The BME Top Fuel Race Team
 
The BME Top Fuel Dragster Bill Miller Engineering Top Fuel Dragster and Race Team
Bill Miller Top Fuel Dragster

The Bill Miller Engineering Top Fuel Dragster is, first and foremost, a development tool. It plays an pivotal role in the process of bringing all BME products to market and continually improving their performance, reliability and durability. "Our company," BME President, Bill Miller, states, "is the only manufacturer of connecting rods, pistons, wrist pins, and supercharger components which uses its own race car to develop products."
Bill and Virgie Miller are some of the last independents in Top Fuel drag racing. A rarity in a motorsport where the top teams have two or three racecars, a dozen engines, scores of full-time crew members, three tractor trailers and millions of dollars in sponsorship; the Bill Miller Engineering Top Fuel Team has a single car, one hauler, a highly-motivated crew of 10 and a budget dwarfed by those of drag racing's nitro class stars. The Team runs about half the National Hot Rod Association National Events each year.
 

One of the last competitive, self-sponsored racers in Top Fuel  drag racing is Carson City, Nevada's Bill Miller.
Image: BME Ltd.

What motivates the BME Top Fuel Team?

Persistence.

Above all, it's persistance which keeps the BME Team competing in NHRA's Mello Yello Drag Drag Racing Series.

Hanging in BME hauler is a plaque bearing President Calvin Coolidge's famous views on the subject: "Nothing can take the place of persistence. Talent will not--nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not--unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not--the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination are omnipotent. The slogan 'press on' has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race."

Every Team Member takes those words to heart.

Racing since '81

Bill Miller used to raced a Chevrolet-powered Top Fuel Dragster. For many years, it was the only blown-fuel Arias/Chevy at National Events. Image: BME Ltd

 

For 17 years, in two different chassis, BME ran the only blown-fuel, Arias/Chevrolet at National Events. By the end of 1998, staying competitive with the Big-Block Chevy was too costly, so Bill Miller put a Brad Anderson Hemi in his eight year-old chassis. The BAE-powered, BME fueler went 4.59/323, but by '05, the car was obsolete and the Team ordered its third car from chassis supplier, Don Long.

The third BME car at the 2001 Winternationals. Image: BME Ltd.

In 2006, with a new car, the Team ran 13 events, set best-ever e.t. and speed marks at 4.545-sec. and 326.32 mph, and finished 15th in points. That season, of T/F teams running partial schedules, Bill Miller Engineering had the most points. "2006 was a very good year," Miller beamed. "Finishing 15th in the Championship after competing in less than 60 percent of the races was quite an accomplishment. It's a testament to what can be done by a persistent and talented team of volunteers who put their hearts and souls into Top Fuel racing."

In '06, Bill Miller, also, made off-track news as a critic of NHRA's controversial rule change allowing heat-treated tubing in Top Fuel and Funny Car Chassis. Research into this controversy was a project at Bill Miller Engineering for 18 months. As the debate spilled-over into '07, BME was instrumental in amassing a body of data which documented the hazard of heat-treated tubing in a race car chassis. An article by reporter, Jon Asher, posted in October of '07 on Competitionplus.com and in January of '08 on this web site, investigated Top Fuel and Funny Car Chassis Failures using BME's research. Please, click here to read that article.

During the '07/'08 off-season, the BME Dragster was back-halfed with the larger diameter, "normalized" tubing required by more rule changes NHRA made after the heat-treated chassis fiasco. New bodywork provided more front downforce. Fuel system changes were made to support the additional airflow available from the new Gibson/Miller Mk II. "We had to increase the fuel flow," Miller said, "but, for the first six-or-seven races (in '07) I was not prepared for the amount of fuel it took to keep the motor from backfiring. To get more fuel into the motor, Kent Enderle and I designed a new type of down nozzle."

The Buff Era

Having a tradition of hiring successful blown alcohol drivers, going into the 2008 NHRA Mello Yellow Drag Racing season, Bill Miller signed former TAD racer and second generation dragster driver, Troy Buff, to drive the BME racecar. Buff brought three things to the Team. First, he weighs less. In Top Fuel, each 15 lbs. out of the car is a hundredth off the e.t. Wins can depend on a thousandth of a second, so 20 pounds less in the driver seat is huge. Second, Troy Buff had Top Fuel driving experience with another team and he built their motors, too. Lastly, a dragster gearhead since childhood and an engine builder and machinist by trade, Buff was the perfect addition to a team where everyone, even the driver, works on the car.


Troy Buff charges off the Pomona starting line in Top Fuel qualifying. The BME Top Fuel Team got in the show in the 14th spot, but was eliminated in the first round by 7-time Top Fuel champ, Tony Schumacher. Image: BME, Ltd.

Changes to the BME Dragster and Troy Buff driving paid off handsomely in a turnaround for the Team in 2008. They qualified for all 15 events they entered. They went to the second round three times and ran a best of 4.603/308.28 mph during the first half of the season on a 1/4-mile track and 3.840/309.27 in the second part which was run on the new thousand-foot track the NHRA mandated for pro classes. The high-point was the World Finals at Pomona where BME qualified 14th, then squared off with Hillary Will, No. 2 in the world at the time, in the first round. Troy Buff dispatched Ms. Will with his career-best 3.840/309.27 mph, giving the BME Team a 14th place finish for the year. It was the second time in three years they finished highest of any Top Fuel team running a partial schedule. For more information about the driver, Troy Buff, please click here.

Another of the reasons Bill Miller races a Fueler is it's a rolling test and validation tool for his line of aluminum connecting rods, racing pistons and wrist pins. Here Miller, himself, examines a set of BME Rods which came out of the engine in the BME Top Fuel car. Image: BME Ltd.

Bill Miller makes all the tuning decisions on his Top Fueler. Like all professional drag race teams, the BME Dragster has an on-board, multi-track data recording system. The data it stores on each run is the lynch pin of the tuning process. One of a blown-fuel tuners many tasks is making sense out of the myriad of data each drag strip pass provides. Here, Bill Miller, reviews a pass from the '08 Winternationals in the race team trailer's lounge. Image: BME Ltd.

BME Becomes a Chassis Builder

The next big year for BME's Top Fuel car was 2010 and it was another season of significant change. The Team debuted a new racecar at the U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis. By 2010, Bill Miller's longtime chassis builder, Don Long, had hung up his welding helmet and retired. When Long closed his business, Miller purchased Long's tooling then hired Fabricator, Bob Tobin, to build the Team's first, in-house chassis, "BME # 01".

There are important differences between the 2005 Don Long car and this new chassis. The foot box--the front of the cockpit where Troy Buff puts his feet--is 12-inches shorter. An improved chassis design and that Buff is not as tall as Miller's previous driver enabled that change. This allowed the flexible part of the car's chassis ahead of the driver, which acts as a "front suspension", to be longer and that increased weight transfer when the driver stands on the gas at the green.

The BME Top Fuel Team is a small, closely-knit and experienced group of people who work together and communicate very well. They are preparing the BME Dragster for its first qualifying run at the '16 World Finals. Image: BME, Ltd.

The engine is four inches farther forward. That moved the center-of-mass forward, putting more weight on the front wheels. The old car had an annoying habit of lifting the front wheels in the early part of the run. While that tendency was mitigated by changing the front wing in '08, the car still was pulling the wheels right at the hit. Moving the engine forward put even more weight on the nose and allowed Miller to use a more aggressive clutch set-up just as the car leaves the starting line.

The last key improvement was a revision of cockpit packaging. The seating and placement of pedals were optimized for Troy Buff. The steering wheel was lowered to improve his vision. Various controls were either repositioned or had their ergonomics improved.

BME #01 was part of why the Bill Miller Engineering Top Fuel team returned to "best partial schedule performer" status in 2010. The Team qualified for 12 of 14 events and enabled Troy Buff to get into a second round three times, at Pomona, Phoenix and Bristol. The Team finished the year in 12th place behind 11 other teams which ran a full schedule. 2010 marked the third time in five years Bill Miller Engineering was the class of partial-schedule, Top Fuel independents.

For the BME Team, 2011 to 2015 was period of mixed results. The best of the not-so-good was 2014. While the Team finished 17th in points and was third among the partial schedule Top Fuelers, twice Troy Buff drove the BME Dragster into the semifinal round. The rest of that five years was not near as successful and, late in the '15 season, Bill Miller concluded that the best way out of the doldrums was to construct another new chassis. Work began on BME #02 that Fall.

BME's second in-house Top Fuel chassis built on the key features of the first. The car aft of the driver was pretty much the same, but up front, Bill Miler and ace fabricator Tobin, made more changes. First the footbox was shortened another six inches to further increase the length of the car where chassis flex occurs. Also the driver was repositioned about half an inch lower in the chassis so that the upper parts of the roll cage could be made lower. This was a move to reduce drag by decreasing frontal area.

BME #02 debuted at the Phoenix test session prior to the 2016 Winternationals. Two weeks later, at the Winters, in the first round, Buff lost by two feet to Richie Crampton. At Phoenix two weeks later, the BME car smoked the tires in the first round.

For the Bill Miller Engineering Top Fuel Team, the third event with chassis #02 at Las Vegas on 3 April 2016, was historic--the first time in 35 years of T/F racing that the Bill Miller Engineering Team went to the Final Round at an NHRA National Event.

In Q3 at the Spring Nationals in Houston, Troy Buff blows Richie Campton into the weeds as the Lucas Oil car goes up in smoke. The BME Dragster went 3.87/308.78 to Crampton's 10.31/83.21. Image: Auto Imagery.

Troy Buff qualified the BME Dragster 12th. In the first round, once again, Buff was up against Crampton and it ended in a pedalfest. Richie was up in smoke at the hit, pedaled it, then smoked the tires again. Troy ran the BME car hard to half-track, then spun the tires. He pedaled it, hooked, again, near the finish line and went 4.967/191.97 to Crampton's loosing 7.447/103.83. In the second round, the BME car faced-off with Brittany Force's Monster Energy Dragster. Apparently Brittany was  snoozing a bit on the line, so Troy left on her by .08 and never looked back. He went 3.924/311.41 to Ms. Force's loosing 3.972/301.54. In the Semi, the BME Dragster squared-off with J.R. Todd. Troy left on Todd by 0.14 then drove the BME Dragster to a 3.910/310.55 win. The final was "David"--frugal independent BME--vs. "Goliath"--mega-buck, Don Schumacher Racing. Troy Buff staged against 2015 Top Fuel Champion, Antron Brown. Buff cut an astonishing .012 light, leaving on Brown by .041 and led to half-track when his engine dropped a cylinder. The Matco Tools Dragster caught the BME car, taking the win by a margin-of-victory of .0346-second. Had it not be for one cylinder going away, the Bill Miller Engineering Top Fuel Dragster would have upset the current Top Fuel World Champion to win the NHRA Denso Iridium TT Nationals.
 

Now here's a picture right out of science fiction movie. Because nitromethane exhaust is not so good to breathe, when the team warms-up the motor in the pits, they all don these gas masks. The guy just to the right of driver, Troy Buff, is Car Owner. Bill Miller. Image: BME Ltd

The BME car uses an 10000-hp Brad Anderson Hemi. Atop the BAE Hemi is the Gibson/Miller Mark II Supercharger. Image: Auto Imagery.

EVERYONE on the team works on the car between runs...even the driver. Troy Buff's tasks are supercharger maintenance, care and mixing of the 90% nitromethane fuel and parachute packing. Here, he's fitting the drive assembly to the BME Dragster's Gibson/Miller Mark II Supercharger. Image: BME Ltd.

Perhaps the most labor intensive part on a blown-fuel car is the clutch. Any fuel team has a dedicated "clutch guy" and many teams have more than one person working on clutches. On the BME Team, Brandon Leedy (right) is the clutch expert. The Team has half a dozen clutches and it's a full time job to "rebuild" them after each run. Image: BME, Ltd.

Bill and his Wife, Virgie, own the Team. Bill is the Crew Chief and works on the car, himself. The BME Race Team is a persistent bunch of racers who meet challenges head-on. "When you look at the mountain we have to climb: to be competitive in Top Fuel," Bill says of the Team's challenge, "it's a tough climb for a crew of three full-time guys and 10 part-timers, competing against crews of 10 to 12 working full-time. But, we have the right parts. We've got virtually the same engine set-up as the full-time pros. Our car has all the current chassis technology. There's a psychological effect, too. The entire team's attitude is bolstered by the state-of-the-art equipment we're running."

The BME Top Fuel Dragster Team

Owners:

Bill and Virgie Miller

Crew Chief

Bill Miller

Driver, Supercharger Service, Fuel Mixing Troy Buff
General Manager, Clutch Technician, Truck Driver Brandon Leedy
Clutch Assistant Jack McCann
Car chief, Right Head R&R Mike Eubank
Bottom End, Rod and Piston Racks John Harford
Tires, Bottom End Assistant Jason Van
Left Head R&R, Engine Teardown, Truck Driver Duane Doffing
Fuel Pumps, Wings, Intake Manifold Kevin Fenstermaker
Short Block Assembly at Shop Ron Hixson
Entertainment Consultant Bob Girardi

What's Miller's secret to being Top Fuel competitive on a budget that's about 15% of what most touring pros in the nitro class spend? Bill told Drag Racer magazine in an interview a couple of years ago, "I work my ass off. Also, I'm careful with the money I have. With some teams, a tremendous amount of money gets wasted. Also, because I'm in the rod and piston business, I talk to my customers, many of whom are nitro class racers, all the time. We talk about the car, motors, clutches and everything about Top Fuel racing. I pick-up a tremendous amount of valuable information that way.

Asked how he manages to run a Top Fueler with a small crew and limited financing, Bill Miller will quickly answer, "Persistence and I work my ass off."
Image: BME Ltd.

The teamwork necessary for the BME Team to be persistent in its quest to compete with the leading competitors in Top Fuel requires communication and leadership skills. Bill Miller confers with  driver, Troy Buff, in between rounds of Top Fuel qualifying session at the 2016 World Finals at Pomona, California. Image: BME, Ltd.

"At this point, Bill Miller Engineering puts-up most of the money. We're, also, pleased to have Goodyear, ARP, XRP, and Red Line Synthetic Oil Corporation helping us out. We're going to keep our schedule to about half the races in 2017 and for next few years."

If you're at an NHRA National Event and you want to meet some of the last independents in Top Fuel, stop by the BME trailer.

During your visit, you may learn a little bit about what persistance can do in drag racing.

The BME Team gets ready to fire the motor, just before its second qualifying attempt at the World Finals in 2016


                     Mr. Bill

 

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Bill Miller Engineering, Ltd, 4895 Convair Drive, Carson City, Nevada 89706
Phone: 775.887.1299 FAX: 775.887.0390
Email: bill@bmeltd.com
Last Updated: June 5, 2017  Copyright © 2017 Bill Miller Engineering
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