Henry Miller thought the wake-up calls were over and done in his motocross career.
Then came May 15.
The Rochester native was driving his RV on California state Route 99 with his girlfriend, his bike mechanic and two dogs, to the opening round of the 2019 AMA Pro Motocross national championship series at Hangtown in Sacramento.
He explained the rest on his Instagram account (h_miller49):
“Another driver went sideways coming onto the highway as I was cruising in the far lane,” Miller wrote. “(We) hit the guy’s truck in the driver side, sending us into the concrete median, then back across the highway into the ditch, through the fence and onto the service road.
“All of us, including our two dogs, walked away very lucky with minor injuries.”
Miller was coming off an encouraging supercross season, having finished 17th overall in the 250cc Class of the AMA SX East points standings. He finished his supercross season with a pair of 16th-place finishes in the 450cc Class, the sport’s top division.
He hoped to carry that momentum with him to Hangtown and the start of the motocross season. Then his motorhome’s front end was crumpled on what has been labeled “America’s most dangerous highway” because of its rate of fatal accidents per 100 miles of roadway, according to a consumer study. All things considered, Miller said he felt lucky to be able to race three days later, though the memories of the accident have lingered.
“The supercross season was up-and-down, left-and-right, all over the place,” said Miller, 22. “I got on the 450 for the last two rounds and gained some confidence, but the motorhome deal set me back quite a bit.
“I try to not think about it, but it is in the back of my mind. I was in shock for a bit and felt like I was a zombie.”
It took a few weeks for Miller to be able to put the incident out of his mind when at the race track.
The top privateer rider on the circuit – he funds a majority of his own race team, not backed by a major factory team – battled to a 25th-place finish at Hangtown on May 18, and a 24th-place finish the following week at Fox Raceway in San Diego.
Since then, Miller has finished in the top 20 in the past five rounds of the motocross national series. He hit his high point of the season so far at the most recent round, finishing 12th overall two weeks ago at Red Bud in Buchanan, Mich.
He sits 17th overall in the AMA national championship series 450 Class points standings through seven rounds of the 12-round series.
And his recent surge couldn’t come at a better time. Miller and his team are in Rochester this week, preparing for Round 8 of the AMA motocross championship on Saturday at Spring Creek MX Park in Millville.
Miller is his strongest on parts of the Spring Creek track that often trouble other riders, particularly the track’s infamous “sand whoops,” the speedbump like rollers on the far northwest edge of the track.
“I really like the whoops; I’ve always been good on the rollers,” he said. “I’m about 6-feet tall, the right body length for those. It helps to have long legs and arms. And I like the downhills (at Spring Creek), too. Not many tracks around the country have hills like that and to have grown up on them really is an advantage.”
Spring Creek is not only the track where Miller cut his racing teeth, it’s also a place where he’s had increasingly more success as a pro and his fan following has grown on an annual basis.
“It always feels like I’m a kid again, feels like I’m at home, just going to race and have fun on a weekend,” Miller said. “It eases your mind and I know I’ll have a lot of people there supporting me.
“It takes some pressure off, but it adds some, too. I don’t want to let them down.