Since he joined the company in 1994, Allen Miller’s fingerprints have been found on every major project within Honda Performance Development. After decades of working for the competition arm of American Honda, Miller will make his final trip on behalf of HPD for this weekend’s Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring, and at its conclusion, he’ll embark on a well-earned respite from the sport.
“Honda offered an early retirement package this year, came out in April that was happening and actually approved even before all the COVID impact on our company, and while I like working and hadn’t planned to retire for probably two or three more years, the timing ended up working out perfectly,” Miller told RACER. “It made sense to take the offer and let some other people start having fun with the things that I was doing and let me go do something else by giving retirement a try.”
As HPD’s Race Team Leader, Miller has been at the forefront of the company’s IndyCar and IMSA programs for many years. And with his list of responsibilities spanning an impressive number of areas, the process of training the next generation of Millers is already in motion.
“So we made the decision in June, and I’ve been working towards finalizing and transferring work and responsibilities over to other people and even maybe transitioning through the summer,” he said. “It’s been a little bit of a challenge but the main things that I’m responsible for with race team management, along those lines, we’d already started transitioning some people over the last year, even before this retirement thing was put in play, just to try to make sure we were ready in a few years down the road, but we just had to accelerate things.
“When I sat down with our guys and made a list of all the things I do, it was a long list. So, it’s not all going to one person — some things are going to one and some are off to another person. So we’ve had to divide a little bit and then start working to make sure they all understand what they’re going to be responsible for, how to take care of it. But they’re in a good position. We’ve been working on it for a while.”
Miller came to HPD as an engine specialist in its second year of existence, and despite his ever-evolving role at the company, that expertise in making race- and championship-winning power continues to deliver success today in open-wheel and sports car racing.
“Initially I came in back in November of ’94 as an engine builder and worked in the assembly shop, but I also had a fairly extensive manufacturing, machining background,” he said. “That was still in the early phases of HPD. And there was a lot of setup and the company was growing at that point — it was a very small. The amount of people working there when I started was maybe 25, and if you include contractors, we’re close to 200 now.
“So I was shop-based, and that continued for a few years. Eventually I took responsibility for engine assembly group and the dyno group and the parts, basically all the production area. Communicating with Japan, coordinating engine builds when we needed parts, what specifications engines would be built to. Then I became the contact point between Japan and HPD around ’99, 2000, through that time period, and directly worked with the large project leaders in Japan to make sure that their wishes for CART builds and servicing were met.
“Then it was into the IRL, and then the ALMS for me, which was great, because I got my start in sports cars. And then, with the new turbocharged V6 engines in IndyCar, I moved over to that side a few years into the program, and we’ve had the IMSA DPi project to do, also. There’s always been a lot of great projects for us to do.”
One of Miller’s major tasks continues to deliver wins and titles spanning the better part of a decade.
“In 2010, I started the current V6 turbo sports car engine project,” he continued. “So working with HRA in Ohio, since it was a production-based engine, we involved several of their engine design staff along with ours. I tried to coordinate best I could between HPD and HRA to come up with this engine is still running today. It’s what’s in the Acura DPi; it’s just the same platform we had in LMP2 to start that’s just continued to evolve over the last 10 years. It’s won Le Mans, been in GT 300 in Japan, at Baja, Pikes Peak, and it just continues to run. We’re fighting for another championship at Sebring this weekend with it.”
Fans of the NTT IndyCar Series might be the most familiar with hearing from Miller, whose steady presence on pit lane and routine assistance with insights and answers on HPD’s twin-turbo V6 motors are a mainstay in open-wheel coverage.
“I wasn’t so involved with the initial development of the IndyCar V6, but when I switched over to managing the race team side in IndyCar side late in 2014, I began focusing on helping to steer some of the development of the IndyCar engine from where it was to where we are now,” he said.
“We didn’t win championships those first few years and we were able to refocus and rethink and work hard and come up with some developments on what we had started out with. With a lot of great people who were already on the project, we finally put together a good package that performs well and is durable. I’m so happy and so proud that HPD and Honda have won the IndyCar manufacturers’ championship the last three years in a row. It’s been fun.”
Although Miller’s time at HPD is reaching its end, there’s no chance he’ll spend the rest of his life away from the sport.
“I would not say I will never come back,” he said with a chuckle. “I can’t see myself sitting around forever but, I’m going to relax and enjoy retirement a little bit; I might be a fan for a year, then come and visit a few races. But at some point, if something comes along that’s interesting, I may jump on it. But we’ll see what the future brings.”