No. 47 Damon Racing Stohr WF1 Suzuki.
The CSR National Championship race will be available on demand at ww.speedcasttv.com/scca shortly after the conclusion of the 2009 SCCA National Championship Runoffs.