Most short track race car drivers at some point throughout their career have found a form of racing that they have settled into for the majority of their time, while other drivers choose to be adventurous in what they race. Rhode Island racing veteran Ray Parent has achieved a mixture of both in his career, running mostly ACT-type Late Models while not being afraid to explore other classes.
This Wednesday night, Parent will add another adventure to his racing tales. While it will be on the familiar high-banks of Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park, the 44-year-old driver is set for his first start in a Modified, and it will be in NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour competition.
Parent will pilot one of the house cars for the LFR Racing team in the Thompson 125, the No. 63 normally occupied by Florida driver Austin Pickens. With Pickens unable to make the trip north to Connecticut this week, Rob Fuller was in need of a driver, and he decided to look to potential customer, and Parent’s Late Model car owner, Don Parsons for just the man to fill the seat.
“Don has been looking at going Modified racing since the beginning of the year, he’s been talking with Rob Fuller about buying a car and housing it up at LFR possibly, going back and forth with a couple of different options,” Parent told Speed51.com. “The No. 63 was available because Austin couldn’t make it up. Rob called Don, Don said, ‘Let’s sit down and talk.’ Don called me and asked if I want to run a Modified. I said, ‘Of course I do.’”
To say Parent is excited would be an understatement, especially knowing that he will be in a car that, despite being fitted to his needs just days before, will still be able to compete against the best of the Tour.
“It came together Friday and Saturday. I got fitted in the car on Saturday. Talking with Chase (Dowling), Steve (Kopcik), and Rob, they’re all excited about it too. It’s a great deal. It’s a good car. It’s not like, I ran a K&N car last year at Thompson, and it was somewhat of a field-filler for that series. It was the best finish that car ever had. But these guys are giving me a car that I can actually compete with. Hopefully we can come out with a top ten finish in my first ever start. That would be great.”
While the majority of his career has indeed involved full body race cars, Parent does have scattered starts in open-wheel Midgets. He is aware that the time for familiarity is limited, but that there is a plan to get him acclimated as quick as possible.
“You could name any car, TQ Midgets, NEMA Midgets, Trucks, Street Stocks, Pro Stocks, and of course Late Models; I’ve driven everything except a Modified. The confidence level has to be attained first. We have a plan for practice. The first round we’ll go out to get comfortable, second round is to practice restarts, and get more comfortable. See how we go from there. I’ve got 125 laps to figure it out.”
To help his cause, Parent will forgo Wednesday’s Thompson Late Model points feature, where he is the 2017 champion. But Parent will have his No. 98RI Late Model on the mind for later in the week as he will head south to the New London-Waterford Speedbowl (CT) for American-Canadian Tour competition on Saturday.
“I’m just running the Modified. We missed last week because of my son’s graduation, and we’re going to be running the 150-lap ACT race at Waterford on Saturday. It would be a little much. We did that the night of the K&N race, jumping back and forth between the K&N car and Late Model. Two totally different types of cars to drive. This time I would rather just focus just on the Modified.”
There is much to do with so little time at the ‘Big T’ on Wednesday night, but Parent will have a familiar track underneath him, and he will also have plenty of familiar faces cheering him on from the grandstands.
“Thompson is definitely a familiar track for me to step into a Modified. I’ve got a lot of experience there and it adds to the comfort level there. It’s funny because I heard from a lot of people I hadn’t heard from in a long time, fans in general, messaging me, texting me. It’s going to be a great deal in front of all those people.”
Be sure to follow Speed51.com throughout the day and night tomorrow for race coverage of the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour at Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park.
-By: Connor Sullivan, Speed51.com Northeast Editor – Twitter: @Connor51CT
-Photo credit: Speed51.com / MoJo Photos