In the sport of auto racing things happen fast, and not just on the race track. In short track racing the name of a driver can suddenly appear and then disappear just as fast. That was much the same case back in the latter half of 2016 for Washington State driver Parker Stephens, a former top 20 pick in the Speed51.com Short Track Draft presented by PFC Brakes.
Following in the footsteps of his father and grandfather, Stephens burst onto the scene shortly after moving up to Legends Cars, winning the state title for Washington in 2012 and 2013.
Stephens made a quick transition into Super Late Models, competing mostly at South Sound Speedway in 2014, winning that year’s Miller 200.
The year 2015 was the season that put Stephens on the map, running full-time on the SRL SPEARS Southwest Tour Series and part-time on the Northwest Super Late Model Series, winning a race in the Northwest and capturing the SRL Rookie of the Year honors. He also captured the win in the Ironman 125 at Kern County Raceway (CA), and a second Miller 200.
For 2016, even more change was in store with Stephens moving to NTS Motorsports and moving to Bakersfield, CA to chase the SRL title and run some in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West. Then it all abruptly came to a halt.
Family matters forced a change of plans for Stephens as he and NTS Motorsports mutually parted ways mid-season, with the SRL event at Irwindale Speedway on June 18 being his final race.
Since that time, Stephens has returned home and is making great strides off the track building a resume and making a good living.
“I’m doing good, just moved back to Washington and I’m working full-time, that’s about it. Nothing too exciting, but life’s good and I can’t complain,” Stephens told Speed51.com.
While Stephens has not climbed into a racecar since that summer of 2016, he has plenty of real-world items to occupy his attention.
“I haven’t been on the track, haven’t been involved. I just decided to step away for a while and kind of gather everything up, put a perspective on things and go from there. It’s expensive to go racing, so with me working full-time and paying for a lot of my own stuff now is an eye opener. I’m facing reality now.”
Stephens is thankful for the amount of time he got to enjoy the ride, naming several of his favorite memories.
“I’d probably say winning the Ironman race, finishing second at the Winter Showdown and competing with NTS Motorsports in SRL and running K&N West races; there’s a lot of good moments, plenty to add to a scrap book that’s for sure.”
While Stephens has been away from the race cars, he has stayed close to the race tracks, keeping up with ever changing landscape of short track racing.
“I’ve been following everything. I’m still involved and still talking to everyone. I still go to tracks and races when I have the chance. I want to stay involved as much as I can, you never know when something might pop up.”
The 17th overall pick in the 2016 Short Track Draft has also enjoyed the amount of attention grassroots racing has gained, especially in recent weeks from several big-name drivers, including West Coast legend Kevin Harvick.
“It’s been nice to see. Any grassroots racing needs a push for any kind of media right now and any kind of spotlight. It doesn’t matter if it’s West Coast or East Coast, it all needs help because it’s all just kind of dwindling away if you don’t keep kids my age interested in it.”
With Stephens remaining close to the sport and with him keeping his eyes and ears open, do not discount the possibility of him racing at some point down the road.
“I’m sure I’ll go racing again, just need to get everything situated and things in order before I step in and do that again. I’d love to get back in the seat for sure.”
-By: Connor Sullivan, Speed51.com Northeast Editor – Twitter: @Connor51CT
-Photo Credit: Parker Stephens Racing