Drag Illustrated Issue 179, November / December 2022 - Page 30

Dirt

Go Big or Go Home

Brandon Miller tests the waters in NHRA Pro Stock By Kelly Wade

Brandon Miller isn ’ t new to the world of drag racing , but during the 2022 season of NHRA ’ s Camping World Drag Racing Series , he added a new profile to his biography : Pro Stock racer . Miller , who was 19 at the time , debuted in the historic and highly competitive category at the Pep Boys NHRA Nationals at Maple Grove Raceway in Reading , Pennsylvania .

“ My dad , David , ran Pro Stock a few years ago , and I got the bug ,” says Miller . “ As a kid , I always loved Pro Stock , so when we had the opportunity to buy the car , we jumped on it . We ’ re all in , and we ’ re just happy to be part of Pro Stock . It ’ s extremely cool .”
Miller came to the class with an interesting base of knowledge and an already impressive resumé . In 2021 , he claimed his first national event win driving a Top Sportsman entry in Gainesville , and in 2022 , he won the JEGS Allstars Top Dragster title .
“ It ’ s massive to go from Top Dragster to Pro Stock ,” says Miller , who hails from NHRA ’ s Northeast Division and calls New England Dragway home . “ There ’ s so much to learn with these things ,
( from left ) Dennis Gaboriault , Eric Khoury , Becki Miller , Brandon Miller , David Miller
driving with a clutch and shifting . It feels faster and more on the edge , and it ’ s similar to a Top Sportsman car , but a little more nerve-wracking . You have to shift it four times , leave with the clutch and not a trans-brake button , keep your nerves in check and stay hyper-focused . There ’ s definitely a learning curve .”
Although the event at Maple Grove Raceway did not prove fruitful , Miller and his team – including mom Becki , dad David , crew chief Dennis Gaboriault , and crew member and longtime friend Eric Khoury – are excited about the future .
They currently run a Roy Johnson engine in the 2017 Dodge Dart ( a Pro Stock car previously owned by Dave Kramer and driven by his son , Deric Kramer ). In the future , they look to have Sunset Race Engines providing the power .
“ This is all our stuff ; we aren ’ t renting from anyone ,” says Miller . “ That way , we can go when we want to and learn along the way . Sportsman racing is our home , and we ’ re not going to quit racing that way , but it ’ s cool to be getting our feet wet in Pro Stock . It ’ s going to take years to get this down , but we ’ re in it for the long haul .” DI

Technically Speaking

Drag racing has a deeper meaning for Norwalk tech inspector Rich Nietupski By Kelly Wade

Drag racing is so much more than a hobby to many who participate , and that ’ s true for both drivers and those behind the scenes . It ’ s particularly true for Rich Nietupski , who has been part of the Summit Motorsports Park team for more than a decade in their technical department . His position there at the Norwalk , Ohio , facility changed the trajectory of his life .

“ I moved up here when I was 60 ,” says Nietupski , who was 73 at the time of this interview . “ I left Erie , Pennsylvania , because I had to – I ’ m an alcoholic , and I would never have been able to stop if I hadn ’ t left . I ’ m 13 years now without a drink .”
For 40 years , Nietupski had been drinking and
spending every penny he had on a habit that was slowly claiming his life , but with three daughters – and now eight grandchildren – watching him , he knew he had to make a change .
“ I lost everything . I was homeless ,” Nietupski shares . “ I used to race here [ at Summit Motorsports Park ], and I thought of Bill Bader . I called him and asked for a job and he said , ‘ Rich , I think you ’ re perfect for tech .’ I ’ ve been here ever since .”
Nietupski – or “ Race Car Rich ” to many who know him – has deep roots in racing . He bought a 1967 Camaro when he was just 18 and raced it with fervor . He also ran a speed shop in Erie for a number of years . He found a lifelong home , though , in Norwalk .
“ Racers up here are very friendly ,” he says . “ You have some that no matter what you do , they ’ re mad at the whole world – but there aren ’ t many of them here . The people are truly my favorite thing about racing .
“ I ’ ve never been happier in my whole life ,” Nietupski continues . “ It ’ s like I ’ ve died and gone to heaven , and I hope I get to do this for a long time . God has been really , really good to me – when he tells me to stop , when I can ’ t do this physically anymore , that will be the day I ’ ll give it up . But not until then . It changed my life .” DI
PHOTOGRAPHS BY KELLY WADE
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