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The World's Quickest and Fastest Man


It all started with an e-mailed question from a reader. "Do you know who holds the record for the fastest mile per hour and quickest time?" Well, yeah, wasn't that Sammy Miller driving a jet car in England somewhere? Wonder whatever happened to him? Hmm…

Finding the whereabouts of the quickest and fastest man ever to traverse the quarter-mile was going to be a tricky proposition. The answer to my query of "Do you know where 'Slam'n Sammy' Miller is these days?" drew "dunnos" from everyone from Raceway Park's Vince Mele to Nick Boninfante Sr. of Boninfante Racing Products to the long-distance operator in Wayne, New Jersey, his last reported residence.

I had thought of doing a story on him months ago, but all I got then were blanks; quizzical expressions that offered little hope or off-the-mark information that ran the gamut from his moving to England, where he got a lot of race work, or that he may have crashed one of his rocket cars and been killed.

Finally, after a couple of days of hard-ass phone research in mid-August, my line got a hit. Old pal and the eastern United States' king of the race car painters, Bob Gerdes of Circus Paints in New York and New Jersey, gave my question a favorable response.

"Hey, you're in luck," he said. "Sammy said he was going to call me this evening, so when I get him I'll get his number for you."

Bingo. (God, that's a cliche.) Kazart! (There, that's a little better.)

And we did get together. He called me the next day and gave me my most ironic image of the past month.

"Yes, Chris, listen, can you call me back?" he said through a backdrop of what sounded like heavy machinery. "I'm driving a bulldozer right now and it's a little difficult to hear you."

The man who registered the quickest elapsed time and speed in drag racing history (a 3.583/386.26) was driving one of the slowest vehicles know to man, a bulldozer. My interest was piqued even more in getting a fix on the quickest and fastest gun on the planet.

Miller's racing career didn't begin with any sense of mystery at all. In fact, it was typical of how most racers got into drag racing. The only thing remotely atypical was that he started his driving career on a fairly fast note by running an A/Fuel Dragster (injected small-block Chevy) at a variety of New Jersey and New York tracks in 1967. The car ran 7.80s and competed in what was then the Super Eliminator category.

Typical of any speed demon, he hooked up with a faster crowd as time went by. In 1969, he was hanging out at the Van Iderstine Speed shop where the owner ran a Top Fuel dragster at local tracks, and he found his way into the saddle. His habit grew accordingly.

Ken Poffenberger, an old racer buddy of Miller's, was running "Poff's Puffer" the Corvair Funny Car in 1970, and at Gainesville Raceway his driver had not shown at the track. He asked Miller, who was crewing on the car, to get in and make a short pass, which he did and which qualified fourth for a booked-in eight-car show. As Miller said, "driving a Funny Car just came natural" to him and he drove a limited match schedule for the remainder of the year.

Towards the end of the year, Miller decided he wanted his own Funny Car. Enlisting the aid of his father Sam, who owned a construction company, he bought Don Prudhomme's Hot Wheels 1970 Barracuda and set up a rigorous schedule for 1971.

The '71 season was Miller's highpoint in terms of wins and getting himself established. He ran the Prudhomme Barracuda only a few times before he wanted something more state of the art. In this case, "state of the art" meant a new John Buttera chassis and Plymouth Duster body delivered to his shop by late spring.



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Friday - October 13th

Gates & Tech open at noon - Open testing 6:00 PM til 11:00 PM Admission $15 - Only $5 more to test - Open to everyone "Streetnatioanls" Entry Fee $125 (No extra charge to test Friday)


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