Second-generation racer Parker Stephens has run into his share of ups and downs during past appearances at Kern County Raceway Park in California.
The Olympia, Washington native’s 2015 Winter Showdown was over before it started after a practice wreck sidelined him from competition the remainder of the weekend. His 2016 experience did not start according to plan either; he demolished his machine while testing on Monday. Despite the circumstances, the 18-year-old’s confidence has not faltered.
“Especially since we had bad luck last year, I want to move that behind me and focus on the end of the year which was successful,” Stephens told Speed51.com powered by JEGS. “Starting the year breaking the thing in turn one is not what I planned, but my guys got it fixed. They worked six long, hard nights and I think this thing is going to be better than what it was when we first won here.”
Stephens’ optimism rides high thanks to the eluded to win in the final Super Late Model race of the season at the Bakersfield, California facility in November 2015.
“My chances are just as great as any other person here,” Stephens noted, who was one of the fastest in Friday practice. “We know how to get around this place pretty good now, especially beating some of the best guys on the west coast like Derek Thorn and David Mayhew. I’m excited about this weekend.”
Stephens continues a partnership with NTS Motorsports and feels they are equipped for more success after a third place finish in the final SRL Southwest Tour standings a year ago.
“We were close to winning the championship last year, but blew a motor in the last race,” the 2015 SRL rookie of the year, who recently to Bakersfield to be closer with the team, explained. “NTS is a great program with Gary Collins and Bob Newberry letting us do everything we’ve done and (they) have given us the funding for being able to have the best equipment out there.”
The same group he worked with in 2015 returns, including crew chief Travis Bennett, who won his share of races in the Northwest Region in the past as a driver. The advice and expertise from his father, former NASCAR Northwest Tour champion Dirk Stephens, has been invaluable as well.
Following in his father’s footsteps from a couple decades ago, Parker looks to enter the ranks of the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West on a limited basis and also venture out east to run some more Super Late Model events.
“I think we’re going to run some CRA races,” Stephens said. “My teammate Blaine (Rocha) actually ran a race or two back there. He did well, so I think we’re going to go back and try it and hopefully get a couple wins and get some good podium finishes.”
Ascending up the ranks, Stephens will surely be a face to watch both at the Winter Showdown and the remainder of 2016.
-By Aaron Creed, Speed51.com Central NY & PA Editor – Twitter: @aaron_creed
-Photo credit: Speed51.com