MONROE, La. – Much like his late cousin Jason Johnson, Philip Dietz is building a legacy in sprint car racing that will soon stand the test of time.
At 36 years old, Dietz is already one of the most respected and revered crew chiefs in the sport, and he’s got the accomplishments to back that up.
After all, it’s no fluke to become a two-time Knoxville Nationals champion and two-time Crew Chief of the Year with the World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series.
On top of that, last summer he became the first crew chief since Karl Kinser to win back-to-back Outlaw races with different drivers.
Do you need more evidence? With their victory last weekend, Dietz extended his incredible streak to World of Outlaws wins with five different drivers in the last three years.
Since 2018, Dietz has racked up 24 Outlaw wins with Jason Johnson, David Gravel, Parker Price-Miller, Shane Stewart, and Carson Macedo all at the wheel.
“It’s pretty cool, man,” Dietz said of his latest accomplishment. “They’re all great drivers to start. Each one of them had an Outlaw win prior to me working with them, so they all had the experience and talent. Obviously, if I could go back in time and change things, I would much rather have Jason here today, which would change the whole scenario.”
Born in Eunice, La., some of Dietz’s earliest memories are racing go-karts in the backyard on a track that Jason’s grandfather built. His family relocated to Dallas in 1994 and the pair were separated, but not for long.
As a high schooler, Philip traveled to races and slept on the floor just to have the opportunity to go racing with Jason.
Highly successful modern day crew chief with the World of Outlaws wasn’t always the plan, but life has a funny way of working itself out. Dietz graduated from the University of Texas at Arlington with a Mechanical Engineering degree.
He’s never worked a “real job,” but his path through college opened avenues to Kasey Kahne Racing and ultimately back home to Jason Johnson Racing.
“I do feel like I have an advantage,” Dietz noted on his education. “All of the different courses from dynamics to statics to kinematics, it’s all about things you can apply to race cars. It’s given me a better understanding of spring rates, dampening, downforce with the wing, and so much more.
“No doubt it has played a role in me understanding the mechanics of the car, but also being able to make the best educated guess as far as making a change to get even better.”
Through 2010-11, Dietz worked alongside Brad Sweet and Kasey Kahne before an opportunity to re-align with Jason came about. They enjoyed their dominant days together with multiple ASCS National Tour championships before going on the road full-time with the World of Outlaws in 2016.
Dietz and Johnson collected 10 wins, 56 top fives and 116 top tens over a three-year stretch on tour before Jason’s tragic passing on June 23, 2018.
“Our long term goal now would be to win a World of Outlaws championship,” Deitz said on looking ahead. “I know that was one of Jason’s biggest goals he had when he was here. Unfortunately, we’re having to move on without him, but that’s still my goal: win a championship for Jason Johnson Racing.
“We’re gonna do the best we can to make that happen.”
Transitioning to the next chapter, Dietz has earned a reputation for being arguably the most versatile crew chief with his ability to adapt to different drivers with the same winning results.
With David Gravel of Watertown, Conn., primarily driving the JJR No. 41 in 2019-’20, the duo collected 19 World of Outlaws wins, the 2019 Knoxville Nationals title, and challenged for the owner’s championship against Dietz’s former team, Kasey Kahne Racing.
It wasn’t just his success with Gravel at JJR, but also Dietz’s formation and success at Dietz Motorsports that helped his stock rise.
Taking Parker Price-Miller of Kokomo, Ind., on the road in his own operation, Dietz was essentially on double duty crew chiefing two cars each night in 2020.
He won with Price-Miller in July and the storybook season continued in October when Shane Stewart of Bixby, Okla., substituted for Gravel and won in his first start aboard the JJR No. 41 at Lakeside Speedway in Kansas.
“I feel like we’ve worked really hard to get our car better over the last few years,” he noted on JJR’s improvement. “I think it makes it easier to adapt and bring in a different driver to fine tune to suit their driving style and get the car balanced. I knew we would have success with David when he came here. My goal with Parker last year was to win at least one race, which we did and that was special.
“Jason and Shane were really good buddies over the years and I feel like those two have similar driving styles, so that made it easy for me when Shane won at Lakeside. Bringing Carson back in now is a natural fit after we worked so well together back in 2018.”
Heading into 2021, new challenges await Dietz, along with his wife Brooke. With Bobbi Johnson scaling back her duties as son Jaxx goes to school, the Dietz’s have stepped up to handle the day-to-day operation of the team, while Philip maintains his at-track crew chief duties. Also on board this year are returning crew members, Clyde Knipp and Nate Repetz.
With Gravel departing to drive for Big Game Motorsports this year, the seat was left open for Carson Macedo of Lemoore, Calif., to fill.
Back in the summer of 2018, Macedo ran part-time with JJR and most notably won his debut on a preliminary night at the Knoxville 360 Nationals. The rekindled combination is already off to a hot start in 2021, winning from 10th last weekend at Volusia and then charging from 17th to third at East Bay to take control of the points lead.
“Obviously, our goal every night is to win,” Dietz admitted. “We want to win as many races as possible. I know for me, personally, I put five wins down on my list. It’s pretty realistic to be a new team, or a new group of guys working together for the first year, and to win five races I would consider that a successful season at this level.
“We want to work together, get our car better every night, and hopefully at the end of the year we feel like we advanced the program forward and we’re better going into next season.”