Concord, NC — By Kevin Kovac
Lonnie Parker Jr. made history the last time the Southwest DIRTcar Late Model Series was in action.
The 32-year-old standout from El Mirage, Ariz., will try to make some more when the tour resumes competition this Saturday night (June 14) with a visit to USA Race Park in Tucson, Ariz.
A four-time Southwest DIRTcar Late Model Series champion and the tour’s alltime winningest driver, Parker reached a personal milestone when he swept both nights of the recent Memorial Day Weekend spectacular at Canyon Speedway Park in Peoria, Ariz. The pair of victories gave him 50 for his career on the series – although he had to be reminded of that fact.
“To tell you the truth, I didn’t even realize I was at 50 wins,” said Parker, who drives family-owned equipment. “When I found out I was like, ‘O.K., that’s cool.’ It’s something to be proud of, but I don’t really think about the number of wins and championships I have.”
Parker’s doubleheader sweep came in the first events for the series under the auspices of DIRTcar Racing, the brand name for the sanctioning body run by the World Racing Group of Concord, N.C. The popular Southwest Dirt Racing Association tour –a stalwart on the region’s dirt Late Model scene since 2001 – was rechristened the Southwest DIRTcar Late Model Series following an agreement reached on May 24 by DIRTcar Racing and SWDRA officials.
After enjoying more success than any other driver during the tour’s SWDRA era, Parker is intent on continuing his regional supremacy with DIRTcar Racing now governing the series. A second-generation racer who still competes against his father Lonnie Sr., Parker is excited to be part of a series that will only grow larger under the nationally-known DIRTcar Racing organization.
“There’s quite a few tracks that are interested in dirt Late Model racing out here,” said Parker. “Things are moving forward, and I think (DIRTcar Racing’s arrival) will make everything even better – especially with DIRTcar taking over the Western Allstars (Super Late Model Series) as well.
“I think the possibility is there to set up some bigger special races for everybody out here, the kind of races that will have guys from California and Arizona racing against each other.”
Parker enters Saturday’s program at USA Race Park riding high – and not merely because of his holiday-weekend sweep. He’s been nearly perfect this season on the Southwest DIRTcar Late Model Series, building up a healthy points lead with five wins in the tour’s six A-Mains contested to date.
“It’s probably the best start of a season we’ve ever had,” said Parker, who has driven dirt Late Models off-and-on for most of the past 15 years. “Earlier this year we had some Ohlins Shocks revalved for our GRT (car) and put them on for (a show at) Vegas (Las Vegas Motor Speedway), and they just made the car drastically better. We’ve been running great ever since.
“These shocks just seem to suit my driving style.”
Parker, who graduated from Arizona State University with a degree in history but works in his family’s concrete business (“Construction pays a little better than teaching history,” he quipped), has certainly developed into the Southwest’s top talent over the past decade. He spent several years on the sidelines after suffering a serious foot injury in an accident at Arizona’s Manzanita Speedway when he was just 21 – he underwent surgery and couldn’t walk without crutches for a year – and hasn’t missed a beat since returning.
But even as Parker chases a fifth Southwest DIRTcar Late Model Series title in 2008, he’s not thinking about how many championships he can put on the board before his career is done many years down the road.
“I don’t have any goal of winning seven or eight or 10 championships,” said Parker, who is married and has two young boys (Dillon, who turns 5 on Sunday, and Noah, 22 months). “I just wanna go fast and win races.”
For more information on all of the series, sanctioning and member tracks of DIRTcar Racing, visit DIRTcar.com.