It’s become common to see drivers perform double duty, competing in two classes at the same race track over the course of a single night.
It’s far less common to see a crew member in the double-duty role. However, that’s the position longtime Jason Johnson Racing crew chief Philip Dietz is in this season.
Dietz, a cousin of the late Knoxville Nationals winner Jason Johnson, has served as the head mechanic for JJR almost as long as there’s been a JJR. The crew chief role is one he’s passionate about — a passion born out of an initial desire to drive race cars rather than work on them.
This season, Dietz has managed more than the challenge of making a race car go fast; he’s also been faced with the trials that come with team ownership.
Alongside his full-time position as crew chief for Jason Johnson Racing’s No. 41 car this year, Dietz has managed and campaigned his own Dietz Motorsports No. 14 car on the World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series trail with Indiana young gun Parker Price-Miller driving.
It’s a journey Dietz admits he didn’t expect to be on quite this soon. However, he’s enjoying the nuances of the situation that resulted from JJR driver David Gravel’s plan to run six NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series races this season.
“At the end of last year, we knew David was going to run some truck races, but we didn’t know quite how many and we knew we still wanted to have the (No.) 41 car in the hunt for the owners’ title if we could,” Dietz recalled. “But we knew we would need another driver and I saw a lot of potential in Parker (Price-Miller). He’s a great guy. He does well on the track, and off the track he carries himself very professionally. He speaks very well. He came down right after the Chili Bowl and spent two weeks with us at the shop, getting things prepared and cars built.
“When we first started talking about doing this deal, I proposed to them to use two rollers that I had purchased from JJR in the past. I wanted to kind of have control over those cars and be able to oversee it, because all of the cars are housed at JJR. In return, I just wanted naming rights and the authority to overlook the team a little more. They were all about it and very receptive.”
While the JJR side was open to the idea of Dietz launching his own operation, Dietz had to convince his wife, Brooke. As it turned out, she didn’t require much convincing at all.
“When I first met Brooke, she was trying to pursue a career in motorsports. She’d actually spoken with a couple of teams in North Carolina about a job and things didn’t exactly go as planned,” Dietz noted. “She ended up taking a job with a medical company based out of Springfield, Mo., but still kept up, obviously, with JJR and everything I was doing.
“When Parker came to me with the idea of doing races on the side in addition to his JJR races, that’s kind of where Brooke and I sat down and discussed that this would be a great opportunity for both of us,” he continued. “It’s not only about having our own small business, but it’s a chance for me to be able to work with not only one great driver, but two great drivers. It also lets her be able to do a lot of the marketing and PR that she wanted to do when I first met her. So we were both excited at the opportunity, and I feel like the way everything worked out couldn’t have been any better than it is.”
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic shutting down sports across the country, Dietz had put together a schedule of roughly 40 races for Price-Miller and the No. 14 car to tackle with the World of Outlaws.
Now though, with a slimmer schedule, a two-month break after the DIRTcar Nationals that was unanticipated and a need to keep performance high, Price-Miller has — to date — run the full World of Outlaws schedule and ranked eighth in the standings at this writing.
It’s a solid start for Dietz Motorsports and the current arrangement is one Dietz believes has helped both teams.
“I feel like it’s an advantage for me with having two cars,” Dietz noted. “It gives me more to work with and helps us figure out ways to make them faster. I felt like I struggled with our balance a little bit with the (No.) 41 car at the beginning of the season. Then for a while, we thought that maybe it was just the difference in the cars that was making us run different setups than what we’d done last year, because all the equipment for the (No.) 14 is actually some used equipment from (JJR) last year. Some of those same setups that we had success with from last year weren’t working with any of those cars either.
“It kind of confirmed that there were some other changes going on, which allowed us to narrow it down and get our balance a lot better.”
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