Watch Gavin Miller on or off the track and “you’d never guess he is the age he is,” according to his crew chief Brandon Selph.
Described as quiet and to himself, Selph said Miller isn’t your typical 16-year-old rookie driver. And there’s no one else he’d rather be working with.
“(He’s) passionate. Very passionate,” Selph said.
“(He’s) this 16-year-old kid out there beating these guys who have been doing this for years, so, I’d rather work with the new guy and watch him grow, especially a guy you know who has the potential and cares to grow,” Selph said. “At [Keith Kunz Motorsports], we see all walks of life. It is very very easy to distinguish a guy who wants it and a guy who is just out here having fun like he is back home racing. That was the biggest thing, I saw the potential, and everyone saw the potential. So, I thought it would just be really cool to watch him grow.”
The driver-crew chief pair are both in their first full year of competing on a national Midget tour. But that, you’d probably never guess.
Miller – driving the Toyota-powered #97 for Keith Kunz Motorsports (KKM) – currently sits second in points with the Xtreme Outlaw Midget Series presented by Toyota (121 points behind Cannon McIntosh) with five top fives and nine top 10s in the first 10 races of the season – including two podium finishes in the last two events. The pair also won their first national Midget race during Indiana Midget Week.
With that collection of confidence, Miller said he has an Xtreme Outlaw victory, and title, in mind when the season continues at Doe Run Raceway on Friday, July 21.
“I think I can eventually take the (points) lead,” Miller said.
With a delighted chuckle, Selph said “I bet he does,” and agreed.
The two started their racing careers at opposite ends of the country – Miller from Pennsylvania and Selph from Arizona – but found a home at KKM and rose through the ranks to find each other at the perfect time.
Miller started racing Micro Sprints for KKM in his early teens and Selph joined the team a couple years ago, working in the shop – a dream opportunity to find his way into motorsports after holding a construction job he knew he didn’t want.
Through their work ethic and talent, Miller was given the opportunity to run a few dirt Midget races in 2022 and Selph was tapped to be his crew chief, giving both a shot in their respective roles.
Neither had worked together before but after their first week, Selph said that’s when he knew he wanted to be the one working with Miller going forward.
“He expects a lot from me,” Miller said. “He pushes me every night to be better because he knows I can be better and finish up front every night. Just getting feedback from him and tell him how the car is doing and how it is reacting. Just try to make our night a little better.
“He’s learning. I’m learning. It’s fairly new working with him. It’s not even been a year now, being on a partial schedule last year and now going full time. I’m hoping to just keep improving, getting better and hopefully clicking off more wins with him.”
They hit the ground running at the start of the 2023 Xtreme Outlaw Midget season, scoring back-to-back top-10 finishes at the Southern Illinois Center. Miller finished 12th in the following race at Federated Auto Parts Raceway at I-55 but has yet to finish outside the top 10 with the Series since.
There have still been learning curves, though. Miller said he’s had nights of getting behind on changing track conditions. And Selph said they even butted heads at a recent event – but added it was for the betterment of them both.
“You’re going to have bad nights no matter what, but I feel like not giving up, and you just have to want to win more than others too,” Miller said. “You have to be mentally there every single time you’re at the track and be on your game every single time. Not giving up is a big part of it because you’re going to have bad nights. People who win, they don’t give up.”
Expectations are high for the remainder of the season. Expectations the driver-crew chief pair are eager to meet.
“We both want to win,” Selph said. “I’m pushing him on his mistakes. I’m not telling him, but I’m working on my little mistakes, because you can’t let the driver know when you’re making mistakes.
“But, no, I think he is doing great. As long as he stays mentally in it. I think that has been the biggest thing. He has the talent. He knows where to run. There are little minor things we need to fix. In order to be successful in this game with the way the competition is, you got to have the mindset. You got to want to win. Kyle Larson, he just wants to win and that’s what he is going to do every time he gets on the track. So, I think that’s our next goal is to get that mental right. Going to the gym, taking care of the body. Taking care of the mindset. No women. No drama. We’re focused on winning. He wants to win, and he wants to win the championship. I think that definitely helps… You would never guess he is the age he is.”
UP NEXT: The Xtreme Outlaw Midget Series presented by Toyota returns on Friday, July 21, at Doe Run Raceway, followed by a race at Southern Illinois Raceway on Saturday, July 22. For the full schedule, CLICK HERE.
If you can’t make it to the tracks, you can watch every race live on DIRTVision.