By Phil Whipple, RaceOnTexas.com Staff Writer. Photo By: Rachel Plant
SEGUIN, Texas — As the Texas Dirt Truck Series (TDTS) enjoys a nice growth spurt this year with an influx of new talent in good equipment, one driver who's been there right from the start is closing in on another feature victory. This former drag racer notched his first win last year and is poised to win again.
For 55-year-old Russ Parker, a new-found love for dirt oval racing has completely transformed his racing career. The easy-going native of Missouri started out in the streets, moved onto the drag strip once he landed in Texas, then decided to go oval racing in 2019 when the TDTS was first created.
Parker won the series' inaugural visit to Monarch Motor Speedway on June 12 of last year, and in 2021 has earned a pair of top-five finishes in five starts. Rain has plagued the series this year, as it has many tracks throughout Texas and Louisiana. Yet Parker and his team forge on, chasing another feature win.
“We've had a serious lack of seat time this year due to all this rain,” Parker said. “But I do feel like we've made some huge gains when we did get to compete. We took the truck to CRS Suspension, and they really got us headed in the right direction. It feels good to be running a little closer to the front.”
For many years, Parker's racing was confined to the asphalt, either blasting down some abandoned roadway or an actual facility built for drag racing. He still runs part-time at the Alamo City Motorplex, in fact, a nice NHRA sanctioned 1/4-mile facility in Marion, Texas, just down the road from his house.
“I've been drag racing since I was 18,” Parker explained. “It all started up in Missouri, moved on to Oklahoma City and continued when I moved down here to Texas. Most of my experience was in heads-up illegal Street Racing, which was big back in the day. I never ran on a real drag strip until I got here.
“We're hoping to have the new '69 Mustang Pro Mod built by Greg Hubbell ready to make a pass by the end of this year. But as much as I'm look forward to that, my love for racing on dirt ovals is way beyond drag racing. This is a great sport. It's a challenge to figure out, but it's one I truly love.”
Parker was one of the first drivers to commit to the series for its inaugural season of 2019. Guys like him, inaugural points champion Larry Baggett and 2020 champion Tony Bernal are who built the foundation. Parker jumped in at the request of co-founder George Jones, and he's never looked back.
“We have a lot of good teams coming into the series now, it's a lot different than our first season,” Parker said. “It's getting a lot harder to run up front at any given event. You need a good setup for the heats, and there isn't any time to waste in a 20-lap feature. You really have to get up on the wheel.
“I love the growth we're seeing this year, for a couple of reasons. For one, they're all good people. And with most of them so fast, it gives me incentive to step it up and try to beat them. It's good for the level of competition we have, and good for tracks that host our series. We're a legit tour, I'm proud to say.”
When this driver climbs aboard his Russ Parker Construction/All In Designs No. 28 Chevy Silverado, he gets into a truck with a very interesting history.
“George and I went up to Bastrop one day to get this chassis,” Parker explained. “He had found out about it online, the price was right, so off we went with trailer in tow. At the time, I had no idea of what we were getting into.
“Keep in mind, I'd never done any oval racing whatsoever in my life. I was interested in drag cars and motorcycles, yet the concept of the Texas Dirt Truck Series looked pretty solid to me. Once we got the truck built and active, I fell in love with it and oval racing in general.”
Wright now wheels a newer truck in the Advance Auto Parts Pro Truck Series at Houston and Mobile, and won the 2020 points crown. When asked about his former ride, Wright said it was quite a piece.
“That was my very first truck,” he said. “I got disqualified the first time I tried to race it, the chassis was illegal. We gave it to the Kruger family, who I'm pretty sure passed it on to George and Russ for use on dirt. So it's had quite a life, and I'm thrilled to know that Russ is getting it hooked up on dirt.”
As for horsepower, Parker utilizes one of the most respected and reputable engine builders in Texas.
“I'm proud to say I have an engine built by Tom Hamilton at Mission Auto in San Antonio,” Parker said. “In my mind, Tom is the best builder out there. He uses the best parts and is always at the track if I need guidance or have any sort of an issue, which we seldom experience. I love that man dearly.”
Along with his burning desire to win races, a well-maintained truck and a powerful engine, Parker also has several key people behind the scenes supporting his racing program.
“I couldn’t do this without the support of my family; Donna, Nicole and my mom, who sponsors our tires; Tom Hamilton with Mission Racing, who is one top-notch engine builder; Greg Hubbell Race Cars, All In Designs, Winners Circle Transmissions, Nogalitos Gear, Mission Racing and CRS Suspension. I appreciate what they all do for me.
“I also need to offer a special thanks to my crew chief, Josh Minor, because I love his determination and will to get the job done. He wants that next feature win just as badly as I do, and we'll get it done.”
With so many rainouts and the summer season quickly flying by, the traveling law firm of Parker, Minor and Associates know it's time to bear down. If they want that next win, there's more work to do.
“We're working hard right now to repair the damage from last Saturday night,” Parker concluded. “When it's all fixed, we'll get this thing back on the scales and get a setup under it. We keep learning more about what it takes to go fast on dirt. I think we're making gains and can be in contention to win.”