KNOXVILLE, Iowa – After climbing from his car Thursday night and realizing his points total was enough to secure a spot in the NOS Energy Drink Knoxville Nationals finale, Parker Price-Miller exhaled a huge sigh of relief.
In that moment, the hardest part of the week was over, and the pressure was off the 21-year-old Hoosier. His place in The Granddaddy of Them All was officially confirmed.
“This time around, it’s definitely not as stressful as it was in 2018,” Price-Miller told SPEED SPORT by phone on Friday afternoon. “Last year, I was still pretty happy that we were locked into a good position in the B (main), but I’ll tell you what … that was the most stressful 22 laps of my entire year.
“Thursday night, we qualified well, but what really changed things for us was our heat race. That heat race was huge for us,” added Price-Miller, who was the fastest driver from time trials to move directly into Thursday night’s A-main. “Even with starting eighth, we knew we just had to run inside the top 10 and we’d be top five in points … so we tried to do that and not take too many huge risks. We were conservative in the feature and didn’t do too much to the race car, but I’d say it paid off for us.”
Price-Miller started his first Nationals A-main last year, but that Saturday appearance was far more stressful, as the Kokomo, Ind., native had to race his way in through the Last Chance Showdown.
Luckily for Price-Miller, he started on the pole of that race, easily cruising to the win and a transfer spot.
“Last year, if you recall, I got released from the (Destiny Motorsports) No. 4 car the week before the Nationals,” noted Price-Miller. “I didn’t even know then if I was going to have anything for Knoxville, and then Bernie (Stuebgen, team owner) stepped up and put me in his car. We built our ride for last year’s Nationals the week before the Capitani, and then ended up in the big show when it was all said and done. Preparation-wise, this has been a way better situation this year … Saturday is so important.
“The greatest race car drivers in sprint car racing are at this race, and to be up there with them again this year is a pretty amazing feeling.”
This year, Price-Miller’s consistency spoke volumes about the wisdom and maturity he’s gained in just 12 months’ time. He timed in third-fastest, finished fourth in his heat race and then ran eighth in the 25-lap preliminary feature, earning 473 out of a possible 500 points for his efforts.
With the troubles encountered by many of the top qualifiers on both Wednesday and Thursday, that left Price-Miller fifth overall in total points scored and placing him fifth on the grid for Saturday’s finale.
That’s a far cry from a year ago, when Price-Miller started 21st of 24 cars after winning the B-main.
“Track position for this race is huge,” Price-Miller pointed out. “You can start back that far and pass guys, because it’s a long race, but these guys are the best in the business and you’re not just going to drive by them in the Nationals finale. Starting as far forward as you can is a big key to success here.
“Starting fifth, having a shot and not having to worry (as much) about all those good drivers behind you makes it a lot easier … but they still want to take my head off and I know I have to be on my A game.”
With a third-row starting spot for Saturday night, Price-Miller is aiming high going into the $150,000-to-win, 50-lap feature as he pursues victory with his No. 71p Indy Race Parts team.
“This year has been pretty stress-free, and we’ve been good pretty much every time we’ve hit the race track,” he said. “My confidence is up; I’m not worried about anything happening and I’m not worried about my race car not having speed because I know we’re quick and we have the speed that we need.
“I think if things work out and go our way, we might have a shot at the end of 50 laps on Saturday night,” Price-Miller added. “I’m young and don’t have a lot of experience here, and I think that makes people want to count me out at times, but I like that. Let them think that I don’t have a shot, because then they won’t worry about us as much and we can go out and pounce when it matters most. I know I have a shot, or else I wouldn’t be here, and we’re here to show everyone we can win Saturday night.
“Is it going to be easy? No, but we’re going to give it our all and there’s going to be no holding back.”
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