BUSCH: Charlotte II: Hank Parker Jr preview

Just call him "Papa" Parker -Hank Parker Jr. gets an early birthday surprise- DENVER, N.C. (Oct. 4) - Driver Hank Parker Jr. is known for having one of the brightest smiles in the NASCAR Busch Series (NBS) garage. Even though he usually needs no...

Just call him "Papa" Parker
-Hank Parker Jr. gets an early birthday surprise-

DENVER, N.C. (Oct. 4) - Driver Hank Parker Jr. is known for having one of the brightest smiles in the NASCAR Busch Series (NBS) garage. Even though he usually needs no prompting to show his pearly whites, Parker has two great reasons to grin these days.

First, on Monday, Oct. 7, Parker will turn 28 years old. As usual, the pilot of the No. 36 GNC Live Well Dodge Intrepid will have an understated celebration.

"I'll hang out at the house with my wife," Parker said. "I might go to dinner with a few friends, but that's about it. Anyone that knows me knows that, when I get a chance to hang around my house, it takes a lot to get me to leave. A nice, quiet evening at home is the best birthday present I could ask for."

While a birthday is always a good reason to celebrate, Parker and his wife, Wendy, recently received some news that has the young couple, as well as their family and friends, rejoicing.

"We found out a few months back that Wendy is pregnant," Parker said. "It feels strange to say it, but I'm going to be a dad. Wendy and I couldn't be happier about it, and our families are beside themselves. We had planned on waiting a little while before having our first child, but I guess the man upstairs had other plans for us. We've really been blessed."

With the timeframe for having their child established, the debate now centers on how many brothers and sisters the first Parker child will have.

"Right now, I'm saying I want five or six kids, but that number might drop drastically after I go through labor the first time," Wendy Parker said. "Hank says he wants less than that. He's one of five kids, though, so I think he'll be willing to have as many as I would like. I just want to get this first pregnancy over and done with before I worry about having any more."

The couple chose to wait until after the first trimester to reveal the pregnancy, but Parker says practically everyone around the garage area had already heard the news.

"Yeah, it's one of the worst kept secrets in the garage, thanks to me," Parker said. "I've been so happy about it, I just couldn't keep from telling people. It started with some of the drivers and their wives and girlfriends, then it just kind of made the rounds. Everyone's so excited for us. Every time I stop to talk to someone in the garage, they always ask how Wendy and the baby are doing. The garage area is really an extended family, so I guess this baby is going to have a lot of Aunts and Uncles."

In the early stages of her pregnancy, Parker's wife is still accompanying him to the racetrack as much as possible. While she sometimes still hangs out on the team transporter, her pregnancy has prompted Parker to make one major change, in the form of at-track accommodations.

"I've been borrowing a motorhome from (former Winston Cup crew chief) Barry Dodson for the past few races," Parker said. "I don't own one, so I usually stay at the hotel with the team. Now, I want Wendy to have a comfortable place where she can go and lay down and relax at the track. It gets a little too hectic around the GNC transporter sometimes, so it's nice for her to have a place to get away from the noise and the fumes. She's been a real trooper, though. When the race starts, she's right there on top of the pit box."

Fortunately for the Parkers, whose baby is due in April, they know a couple that can share some recently acquired insights into the journey of pregnancy.

The Parkers' close friends, fellow NBS driver Lyndon Amick and his wife, Melanie, have a baby due next month.

"With Melanie getting pregnant just five months ahead of me, she and I have been talking about all this a lot," Wendy Parker said. "It's nice to have someone that has just gone through what I'm going through now and can tell me what to expect. They're having a boy, so Hank thinks we need to have a boy so the kids will get along. Both of our children will be in the same grade when they start school, which is really neat. As close as we are to Lyndon and Melanie, it's going to be great to be able to share this part of our lives and see our kids grow up together."

For Wendy Parker, a licensed dietician and fitness buff, being pregnant has given her license to let her hair down a little when it comes to indulging some cravings.

"I'm really eating healthy most of the time, but I have slipped a few times," Parker said. "The other day, Hank called me when I was sitting in the Wendy's drive-through line at 10:30 in the morning. I was trying not to let him know where I was, but I got caught when he heard the lady ask for my order. He didn't give me a hard time, though. He just laughed and reminded me that it's OK, I'm eating for two now."


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Drivers Hank Parker Jr. , Lyndon Amick