By Dan Stillwell
Register-Herald Sports Writer
Travis Mills could always take a hit.
A former all-state football player at Independence High School, the 6-foot, 200-pounder dished it out as good as he got it from linebackers trying to take his head off.
Friday night at Beckley Motorsports Park, Mills showed he could take an even bigger kind of a hit.
And walk away.
“I was running third, and we went into Turn 3 three-wide. I got into the loose dirt and went up the side of the mountain,” Mills said. “The car rolled over completely, twice.”
It was an unusually ugly accident at BMP. Fortunately, Mills wasn’t hurt. The car ended up on its wheels, and the 5-point harness belt did its job.
But it was scary.
“The only thing I was thinking about was catching on fire, and wanting to get out,” Mills said. “I jumped out of the car and was sitting on the hill before anybody got to me.”
Track officials got to him within seconds. An ambulance was quickly there, but it wasn’t needed.
The car didn’t fare as well.
“It’s torn all to pieces,” Mills said. “The rear end is junk. The body is torn up. We’ll have to do a lot of hard work, but we should be there again Friday.”
It wasn’t his first accident. While in high school, he had raced motocross and wrecked twice with no injuries.
Cars seemed worth a try.
“I figured they would be a little bit safer,” he said.
Mills had it rough at the outset of his rookie season, getting caught up in some fender-benders. He kept his head and continued learning about the car and the track.
“The first few weeks I was tearing up stuff and it really wasn’t my fault,” he said. “But I’ve had a couple of Top 5 finishes. It’s been pretty decent for my first year and my first car.”
He had a second-place finish a few weeks ago at Princeton, and last week he finished fifth in the feature race at BMP. He came into Friday night’s race fifth in the Street Stocks points.
When the race continued after the accident, Tyler Blankenship from Hanover took the checkered flag. Blankenship had been ranked sixth, 14 points behind Mills. Beaver’s Hank Stover, previously third in the points standings, was runner-up. Second-place Robert Richardson from Alderson finished third.
Ironically, Mills was having a fine race.
“I was running good until that happened. It was the best I’d ever felt,” he recalled. “But I never let up on the turn. Once you get up in that loose stuff, there’s no letting up or turning around.
The accident hasn’t diminished his love for racing a bit.
“Lord, yeah! I’ll be back! My butt didn’t leave the seat,” Mills said. “It’s definitely safe enough to get back in and go again.
“I love racing. It’s something to look forward to through the week.”
But as good as racing is, he still misses football. In his biggest game, his senior year (2011-12) against Midland Trail, he ran for over 200 yards and three touchdowns.
Mills was offered a chance to play college ball, but decided college wasn’t for him. He currently works for the W.Va. Turnpike.
“After I started to work, I figured I needed something to do on the weekends, so I picked this up,” he said. “Maybe the more I race, the more I’ll love it,” he said. “But football is what I always wanted to do.”
Nevertheless, Thursday night Mills was in the garage until 2 a.m., working on the red and yellow No. 30.
With that kind of effort, no doubt he’ll have it back on the track Friday night.
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