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DI 30 Under 30 2023: Johnny Miller

When Johnny Miller’s dad, Jamie, traveled to races across the U.S. and beyond to tune for customers in a wide variety of doorslammer classes, young Johnny had to stay at home, studiously watching the live feeds to spot his dad in his trademark red ball cap. Johnny eventually started tagging along with Jamie, gradually increasing his schedule as he got older. 

[Editor’s Note: This story originally appeared in DI #185, the 30 Under 30 Issue, in Nov/Dec of 2023.]

“During high school, I was constantly out of school to go to races,” Miller says. “I would go to school when I was sick because I knew once racing season started, I would leave Thursdays and go to PDRA or whatever there was and go racing. Now, him and Mom both say, ‘We probably should not have let you do that,’ but I’m like, ‘Look, I knew where I was going.’ The first time I went to the track, I was like, ‘Oh yeah, this is what I want to do.’”

From his early days hanging out in his father’s chassis shop in Connecticut to his first outings at the track, Miller was exposed to high-level drag racing at an impressionable age. He picked up a lot from his dad, but others in the Pro Line Racing circle also took notice of Johnny’s interest in the mechanical side of the sport. 

“When [Tim Davis] was racing with DeWayne Mills back in the Radial vs. the World days, that’s when I really started going around a bunch and I was really interested in the motor side of it,” Miller says. “Tim took a bunch of time to teach me and pull me aside and show me things to pick up on. Tim’s always been that teacher to me. Tim’s my phone-a-friend if I’m at the track and have a question.”

Over the course of the last few seasons, Johnny has become his father’s right-hand man in the pits and at the shop. Together, they won the 2022 NHRA Pro Mod world championship with Kris Thorne, as well as numerous big races with Ken Quartuccio. Johnny works closely with Quartuccio, maintaining his ProCharged ’69 Camaro Pro Mod and serving as the car chief. 

Quartuccio was the PDRA Pro Boost points leader earlier this season when he suffered a high-speed crash at the PDRA Northern Nationals in Michigan. The car severely damaged, but the Millers had it back on track just over a month later at the next PDRA race in Darlington, South Carolina. 

“Honestly, the big accomplishment recently was getting that car fixed in the 35 days we had,” Miller says. “That was a mad thrash. It came down to the last hour.”

The father-son duo attended more than 20 events together this season, crisscrossing the country to work with customers at NHRA Pro Mod and PDRA races, as well as major radial races. It’s made up for lost time, as the elder Miller spent a lot of time on the road when Johnny was growing up.  

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“That sucked because all my buddies’ dads were around and my dad had to work, but now I would take that any day because now I’m closer to my dad than all my friends are,” Miller says. “They’re like, ‘Oh, I can’t stand my dad,’ and I’m out here traveling with mine every week and we never get like that. Plus, you have somebody from home with you when you’re gone. We were gone for 28 days straight at the beginning of the year. At least being together, that made it all better. I wouldn’t trade anything for it.”

Under the tutelage of industry veterans, Miller is learning as much as he can about what makes high-horsepower Pro Mods and drag radial cars tick. It’s all a part of his mission to one day become a tuner himself, but the 22-year-old realizes he still has a lot to learn. 

“I just don’t want to start [tuning] until I feel like I’ve accomplished and know every bit of a race car, inside and out,” Miller says. “My dad always says you can’t fix a car with just a laptop sometimes. You need to know every aspect of the car side before you can get to the tuning side.”

This story was originally published on January 9, 2024. Drag Illustrated


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