The 24-year-old from Trenton, Ont. advanced from the track’s entry-level Comp 4 division to the much faster, purpose-built Canadian Modified racecar to start the 2016 season. There were growing pains as she shifted to the high-powered rear-wheel drive car, but improved tremendously over the course of the five-month long campaign.
“I’m happy with how it went, but I wish I could have done a little better. Now, I’m planning on what to do next year to improve. I’ve looked up a couple of different chassis schools to learn about the cars more. Hopefully that helps me as a driver too,” Mills said.
Entering the season, Mills knew the adjustment to the bigger, heavier and faster Modified car would take some time. However, altering her driving approach entirely wasn’t necessarily anticipated.
“I knew the speed and the throttle response would be a big change, so I expected that,” Mills said. “Driving the car into the corner wasn’t something I was used to. The speed, the fact the car could handle it while cornering and learning I didn’t have to slow down as much I thought I did, was probably the toughest thing.”
There were also expectations from some onlookers the 2015 Comp 4 champion would succeed immediately in her new division. Others felt she was doomed to fail. Fortunately, Mills proved her detractors wrong and found a happy medium.
“It felt like there was no in between. As a female driver and somebody who just won a championship, I felt like regardless of the change, people expected a lot from me. I was really conscious of that fact and I wanted to make sure I wasn’t at the back of the pack. I wasn’t a front-runner, but at the same time I was a rookie and I was learning,” Mills said.
She finished the season 10th in division points with 11 top-10 results in 16 starts. Mills knows she can improve on that feat next year. With the experience and knowledge from this season under her belt, she has gained plenty of confidence moving forward.
“It’s just driving. I’m just going to need more laps and to be more aggressive. Sometimes I get into traffic and I would give spots away. I wouldn’t drive hard enough to maintain my spot,” Mills said. “Now that I know I’m a pretty decent driver after my first season, I want to work on that and make sure I’m not giving spots away.”
From the first race on April 30 to the season finale September 24, Mills’ improvements were apparent not only to the fans in the stands, but also in the numbers.
“I feel like I improved quite a bit and I learned a lot about the car. I’m happy with how I did,” Mills said.
“After the final race, the Danny Reid, I looked at lap times and I compared myself to a couple of different drivers who have been doing it a long time or have been doing really well and there was a lot of times where I was faster. Seeing that made me realize I can do it.”
Mills has already begun working on her game plan for next season as she seeks areas for improvement on the mechanical side of the equation. She and her boyfriend Justin Ramsay spend countless hours preparing their racecars each week, so maintenance and upkeep are not areas of concern. The winter will be spent pouring over the car with a fine-tooth comb.
“We’ve already got the body tore off my car. We’re going to put a new body on my car and, other than winter maintenance, we probably aren’t going to do too much,” Mills said, recognizing she doesn’t want to mess with a good thing.
Mills is eager to get back to her winning ways when she returns to the dirt next spring. If she can continue to improve at her current pace, it won’t take long. With a year of experience to lean on, Mills is certainly going to bring her competitive edge to the table right away.
Shelby Mills 2016 Season: 16 Starts – 0 Wins, 0 Top-5s, 11 Top-10s
RACING FOR A CAUSE
Shelby Mills is racing in support of Muscular Dystrophy research via the Laps 4 MD program. Shelby will donate $1 for every lap she leads during the 2016 season. For more information on the Laps 4 MD program, visit www.muscle.ca/laps-for-muscular-dystrophy/.
Shelby Mills’ 2016 Canadian Modified season is supported by a number of dedicated corporate sponsors, including: ABC Taxi, Dibbits Excavating, KD Transmission, C. Smith Machine Shop, Rest Easy Home Inspection, Empey Tire, Hennessy Point Landscaping, Mike’s Fries and Hotch’s Auto Parts.
Prepared By Clayton Johns Media