WEEDSPORT, N.Y. – The husband and wife promotional team of Bob and Donna Miller, whose credits include the Thunder on the Hill Series at Grandview Speedway and the transformation of the United Racing Club, will receive the Leonard J. Sammons Jr. Award for Outstanding Contributions to Auto Racing when the 29th annual Northeast Dirt Modified Hall of Fame inductions take place.
The ceremony is scheduled for Thursday, July 23, at the Northeast Dirt Modified Museum and Hall of Fame on the grounds of Weedsport Speedway in New York.
The Millers have spent over four decades promoting regional auto racing, beginning with Bob Miller’s involvement as a teenager at the old Reading Fairgrounds in his home state of Pennsylvania. Starting as a scorer, Miller learned the business and went on to handle publicity and promotions at Reading, Bridgeport Speedway in New Jersey, Penn National Speedway, for the upstart MODCAR organization in the 1980s, and for the United Racing Club Sprint Cars.
“I’ve worked with Jerry Fried [at Nazareth], Paul Kuhl [at Flemington] and Glenn Donnelly [DIRT and Super DIRT Week at Syracuse],” Bob Miller related. “I’ve been so lucky to work with some of the greatest promoters! I worked for Joe Gerber for 10 or 12 years at the Race of Champions at Pocono. And then, I got together with the Rogers family at Grandview.”
Over the winter of 1989-1990, the concept behind the Thunder on the Hill Series was conceived. Dirt modified and sprint car driver Dave Kelly and Grandview Speedway promoter Bruce Rogers had met informally to discuss the logistics of showcasing 410 Sprints at Grandview in special midweek events.
Kelly, a good friend of the Millers, suggested to Rogers that Bob might become involved as a publicist.
“I was still racing at the time and went with Bob to meet with the Rogers family. I knew I wasn’t interested in running the thing,” said Kelly.
“Bob wound up doing the deal with the Rogers family and I stepped back,” Kelly recounted. “I’m glad it has been so successful.”
Grandview’s Theresa Rogers recalled the steps that led to the relationship with the Millers.
“We were 358s and late models — that’s all we ran, we were happy with that. We felt we could handle ourselves with just that,” Theresa remembered. “Then Dave gave Bruce a call and that started what we still are doing now with Bob.”
Theresa Rogers recalled the positive back-and-forth between Bob and her late husband, who passed in 2017. “We were 50-50 partners. It’s been a good relationship for over 30 years,” she said.
Indeed, since its inception in 1990, the TOTH Series has run 137 events at Grandview, paid out more than $4.8 million to competitors, and featured such high-profile traveling series as USAC National Midgets and Sprints, World of Outlaws Sprint Cars and Late Models, and the All-Star Circuit of Champions, in addition to DIRTcar, RoC, ARDC and URC. TOTH is also a longtime linchpin of Pennsylvania Speedweek.
The series was recognized nationally in 1999, when Racing Promotion Monthly named TOTH the country’s Best Specialty Promotion Event of the Year at ceremonies in Daytona Beach, FL.
Kelly believes the success of the series is attributable to Bob Miller’s ambition.
“From the first time we met, I knew he loved the sport. He is just good at what he does. He puts everything he has into it,” Kelly praised.
Fourteen years ago, Miller spearheaded the award-winning Eastern Storm mini-series, which brought USAC Wingless Sprints into Grandview and other area tracks. Two years ago, a second USAC Series for Midgets was added.
The Millers were also an integral part of the 1980s renaissance of the United Racing Club (URC) 360 Sprint Car Series, ultimately partnering with John Zimmerman and his wife Cher to co-own the group from 2005-2014.
“Bob had good connections with the promoters, which was important,” Zimmerman said of the years they managed and promoted the URC organization. “We were a good team.”
Journalist Herb Anastor and his wife Terri are close friends of Bob and Donna, and their daughters, Devin and Chelsea. The Anastors worked at early Thunder on the Hill races, so Herb has had plenty of opportunities to see Bob Miller in action.
Despite the pressure of race directing and promoting, “he has always had the best interest of racing in mind and his decisions are based on what the best thing is for the fans and racers,” Anastor said of Bob. “He’s always handled every situation professionally.”
But Bob Miller will be the first to point out that he hasn’t done it alone.
“With TOTH, Donna quickly became the one who kept everything together on the grandstand side,” her husband declared. “She handles the banking, the bills, all the advance ticket sales. So much work that I never have to touch!
“Donna worked so well with the Rogers, we feel like family after 30 years.”
Donna also organized the Reading Racing Reunions and Car Shows and, from 1986-2020, the annual Ms. Motorsports pageant.
It often comes as a surprise that Bob Miller has never made his living from racing. He has worked full time, since graduating from high school, for Pepsico.
“For a long time, the people at Pepsi didn’t know he was involved in racing, and not many do now. He’s kept the two positions separate,” Herb Anastor informed. “He’s in a position at Pepsi of great responsibility. He learns by what he is doing, and takes that to the next situation.”
Miller’s way of conducting racing business comes from lessons learned from a cast of racing heavyweights.
“He worked with Lindy [Vicari] as a writer and scorer. Through that, he became involved with MODCAR, then with Bridgeport Speedway, as race director and promoter. He had good teachers and has always recognized them as instrumental to his success,” Anastor noted.
“He gives Lindy a lot of credit and Glenn Donnelly a lot of credit. That’s an example of Bob: He worked with both of those rival promoters and drew from the strengths of each,” Anastor observed.
Bob and Donna Miller have complemented one another in their racing endeavors.
“An interesting thing about Bob and Donna is that they are rarely together at the races. Donna’s doing one thing, Bob the other. It’s difficult to find a photo of the two of them together at an event,” Anastor shared.
Thirty seasons of success with the TOTH Series has sparked interest in others to replicate the Millers’ formula.
“I think Thunder on the Hill, without question, created the inspiration. All of these other midweek show promoters saw a model of success and tried to duplicate it,” Herb Anastor summed. “Bob and Donna Miller’s was the first, and is still going strong.”