The young co-driver ready to make his mark on ARA

He might only be 19-years-old, but KJ Miller is already making an impression


When you think of ARA-centric co-drivers, you would probably have a list of five to six people who have been in the game for years come to mind. 

Rhiannon and Alex Gelsomino, Martin Brady, John Hall, Craig Drew if you’re a Higgins fan, maybe even Keaton Williams if you count him after joining Brandon Semenuk this year.

Well, get ready to add a new name to that list soon. 

19-year-old Washington State University marketing student KJ Miller is ready to prove himself to you, if he hasn’t already done so.

Miller’s a navigator who has exploded onto the scene in the past few years, having worked his way up from a regional Limited 2WD seat to a top-five car, all within just 18 months.

In fact, wind back another 18 months and Miller had basically no knowledge of the rally world at all compared to his soon-to-be colleagues.

Now with over 1000 stage miles under his belt this year alone, it’s hard to believe Miller hasn’t been groomed into this position from birth.

So how did this all happen? Where did KJ come from?

Well, after the huge step of joining “Texas Dave” Carapetyan in car on the Susquehannock Trail Performance Rally, DirtFish called Miller up, and gave him a break from his homework to get the entire story.


“Up until 2019 I didn’t even know rally existed at all,” Miller told DirtFish.

“I’m really local to the Olympus Rally. I live 30 minutes away from The Ridge Motorsports Park where we have service, so I saw some cars, looked it up, and found out the rally was there.

“I knew like Ken Block and Travis Pastrana. I raced dirt bikes and stuff growing up, so I knew Pastrana and Subaru, but like, I didn’t really know much about anything and I had no Idea there was something literally in the same woods I live in.

“But yeah, that was about the extent of my knowledge was ‘blue car go fast.’”

“I went to The Ridge for Olympus in 2019, and then after that I started my Instagram page, The Right Pedal.”

Miller’s Instagram page is a big part of how he got into the rally world. Serving as a catch-all page for anything rally related, The Right Pedal quickly found a following among fans and rally competitors alike.

“Eventually, I tried co-driving on DiRT Rally and I loved it. So literally that same night, the first time I tried it, I messaged Karen Jankowski and set up some co-driver lessons, and then she taught me how to do it. Two months later, I raced at Olympus for the first time.”

If Jankowski’s name is familiar, that’s because she has been a mainstay in US rally for many years now. Co-driving starting in 2006, Jankowski has two MaxAttack! 2WD co-driving titles, and is highly active in the Pacific Northwest rallying community

“I volunteered at 2020 Olympus when there were no spectators,” Miller continued. “We were literally standing on the side of the road as the cars went by at like ninety miles an hour.

“I was like, ‘oh my God, this is so cool.’”

Already considering co-driving, Miller was unfazed by the sheer amount of planning and responsibility that goes into such a role.

“Karen was telling me all the responsibilities I would have, I just was like, ‘this is still so worth it.’

“Even now, with even more responsibility taken on, I still love it so much. All the planning and everything that goes into it ahead of time, It’s honestly enjoyable.

“When I messaged Karen, I knew nothing at all other than very basic pace notes I learned from playing DiRT.

“Really with Karen I think I probably took like four or five lessons, calls, whatever, with her and she basically taught me everything I needed to know to do my first couple rallies without getting any big moments or penalties or anything like that.

“All the rules and all the things that you look out for, and like how to do timecards all that stuff. How to work, the route books and write notes. And so I just kind of used that and then figured out what worked and what didn’t work at Olympus and how I could get better.

“The only racing I’d done was dirt bikes. No one I knew really raced, no one I knew really rallied. My first time ever being in a rally car, seeing one up close was getting in the car to go off to stage.

“I just had this picture in my mind of how awesome it would be and I just kind of committed it no matter what it took, and it ended up being as awesome as I thought it would be.”

Miller’s first ride was at Olympus in 2021 with Geoff Thomas in an orange first generation Ford Focus.

“So beforehand,” Miller explained, “I’d probably put in like 200-300 hours of driving on DiRT Rally 2.0, just ironing out everything. So by the time my first rally came, it was obviously a lot of different, but I had that like base layer of knowing what to do down.

“Basically the only difference is you can feel the car and like the speed.

“And then, after my third rally at Ojibwe, I linked up with Julien Sebot, who got me an OZ Rally Pro course.”

I was like, 'Oh my God I've just peaked, it does not get better than this.' KJ Miller

Sebot, who lives in Portland, made sure that in addition to what Jankowski taught, Miller would have training on-site at DirtFish with the Gelsominos to expand his skillset early on.

“They kind of just expanded on what Karen taught me,” Miller said, “and helped me out much more before LSPR.”

Since then quite a lot has happened for Miller, starting with a full-season ride with reigning Limited 2WD Cup Champion Roberto Yglesias for 2022.

Before Miller had even sat in the car for the first time at Olympus, Yglesias had already approached him about the possibility for sitting next to him in the 2022 season.

“At the start of the start of this year I was so excited for the opportunity to co-drive with Roberto,” Miller explained.

“I was like, ‘Oh my God I’ve just peaked, it does not get better than this.’

“I thought, ‘Next year, I want to go maybe try to get into some mid-pack Subaru.’ And then now, these opportunities just like keep popping up, and now I’m supposed to be testing in an R5 in the next couple of weeks.

“It’s all so crazy just how fast it’s all happened. I would have never thought it would have happened, but yeah, all the work I put in has really paid off.”

Probably the craziest thing to happen for Miller so far this year was the opportunity to sit with long-time veteran Carapetyan for STPR, after his previous co-driver John Hall is now unavailable as he goes travelling for the rest of the year..

Surely that had to be intimidating?

“Yes,” Miller said. “It was.


“I mean I always looked at John Hall, I met him and learned who he was last year and I was like ‘oh this guy’s legit, he’s been in it forever.’ Like one of the most experienced people out here.

“Then I saw the message from Texas Dave and I was like ‘dude like I’m replacing John Hall.’ These are massive shoes to fill, and of all people that he could have reached out to, it was me. Even just realizing that it was me that he reached out to instead of anybody else, just like the craziest feeling ever.”

Going into the final ARA national event of 2022, Miller will finish off his season with Texas Dave again, and while there’s plenty of future here for the navigating prodigy, he has his sights set on the highest levels of competition.

“The main goal for me,” he said, “I want to get to WRC as a co-driver. That’s what I’m shooting for.

“But I mean I guess if that doesn’t work that’s why I’m going to school still, trying to get my marketing degree together. If co-driving doesn’t work at least I still have something to fall back on and, also something that can be integrated into the rally.”

While Miller already has a foot in the door co-driving, he also has a foot in the door with marketing, now running the River City Rally team social medias as of a few weeks ago.

And although he hasn’t yet been here a long time, Miller has proven himself more than capable of getting to grips with a rally quickly. 

Keep an eye on Miller and whomever he may sit with in the future. He’s is aiming for the moon, and has the tenacity to reach it.

Words:Mason Runkel