Hard work, perseverance pay off for Kendall Milam
Published 3:09 pm Friday, September 22, 2023
Hard work and perseverance gave 18-year-old Kendall Milam his first HEAT Hornets Division championship.
The young Keeling resident held a 14-point lead over D.J. Moser entering the season’s final points race on September 2. It appeared Milam could relax and attempt to race for the win in the season’s final race, but circumstances did not turn out that way. A problem occurred with his car that threatened to unhinge the teenager’s bid for his first stock car racing championship.
Milam, his father, Jarrett Milam, his brother, Landon Milam, and others worked frantically on the car after it developed issues during the division’s first practice session. After repairs, the car stayed together during qualifying and, fortunately, lasted through the race, allowing Milam to finish ninth and capture the division title.
“It felt really good to finish that race and win the championship,” Milam remarked. “It was a lot of stress relief. We had a whole lot of stress that night. We had problems with the car and were worried we wouldn’t be able to finish the race. I knew if I didn’t finish the race, I wasn’t going to win the championship.”
Winning the 2023 HEAT Hornets Division championship is a special accomplishment for Milam as he became the second member of his family to win a division championship at South Boston Speedway.
His father won the 2010 South Boston Speedway Pure Stock Division title with six wins that season. The elder Milam also won two Pure Stock Division championships at nearby Orange County Speedway in Rougemont, North Carolina.
“To be the second Milam to win a championship at South Boston Speedway means a lot to me and my family,” he remarked. “It means a whole lot to finally win the championship after all of the hard work that has been put in over the last three years. Winning the championship had been my goal since my first year of racing.”
‘A TRUE SENSE OF ACCOMPLISHMENT’
Milam is enjoying a true sense of accomplishment in winning the HEAT Hornets Division championship because he prevailed in a tough, close, season-long points battle that went down to the season’s final race and did it in a highly competitive division that had six different race winners and seven different drivers to lead laps.
“It was a good season,” Milam noted. “This is a lot more competitive division this year than it was last year. It’s not as much fun if you go out there and you blow everybody out because it feels like you had no competition at all. The Hornets Division is the most competitive support division there is.”
In winning the division title Milam registered two wins, seven Top-5 finishes, and 10 Top-10 finishes in 11 starts. Those numbers closely mirrored his numbers from 2022 when he recorded two wins, seven Top-5 finishes, and nine Top-10 finishes. He finished fourth in the final 2022 season point standings despite sitting out one race and wrecking out of another race.
The big difference between Milam’s 2022 season and his 2023 championship-winning season rested with him growing in both maturity and experience.
“I matured a whole lot,” explained Milam. “I knew last year what I needed to come into this season to win the championship. Last year, I was just a “go win races” type of racer. I didn’t care if I made enemies or not. I was just going out there to win races.
“Knowing I could come in this year and compete for the division championship, I raced everybody clean. I will continue to do that throughout my racing career. My goal, more than anything this year, was to be consistent and to finish all the races.”
A RACE FOR FIRST PLACE
The battle for the 2023 division championship was intense from start to finish. While the points margins among the top five drivers in the standings were very narrow and four-to-five drivers were in contention for the championship at any point during the season, it was Dillon Davis of Nathalie, Virginia, the eventual division runner-up, that gave Milam the most concern.
Milam appeared to have the upper hand just after the season’s midpoint. Unfortunately, he encountered misfortune in the July 15 event and had to retire his car from the race with only a few laps remaining. He finished 11th that night, his only finish outside of the Top 10 this season. Davis finished fifth in that race, and sliced heavily into Milam’s points lead.
Another key point in the division championship points battle came in the August 19 race when Davis encountered engine issues and finished 12th. Milam finished second in the race and extended his points lead while Davis dropped to third place in the standings with one race remaining.
“His motor locking up helped us a lot in points,” Milam noted. “We were in a very close points battle entering that night.”
Over the course of the season’s final three races, Milam finished fourth, second and ninth while Davis posted finishes of fifth, 12th, and fourth in the final three races.
Milam pointed out he and Davis had a good battle for the championship throughout the season.
“Dillon and I started racing the same year,” Milam pointed out. “We had a clean battle. We had one run-in, but we raced clean the whole year.”