SALISBURY, N.C. – When Brian Carber won the Keith Kunz Motorsports Giveback Classic on Nov. 4 at Millbridge Speedway, he faced a question he never pictured answering.
Take the KKM Chili Bowl Nationals ride and $5,000 payout or the $15,000 prize altogether?
The Pipersville, Pa., native, utterly torn between a decision, turned down the Chili Bowl opportunity and took the money. As a blue-collar racer, Carber noted that he simply couldn’t decline that kind of cash.
Now, thanks to money raised via a GoFundMe program, Carber will, in fact, race at the 35th Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Nationals in a KKM midget.
Though Carber decided to take the $10,000 bonus on top of the $5,000 prize, Kunz told the 26-year-old in victory lane he had a week to think about it, in case of a change of heart.
Daniel Robinson, an Illinois racer, heard about Kunz’s offer and launched fundraising efforts with a Facebook post the day after Carber’s big win.
“As a racer, I just hate to see anyone miss out on such a great opportunity,” Robinson wrote that Thursday morning.
The post quickly circulated and money started to roll in. Carber, though, had no idea what was transpiring. He was too focused trying to get to Bridgeport Speedway in Swedesboro, N.J., that weekend to race his sprint car.
Carber eventually caught wind of Robinson’s idea early Sunday morning at his race shop, when he began decompressing after a long week.
As a fan, Carber has been to six Chili Bowl Nationals, but he has never attended the event as a driver. In fact, he has no experience driving a midget at all.
He can, however, “tell you everyone who’s ever driven” a KKM midget and share his appreciation for his self-made racing journey that will end up in Tulsa the week of Jan. 11.
“It’s honestly amazing,” Carber said. “I’m still processing it. … I honestly never saw this happening.”
Carber, whose brother is a front-end mechanic on the No. 9 NASCAR Cup Series Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE for Chase Elliott, is an accomplished micro racer from the competitive ranks of Pennsylvania.
For proof, he beat out Pennsylvania counterparts Alex Bright and Brendan Bright for this golden chance to manifest his talents.
“Yes, you try to go out there and try to win every race, but I never thought I’d be in the position to drive that car,” said Carber, who isn’t entirely sure himself what the immediate next step is.
What he does know, though, is that he has to get fitted in the KKM midget at some point. That requires a flight to Tulsa Int’l Airport and few days away from his full-time job as a fuel injection tuning specialist at Hyper Racing.
Carber also knows he’s in the best hands in all of midget racing in Kunz, whose cars have won five of the last six Chili Bowl Nationals.
“That’s the best guy, the best situation you could ask for,” Carber said. “I don’t have $10,000 to put down and go. I’m not that kind of person. People go out there, buy race cars that are $40,000. I’m like, ‘Well, I’ll get this frame, I can cut this up myself, weld this up with this guy and have a really nice car.’ That’s what my car is now.”
The car he rode to victory at Millbridge is a 2013 frame and was assembled by Carber himself. Carber has always been frugal and diligent with his race operations, largely because he’s never had a wealth of resources to throw around.
“I’ve never had anyone write me a check of [more than] $1,000 before,” Carber said.
That is why Carber turned down one of the biggest rides anyone could ever ask for, and then received enough fundraising dollars to still make arrangements for midget racing’s biggest event.
“I’m just trying to learn as we go,” Carber said. “I would say, this year, I’m very thankful. I’ve made the most money I’ve ever made. The whole aspect of how to go about it, taxes, and how to maintain it.”
This kind of success isn’t new to Carber, though. In 2013, he won the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame & Museum 360 Rookie of the Year Award at 19 years old, joining the likes of Christopher Bell, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Kevin Swindell, Gio Scelzi, and David Gravel.
“That’s my career highlight, if I ever had one,” Carber said. “If I had to look something up on paper, that’s the one cool thing I could look at.”
Carber doesn’t race sprint cars as much as he used to. A concussion and a full-time job he attends to nearly every day has rearranged his priorities.
For the next two months, those priorities will now include getting to the Chili Bowl in Tulsa.
“It’s pretty humbling,” Carber said. “I honestly never saw any of this happening.”