ML Motorsports owner Mary Louise Miller breaking ground in NASCAR

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NASCAR has long been a boys' club, ruled by men, owned by men and driven by men. Women have made breakthroughs in recent years and some do it quietly, like Mary Louise Miller. Miller owns ML Motorsports and since 1998 has been one of the few women to own a team within NASCAR’s top levels.

After a family love of racing, the Miller family ventured into team ownership. Starting in the ARCA Series, ML Motorsports has been active in the NASCAR Nationwide Series since 2006.

“It’s just a wonderful sport to be in because it’s a family sport,” Miller said. “I just like everything about it.”

Starting from scratch, Mary Louise and her dedicated team have built themselves up from the “cardboard box” stage. On the initial start-up, the team had nothing more than some cardboard boxes and crew members that had to work a full-time job just to afford to also work at the race shop part-time. “They would come at night, work all night and take their vacation time” to work in the shop.

Miller proudly states that most of her crew has been with her since the beginning - 13 years.

“We are a family,” said Miller of her team. “We are a small group, they all do multiple jobs and they absolutely love what they do. We are very, very lucky.”

A fresh start for 2012

The 2012 season offers a wave of change and promise for the team, who announced last week that Johanna Long will be driving the No. 70 car this season.

Long, who got her NASCAR start in the Camping World Truck Series, already has tested the No. 70 car this week just days after signing on the dotted line for a two-year contract.

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Miller said part of what sold her on hiring Long was simple. She is a girl! "We also looked at all she has been able to accomplish,” citing that Long stood out in just a short time in the NCWTS.

Miller continued, “I have not seen her on the track yet but when she was testing they were thrilled. I just believe in her, I felt like this is something that we need to do for this team so we can see what we are capable of doing. All the other drivers have helped us get to this point, but she is just going to be dynamite. It’s probably woman’s intuition, I just know it!”

When the team issued their press release last week, many questioned the move to name such a young driver to the team. But as Miller explained, she wants to help foster Long’s driving skills.

“There is nothing better than a young, new talent that you can help to bring out and show what she is capable of. The entire team is so excited about this and she is really easy to work with. David Green is our spotter, he was so impressed yesterday with her. We are just overjoyed with her."

Having realistic goals for this year, Miller knows there may be some bumps in the road.

“We do not expect her to be in the top to start; this year is kind of a practice year to get to know each other and see what we can do. The big year is next year (2013) but maybe even this year. I just do not want to say that and put too much pressure.”

As for the long term, “Johanna is signed for two years. She is just going to be unbelievable,” Miller said with audible exuberance. “We do not want to pressure her, we want her to get a feel for the car, give feedback and if we aren’t in the top 25 this season, we will not be unhappy about that. We know how much better she will do the following year. I want her to keep her confidence. We are not pressuring her to win, or be in the top 5 each week - we just want her to get the confidence she needs to continue.

“I just think it is going to be a win-win situation all the way around,” Miller said.

The future of ML Motorsports

Starting in ARCA and now in the Nationwide Series, Miller has big dreams for her “little team that could” when asked if she sees a future in other series.

“Of course we would love to be in Sprint (Cup), that is Johanna’s and my hope and dream. That is a lot of money! You need a large sponsorship because everything you do you need transporters for, extra crew, it’s a big expense. We feel that with Johanna and what she is going to bring to our team, that is a better possibility then it has been before.”

Just weeks away from Daytona, Miller awaits her newfound talent hitting the track in the No. 70 car for the first time, with much anticipation and excitement.

Stay tuned to Skirts and Scuffs tomorrow for an interview with Johanna Long, on her testing this week with ML Motorsports and the decision to move into the Nationwide Series.

Amanda Ebersole brings the readers of Skirts and Scuffs interviews and insight into the people who make NASCAR the sport we all love. Besides interviews, Amanda also writes her weekly columns In the Rearview Mirror and NASCAR By the Numbers. Feel free to contact Amanda via Twitter or e-mail.
ML Motorsports owner Mary Louise Miller breaking ground in NASCAR ML Motorsports owner Mary Louise Miller breaking ground in NASCAR Reviewed by Unknown on Sunday, January 15, 2012 Rating: 5