TULSA, Okla. — The upcoming Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Nationals may mark somewhat of a fresh start for Indiana’s Parker Price-Miller.
Price-Miller, who will make his sixth-straight attempt at the world’s largest midget race Jan. 13-18 inside the River Spirit Expo Center, has never made the Saturday A-main in his five prior tries.
Most of that time, he’s driven for his family-owned team. This year, however, will be a departure from that narrative for the 21-year-old native of Kokomo, Ind.
Price-Miller will strap in for veteran driver-turned-owner Johnny Herrera during the Chili Bowl, piloting the No. 45x Esslinger-powered Spike with support from JB Henderson, Rafter WM and Bevins Co.
It’s an opportunity which came about during the Dec. 12-15 PRI Trade Show in Indianapolis. Price-Miller had already filed a Chili Bowl entry for his own car.
“I’ve actually known Johnny for a while and we’ve been pretty close the past five years or so,” Price-Miller told Sprint Car & Midget. “I was actually at the PRI show and had already sent my entry form in for my own car and Johnny comes up to me and goes, ‘Hey, what are you doing for Chili Bowl?’ And I told him I was planning to go run my car, but he said that usually he rents his cars out and wanted to put someone in his other car but couldn’t find anyone.
“So he asked me if I’d want to do it and it was a pretty easy decision for me because those are good cars,” Price-Miller added. “Joey Saldana built the cars, raced them for a few years and then sold them and Johnny bought them. They’re the nicest cars in the building I think, and I’m pretty excited to have a chance to go and do this deal.”
The good news for Price-Miller is that, much like his personal car, Herrera’s midgets utilize the Esslinger engine package that the young Hoosier is already familiar with.
Where the challenge comes in, according to the driver, is figuring out the Spike Chassis.
“Different cars do different things and I know there will be a bit of a learning curve where that’s concerned, but at the same time I don’t run midgets enough to be able to tell as much,” Price-Miller noted. “I’m just going to go out there and gas it. I do know I’ll be used to the throttle control of the Esslinger, just because they’re a little bit more sporadic than what most Toyotas or SR-11s are. So that’s a positive for me, I do know that.”
While one might think being in an “arrive-and-drive” situation might relieve some stress for a driver, Price-Miller disputed that notion. In his mind, the need to perform is even greater.
“I feel like this deal puts more pressure on me because when I was driving for myself or my dad, we’re there to win but it’s not like we’re having to please someone else, if that makes sense,” Price-Miller explained. “When you drive for someone else, that’s someone else’s money and someone else’s car, so you have to be on top of your game to make them happy. So I feel like that makes more pressure.
“Not having to work on your car and just showing up to drive does make it easier on yourself, but unless you do your job better because of that, it doesn’t do a lot of good,” he continued. “The racing aspect, like I said, I feel like it carries a little bit more pressure, but Johnny’s raced before, and he knows how it goes. You could have bad luck; you could have good luck, but sometimes stuff doesn’t go your way.
“I feel like if we get some luck on our side and I do my job right, we’ll have a good shot of making the big show on Saturday night.”
Considering Price-Miller is coming off a season in which he picked up only one major sprint car victory – a win in a local 410 sprint car feature at Knoxville (Iowa) Raceway in early July – he’s hoping this year’s Chili Bowl will finally break his run of futility in the championship feature and be the spark that leads to greener pastures.
However, he recognizes that making the finale comes one night and one race at a time.
“You’ve got to have stepping-stones, right? Obviously, our first goal is to end up in a good spot for Saturday to make the show,” said Price-Miller. “If we do that, I would say then it becomes to run in the top 10 and potentially even further on up.
“Ultimately, though, this is about going to have fun, having a good weekend and hopefully making Johnny and his sponsors proud. I’m excited for it and ready to get out to Tulsa. We’ll see if we can’t get some good luck going there and finally shake off some of the misfortune we dealt with last season.”
Sprint Car & Midget’s Chili Bowl coverage is presented by MyRacePass, the official timing and scoring app of the 2020 Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Nationals. Fans can download the MyRacePass app on their phones to follow all the action during the Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Nationals. For more information on MyRacePass, visit www.myracepass.com and use the hashtag #GetTheApp on Twitter!