On October 9, 2015, Doug Miller of Williamsburg; a drag racing competitor, mechanic and supporter for more than 40 years, was one of 38 inaugural inductees into the new Canadian Drag Racing Hall of Fame in Montreal.
For Miller it was a thrill to be amongst some of the greats of the sport, and it is truly an honour to be an inaugural inductee into the Canadian Drag Racing Hall of Fame.
John Scotti, founder of the Canadian Drag Racing Hall of Fame, is quoted in a National Hot Rod Association article saying at the induction ceremony, “The recognition of world class drag racing legends all under one roof is long overdo.”
“It was humbling to be part of it,” said Miller from the front desk of his Fireball Performance Automatic business west of Williamsburg Thursday, January 7. “There were some pretty impressive people there. Actually, my mother gave me one of the best compliments when she said, ‘after 40 years, I now know you were doing something worthwhile’.”
To be selected for induction, candidates had to have been actively engaged at the top levels of drag racing for at least 25 years, have been a major contributor and be either a Canadian resident or expatriate.
Amongst the inductees were racers, crew chiefs, mechanics, track officials, promoters and sponsors.
Miller’s love of drag racing goes back to his youth. His dad was interested in cars and racing, and when a teenager, Doug went to work for Norm McIntosh (Norm’s Auto Wreckers, Morrisburg). “Norm always had hot rods and race cars there to work on.”
Miller, 66, first raced in 1970. “It was always drag racing. That is what I was interested in.”
In 1973, he converted the family cheese factory on Caughnawaga Road into Fireball Performance to specialize in transmissions. “I didn’t want to get a real job. I wanted to have fun. So I started the business, and for over 40 years I have been having fun building transmissions for race cars.”
He admits with a grin that over the years there was also a lot of work on regular car transmissions. “I had to make a living too.”
His first racing partnership was with Dave McIntosh (Morrisburg) and Maynard Coons (South Mountain). Back then drag racing was run mostly in Quebec.
“We did pretty darn good too. We set a few world records, won a few, and had a lot of fun,” he says of his early race days with McIntosh and Coons followed by a very successful Miller/McCallum (Donnie McCallum) partnership.”
Miller won his first driving award, the George Constantine Trophy, in 1971.
Trying to explain the thrill of drag racing to a non-racer is difficult. “It was fun,” he says of the racing, “Generally, races are one quarter mile run in nine seconds at 150 mph. You go from zero to 60 mph in about one second.”
Miller says that in addition to the thrill, he enjoyed the travel and all the wonderful race folks he met along the way.
“We’ve raced from California, to Indianapolis, to Georgia and Florida.”
He recalls racing in California once, “when we qualified number one fastest in our class and got rained out. So we had to pack up and come home, driving 48 hours non-stop. In that same year, we raced in Florida and Georgia, so we were on the road a lot.”
“I met some really great people. All the racers are like family. In drag racing, it is a community and drag racers help each other. It is a bit different than stock car racing, as you don’t generally do anything to annoy the other drivers which can happen in stock car racing.”
With the need to have quick reaction time as a drag racer, Miller gave up his driving days in the 1980’s and 1990’s, and provided his expertise as a transmission mechanic.
More recently, he has become interested in land speed racing, and in particular has been “shooting the salt” at the Bonneville Land Speed Racing, west of Salt Lake City, Utah. There participants come from all over the world.
Miller says he continues to love the sport of drag racing, but nixes the idea of ever becoming a spectator. “After you have drag raced, becoming a spectator is no fun. I couldn’t go to a drag race now and sit in the stands. That would not be fun.”
Work is steady and the fun still comes in to the Williamsburg facility in the form of “working with hobbyists on their old cars. Young mechanics of today, aren’t used to the old transmissions of the 50’s, so we do a lot of collector car transmissions. I have no desire to retire. I’m still playing and still having fun, and I am still making it look like work.”
Doug is pictured below holding a plaque presented to him by the Iroquois based Golden Gears Car Club at their year-end wrap up banquet in December. The plaque was presented in recognition of his induction into the Canadian Drag Racing Hall of Fame. The photo inset is the ring he received at the Hall of Fame ceremony.