BUSCH: Hank Parker Jr. Heats Up Rookie Points Battle

PARKER JR. HEATS UP ROOKIE POINTS BATTLE CONCORD, NC (June 29)- Hank Parker Jr. and his team went into Watkins Glen International on Sunday wanting to send a message. In the battle for "rookie of the year" in the NASCAR Busch Series Grand ...

PARKER JR. HEATS UP ROOKIE POINTS BATTLE

CONCORD, NC (June 29)- Hank Parker Jr. and his team went into Watkins Glen International on Sunday wanting to send a message. In the battle for "rookie of the year" in the NASCAR Busch Series Grand National Division, don't count them out just yet.

Parker Jr. and the No. 53 team got their message across loud and clear, climbing all the way from the 39th starting spot to finish tenth in Sunday's Lysol 200, the best finish of any rookie in the field. The effort makes two top-10's in a row for Hank Parker Racing, coming on the heels of their third-place finish at South Boston Speedway two weeks ago.

"It seems like we've finally got some momentum," Parker said. "When you're having bad luck, that seems to just compound itself, and when you're having good luck, it seems to do the same. I'm just glad some good luck is finally coming our way."

For a time, it appeared that good luck was not in the cards for the team at Watkins Glen. Unable to make the field on speed, the team was awarded the fifth of ten provisional starting spots allotted for the race.

"I blame a lot of that on my inexperience," said Parker, who was making his first start on a road course. "I went to a road-racing school about a week ago, but there's no substitute for getting out there and turning laps in a stock car. It just took me awhile to get used to the course."

While trying to work his way up in the early laps of the event, Parker Jr. then cut a tire down, forcing the team to pit earlier than they had planned. As pit stops shuffled the standings on the track, the team found themselves running second, only to see Parker Jr. spin shortly thereafter.

"I must have gotten something on the throttle to make it kind of sticky, like some debris or gravel from some of the guys who had run off-course in front us," Parker remembers. "I mashed the gas pedal as I came out of turn 11, and it went down way too fast, and I spun out. Fortunately, the caution flag flew, and we were able to come out of the deal with decent track position."

Parker Jr. stayed out of trouble for the rest of the race, and brought the car home in one piece. He says that, given the limited budget the team is competing with, not damaging the machine was almost as important as getting a top-10.

"We've said all along that we need some sponsorship," Parker said. "We've only got three cars ready to go in the shop right now, so it's crucial that I stay out of trouble in the next few races."

If he can keep bringing the cars home in good shape, and manage some more good finishes, Parker Jr. feels that he still has a very realistic shot at "rookie of the year." Under the present system, after the 15th race of the year, competitors vying for the title can drop their worst finishes when figuring their rookie standings. Parker Jr. hopes to use that fact to make up some ground in the points battle.

He admits, "I'm definitely watching how the other rookies are doing. It's hard not to. But, I'm also looking at the big picture."

Parker Jr. says that as much as he'd love to be "rookie of the year," there are other things more important to him than the award.

"I want to be in this sport for a long time," he says. "I just want to get seat time, and earn the respect of these other drivers out here. I'm just proud to be among all these talented guys. As long as I can run competitively, and not do anything stupid on the track, that's all I can ask for in my first season."

Hank Parker Jr. and the No. 53 team head to Milwaukee, WI this weekend for the July 4th DieHard 250 at The Milwaukee Mile.

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Series NASCAR XFINITY
Drivers Hank Parker Jr.