BULLS GAP, Tenn. — Dirt Late Model author Gary Parker will visit Volunteer Speedway on Friday and Saturday, April 15-16, during the 15th annual Spring Thaw weekend sanctioned by Ray Cook’s Old Man’s Garage Spring Nationals Series.
Parker’s father took him to his first dirt-race at Boyd’s Speedway in Ringgold, Georgia, which sits just across the TN/GA state lines from Chattanooga, Tennessee, when he was a young boy in 1955. Little did Parker know then that 50 years later he would write his first book about dirt racing in the South, specifically about dirt Late Models.
Over the years Parker has watched hundreds of races all over the South, and at several historic tracks that no longer exist. He traveled and became close friends with some of the icons of Southern dirt racing, serving as a crew member for a number of teams from the late 1960s through the 1970s and into the 1980s.
Parker holds a Ph.D. in Anthropology, and is a retired instructor from the University of Tennessee in Knoxville. Following his retirement and moving back to Chattanooga, Parker was encouraged by several of his auto racing friends to sit down and write a book about dirt-track racing in the South.
How does someone who earned B.A., M.S. and Ph.D. degrees, and served as a college instructor for many years eventually become an author about dirt-track racing?
“I guess you’ve just got to have a passion about whatever subject you want to write about, and my love affair for dirt-track racing began the very first time my father took me to a race when I was just a young boy,” said a smiling Parker. “I thought seeing those race cars sliding around and kicking up dust, while beating and banging on one another, was the greatest thing ever. It’s a fact, I was hooked on dirt-track racing at an early age and it’s carried with me my entire life.
“I helped on several race teams through the years and we traveled around racing on the weekend in Tennessee, Kentucky, Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia. I became good friends with many drivers and also the guys who were on pit crews, plus got to know a lot of fans who’d travel to races. After I retired from teaching college, several people told me I should write a book about dirt-track racing in the South and focus on dirt Late Models. I thought ‘What the heck, I’m retired and now I’ve got the time to sit down and reflect on all my years being involved in dirt-track racing.’ Once I got started, I quickly found myself totally consumed with writing the book.”
In the spring of 2015, the 67-year-old Parker released his first book titled “Red Clay and Dust: The Evolution of Southern Dirt Racing,” and began traveling around the South to different racetracks promoting his work. With the popularity of the book, Parker decided last fall to start working on his latest offering titled “The Rock-em, Sock-em, Travelin’ Sideways Dirt Show: A History of Robert Smawley’s NDRA.” The book which tells about the history of the National Dirt Racing Association, founded by Kingsport, Tennessee’s Robert Smawley, was released in January of this year.
Smawley was a visionary promoter, and was clearly years ahead of his time. He brought money and national fame to Late Model dirt racing and its drivers with the NDRA. His series changed the sport of dirt racing forever. All of today’s national touring series owe their beginnings to Smawley and his “travelin’ dirt show.”
The book “Red Clay and Dust: The Evolution of Southern Dirt Racing,” has a chapter about the history of Volunteer Speedway.
Both of Parker’s books, “Red Clay and Dust: The Evolution of Southern Dirt Racing,” and “The Rock-em, Sock-em, Travelin’ Sideways Dirt Show: A History of Robert Smawley’s NDRA,” include many photos and are available online at the Coastal 181 website.
Plus, Parker will be traveling to racetracks all around the South in 2016 and you will be able to buy the books directly from him. Besides dirt-track racing, you can also talk Major League Baseball with Parker because he’s a lifelong Cincinnati Reds fan.
The link to Gary Parker’s books on Coastal181.com: http://www.coastal181.com/nlm-working-April-2005/shorttrack-2.htm#Rock-em
If interested in buying the books directly from Gary Parker, he may be contacted at (423) 580-2690.
1517 Maxwell Road
Chattanooga, TN 37412
-Volunteer Speedway Press Release
-Photo Credit: Volunteer Speedway