After many years of success in the Late Model ranks in New England, veteran driver Ray Parent will take his racing career to the next level on Wednesday night.
Parent, the defending champion in the Late Model division at Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park, will make his NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour debut in the Thompson 125, the fifth Whelen Modified Tour tour race of the season, and second of four appearances at Thompson in 2018.
Parent will sit behind the wheel of a house car prepared by LFR Chassis, the same department that has been part of Doug Coby’s last three series championships, and a chassis department that has been in the winner’s circle in two of the first four races this season with current points leader Justin Bonsignore.
It will be the first time in his career that Parent climbs into the cockpit of a modified.
“I raced go-karts, TQ Midgets, regular Midgets, so I think I’m just going to go out there and do what I do, get in the car and race it,” Parent said. “I’m really, really excited about it. This is all I have ever wanted to do. It was on my bucket list.”
For Parent, it looked as though his racing career was coming to a screeching halt just a few years ago, before car owner Don Parsons asked him to drive a Late Model with Parsons as they sponsor, and owner. Since then, the combination has various victories at Seekonk Speedway in Massachusetts, and, a recent championship at Thompson in what was a dominant season filled with the consistency he needed to win the title.
“Don sponsored me for one ACT Tour race at Seekonk, and he hung out with us, he had fun, he likes our family and we get along with his family well,” Parent said. “He saw something in me that I always wanted someone to have someone see. I just needed an opportunity.”
He has never been behind the wheel of a modified on the track, but he feels like the adjustment period won’t be as bad as some may think. Last year, Parent made his NASCAR K&N Pro Series East debut at Thompson, adding another new dimension and experience to his career.
“When I ran the K&N car, I knew it was going to be a big car, with a lot of power,” Parent said. “I felt like I adapted really quickly to that, and honestly, I feel like the modified might even be easier.”
For Don Parsons, the owner of Anytime Realty, the opportunity to team with Rob Fuller and LFR Chassis to get Parent behind the wheel was the right move.
“I started talking with Rob Fuller over the offseason about putting together a program on a part-time schedule, and we’ve been working out the logistics,” Parsons said. “Rob gave me a call, and said he may have an opportunity… I called Ray and his reply was “Are you kidding me? I’ve been waiting for this opportunity my whole life.”
Much like Parent, Don Parsons has enjoyed the relationship the two have together.
“As much as I do for him, he does for me, with taking care of equipment, and of course winning me some trophies and a championship,” Parsons said. “I think this is not only an opportunity for myself as a sponsor and Ray as a driver, but Rob Fuller as well to showcase how well his equipment is. It’s also for every kid out there with a dream to move up in racing and knowing you never know when or where the opportunity will come from.”
Parent, and the rest of the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour teams, will compete in the Thompson 125 Wednesday night. Thompson’s four NASCAR Whelen All-American Series divisions will also be in action, with the Sunoco Modifieds, Limited Sportsman, Mini Stocks and Late Models all geared up to make a run at the championship. The NEMA Midgets will also make their second of three appearances on the high-banks for this season.
The schedule calls for the front grandstands to open at 3:30 p.m., while the qualifying races are scheduled to begin at 5 p.m. For more information, fans are encouraged to visit www.thompsonspeedway.com, and follow the track via social media channels.