Phoenix, AZ — Lonnie Parker Jr. finally put a DIRTcar Late Model victory at Manzanita Speedway on his ample resume two months ago.
So what’s next for the standout driver from El Mirage, Ariz.? With the Manzanita monkey off his back, he’s confidently eyeing the possibility of bagging the richest win of his career in this weekend’s Barnett Harley Davidson Nationals at the famed half-mile oval in Phoenix.
Parker, 32, will chase a $6,000 top prize in the multi-day event’s DIRTcar Late Model finale on Saturday night (Nov. 15). The meet, which also includes a $5,000-to-win Barnett Harley DIRTcar Modified headliner on Saturday, begins with an open practice on Thursday night (Nov. 13) and continues with a preliminary-feature program for both divisions on Friday night (Nov. 14).
“I’ve always liked racing at Manzanita, but I never seemed to have any luck there,” said Parker, whose misery in limited Manzy appearances over the past decade includes a crash that left him with a serious foot injury when he was an upstart 21-year-old racer. “It felt good to finally have everything go right and get a win there (in a Southwest DIRTcar Late Model Series event on Sept. 13). Hopefully we can do it again this weekend.”
Parker will enter the West Coast’s biggest DIRTcar Racing-sanctioned event of the season riding high. With nine wins in 12 Southwest DIRTcar Late Model Series A-Mains easily bringing him a fifth consecutive tour championship, the 2008 campaign ranks as one of his best ever.
“It’s been a really unbelievable season,” said Parker, who brings a three-race SWDLMS win streak into a Manzanita contest co-sanctioned by the tour he follows and the Western Allstars DIRTcar Late Model Series. “I never thought I’d win five (titles) in a row, but here we are again. We just got on a roll, and whenever something happened that could be bad or good, it always turned out good for us.”
Parker’s virtually flawless performance this season continues his ownership of the SWDLMS, which was known as the Southwest Dirt Racing Association (SWDRA) from 2001 until it came under the World Racing Group’s DIRTcar Racing banner this year. His alltime series-leading total of 54 wins is more than double that of the next closest driver (Wayne Crippen of Tucson, Ariz., with 21) – and even more impressive, he’s won 43 percent of the SWDLMS events run over the past eight years.
But for all Parker’s success, the biggest first-place prize he’s ever collected is $3,000. That fact makes the six-grand booty at the top of Saturday night’s Nationals A-Main look real inviting to the Southwest’s biggest dirt Late Model star.
Of course, Parker knows he’ll have to be at the top of his game to end the weekend standing in Manzanita’s Victory Lane. He’ll have all his usual SWDLMS rivals to deal with – including points runner-up Mark Fowler of Peoria, Ariz., Tommy Hussak III of Picacho, Ariz., Mike Tahtinen of Casa Grande, Ariz., Jerry Fincher of Laveen, Ariz., and Brad Williams of Tucson – plus plenty of talented long-distance travelers who will raise the competition level.
Among the outsiders expected are dirt Late Model legend Billy Moyer of Batesville, Ark., 2008 Western Allstars champ Chris Shannon of Merced, Calif., defending Barnett Harley Davidson Nationals winner Kelly Boen of Henderson, Colo., Scott James of Greendale, Ind., Bobby Hogge IV of Salinas, Calif., A.J. Kirkpatrick of Castroville, Calif., John Duty of Portland, Ore., Mike Kirby of Anaheim, Calif., and Jesse Stovall of Galena, Mo.
“I’m excited to race with the kind of guys who are coming in for this show,” said Parker, who drives a family-owned GRT car. “They’ll be tough to beat, but it lets you see where you’re at. When you don’t get many chances to run against guys from other areas, you don’t know how you stack up with them.”
Parker, who failed to qualify for last year’s Barnett Harley Davidson Nationals finale after blowing an engine early in the night, will even add another top driver to this weekend’s list of contenders. His team’s second car – a machine normally steered by his father Lonnie Sr. – will be driven by 2008 Barnett Harley DIRTcar Modified Touring Series champion Anthony Madrid of Phoenix.
The 32-year-old Madrid, who will pull double-duty this weekend, ranks third on Manzanita’s alltime win list with over 120 checkered flags in a variety of divisions. He was victorious earlier this year at the track in a SWDLMS event in what was the first – and until this weekend only – dirt Late Model start of his career.
“I asked (Madrid), ‘Are you sure you want to run a Late Model again? You’re undefeated right now!” joked Parker.
Parker’s ride offer to Madrid comes after the two men became friendly this year while at local Quarter-Midget races. Madrid has been attending the small-car events with his children for several years and Parker joined him in ’08 with his five-year-old son.
Racing is scheduled to start at 7 p.m. on Friday and Saturday at Manzanita Speedway, which is located on the corner of 35th Avenue and Broadway Road in Phoenix.
For more information, visit www.manzanitaspeedway.us or call 602-276-7575.
Manzanita’s blockbuster doubleheader won’t end the DIRTcar Racing Western Region action in Arizona for the 2008 campaign. The two-day Bill Cheesbourg Memorial – a non-point Southwest DIRTcar Late Model Series program – will be contested on Nov. 22-23 at USA Raceway in Tucson. More information is available at www.usadirttrack.com.
Additional info on all of the series, sanctioning and member tracks of DIRTcar Racing is available at www.DIRTcar.com.