Slade Parsons had reason to be nervous. The 17-year-old bought a new racing motor but found out afterward he might not have a car for it to power.
After more than two years of affiliation with Mitchell Coble Racing out of Mount Airy, the team informed him in February it couldn’t provide a car for him this season.
Fortunately, he didn’t stay without a ride for long. Parsons, a junior at Reynolds High, got scooped up by Kyle Strickler Motorsports. Along with the new affiliation, Parsons is racing with a more powerful motor in a completely different series while competing against the toughest competitors he’s faced in his young career.
Frankly, Parsons said last Wednesday, he doesn’t know if he’d be racing right now if not for Strickler.
“It was pretty tough,” Parsons said. “We had already bought the motor to do the whole entire move up. And that was close to a $20,000 investment for that motor.
“We had no idea what to do.”
Last season, Parsons raced in the South Eastern Crate Association with an engine pumping out around 400 horsepower. The plan was to jump to a different series this year even before joining a new racing team: Parsons had his sights set on the South East Dirt Modified Series, featuring competition with an 850-horsepower engine. Hence the new motor.
But then Parsons was stuck looking for a new team. He linked up with Strickler by the end of February and officially signed by March.
Parsons now competes in the UMP Modified circuit with Strickler as a teammate. It has thrown him into a series with a geographic footprint that spans the South and Midwest while facing drivers he grew up watching.
In the three races Parsons has competed in so far, he has run into Matt Crafton, a two-time NASCAR Camping World Truck Series champion; David Stremme, who has raced in NASCAR’s top three series (Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, Xfinity Series and truck series); and NASCAR Truck series driver Justin Haley.
Parsons has traveled to race at Cherokee Speedway in South Carolina, County Line Raceway in Elm City and, most recently, to Eldora Race Track in New Weston, Ohio. That track is owned by Tony Stewart, a three-time Cup Series champion.
Learning how to control the throttle of an engine twice as powerful as what he’s accustomed to, Parsons said he has dealt with early lumps. His tenure started with moments of lost traction due to overacceleration, as well as a wreck during his first UMP race.
That said, he has already starting to feel more comfortable. Parsons eagerly awaits more time for races once the school year ends.
“There’s a bunch of people that have way more experience than me,” Parsons said. “… I think I picked up a lot quicker than I thought I would or anybody else did really.