WESTMINSTER, Pa. – Jerry Parrish will never forget Feb. 29, 2004, when the second chapter of his racing life sailed into turn one at Lincoln Speedway and unleashed a determination that would become hallmark for years to come.
While every driver occupied the bottom, Brian Montieth, in his debut season for Parrish’s race team, opted for something more thrilling.
The 29-year-old blistered the top, surging from 20th to fourth in the opening corner. By the exit of turn four, Montieth tried Greg Hodnett for third. But in that moment, as he cut from the top to Hodnett’s inside, Montieth’s car did a wheelie and landed on its side.
That moment will forever encapsulate “The Edge,” the cherished nickname Parrish gave Montieth throughout a memorable 17-year run that ended in October.
Montieth flirted often with the edge of catastrophe, but that determined nature is what enraptured so many for so many years.
“When you watched him, it was exciting,” Parrish said. “It didn’t matter where he was, where he started, you had a chance. He was exciting enough that I didn’t miss driving myself.”
Whether Montieth is fully retired from racing or not remains unknown, as Parrish and the now 46-year-old driver will go their separate ways in 2021.
What is left behind, however, is one of the more-accomplished runs in the long history of central Pennsylvania sprint car racing.
Parrish and Montieth racked up 83 wins and eight Lincoln track championships since that eventful opening day in Abbottstown, Pa., in 2004.
Three Pennsylvania crown jewels sit atop that win list – Dirt Classic titles in 2015 and 2019 to go along with a Tuscarora 50 win in 2010.
His five Pennsylvania Speedweek wins are tied for 10th all-time, the final one a palpable victory at Lincoln over Danny Dietrich and Kyle Larson on July 2, 2019.
In fact, the photo of Montieth taking the checkered flag on that spirited night, just two days after Dietrich wrecked Montieth out of the lead, served as the backdrop of Parrish’s goodbye statement on social media in October.
It all began when Parrish, a former racer himself, parked next to Montieth in the late 1990s and early 2000s at Lincoln Speedway.
Parrish had just started his own race team and Montieth, a blue-collar figure himself, often lent a spare hand to the noticeably undermanned crew.
But what enamored Parrish is that Montieth lacked resources himself and somehow occasionally beat the likes of Fred Rahmer and Hodnett with steel-block power.
“I could see his talent,” Parrish said. “He just needed money behind him.”
Montieth was a bit rascally and raw, though, oftentimes sending it in the corner too hard and having it end on the wrecker. Parrish always stuck by his No. 1 rule of thumb for discerning potential: “You can slow them down, but you can’t speed them up. You got to remember that.”
Parrish knew this fearlessness could be tamed. Over time, his new vision came into focus: retire from driving, put his efforts into one machine, and take a chance on a driver so many deemed too wild.
That decision amounted to the ascent of one of the more electrifying drivers in Pennsylvania Posse history. In return, intentionally or not, Montieth helped Parrish into the most rewarding chapter of his life.
“I knew if I was driving and if he was driving, I couldn’t see some of the awesome things he could do,” Parrish said.
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