By Seth Eggert, Staff Writer
BRISTOL, Tenn. – For this week’s edition of Climbing the Ladder, Seth Eggert sat down with Stefan Parsons at Bristol Motor Speedway. The 20-year-old competes in Late Model competition and for Premium Motorsports in the No. 15 Phoenix Construction Chevrolet Silverado.
Seth Eggert: Why did you follow your Hall of Fame Uncle, Benny Parsons, and your father, Phil Parsons’ footsteps into Motorsports?
Stefan Parsons: “Ever since I was little, I’ve been at a racetrack. It was the only thing that I’ve ever known. I’ve literally only known racing. It was a pretty easy decision. For as long as I can remember, I’ve wanted to be a racecar driver. It’s just a continuation of that, following in their footsteps while also trying to make a name for myself.”
SE: How did you convince your parents to let you race? Was it difficult?
SP: “It wasn’t easy. My Mom definitely wasn’t on board. Actually, David Ragan’s Dad, Ken Ragan, was a big help in my career, getting me started in Bandleros. He convinced my Dad to get me in a Bandlero. It just went from there.”
SE: Where and when was your first race? What was the result?
SP: “2010 at the BoJangles Summer Shootout at Charlotte Motor Speedway. I ran Beginner Bandits Bandleros (Beginner Bandlero Division). I raced the Summer Shootout for four or five years. Bandos for a couple years, then Legends Cars. It’s a fun place, a lot can happen there, but a lot of the greats in our sport have come from Legends Cars.
“I can’t remember the result. I won in my fourth or fifth race, but I can’t remember what my first one was.”
SE: Who would you consider your mentor?
SP: “My Dad, definitely. I’ve been lucky that I’ve been surrounded by a lot of people, people that I can lean on. My Dad had his team, Michael McDowell, Josh Wise, Dad’s old crew chief Gene Nead were definitely a big help as well. I actually had about a 30-minute conversation with Carl Edwards coming up here. He was giving me a lot of pointers and tips. I’ve really been able to lean on Carl a lot.
“Just surrounding yourself with the best people you can elevates you to a level that you probably wouldn’t be able to reach on your own.”
SE: What inspires you to compete?
SP: “I’ve just always had an innate desire to win. I’ve always wanted to do this. Now that I’m here, I’m definitely trying to make the best of the opportunity in front of me. It’s just not easy, if it was easy, everyone would do it. I’m just really thankful to be here at Bristol and to be driving for Jay Robinson.”
SE: Is there a specific track that you want to win at?
SP: “Yeah. I’ve almost won a couple times at Orange County Speedway, Hickory Motor Speedway, and Motor Mile Speedway. Really, as long as I’m bringing home a trophy, it doesn’t matter where it’s from.”
SE: You spent three years competing in the CARS Tour, but never reached victory lane. How frustrating was that?
SP: “It’s frustrating. We’ve had some tough luck. Just freak deals, mechanical failures. We’ve been close, but just haven’t been able to finish the deal. We’ve been competitive just about everywhere we went, but when you compete against Lee Pulliam, Josh Berry, it’s hard to compete against them. They’ve put a lot into their programs as well. Everybody there is the best of the best.”
SE: You honored your father in last years’ Throwback 276 at Hickory Motor Speedway. Did you feel any added pressure driving that car that night?
SP: “Not really. It was cool to see him happy, seeing it back on the racetrack. It’s funny, that’s probably the first time that he ever saw that scheme when he wasn’t in it on the racetrack. It was cool to honor him. Not really any added pressure, but it was a special moment between me and him.”
SE: Do you feel any added pressure to perform knowing that he is in the booth?
SP: “It’s cool. Not particularly, I try not to think about it too much. He wants what’s best for me and lets us do our deal and stays back. It’s definitely a cool experience, especially to have him here. Hopefully qualifying later, we’ll be able to make it into the race and have a good 200 laps.”
SE: In the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, your Uncle, Benny Parsons has been honored at Darlington with drivers running throwback cars to his paint schemes. Do you feel a sense of pride knowing that people think so highly of your family?
SP: “It’s definitely cool. I meet a lot of people that say, ‘I love your uncle Benny. He was such a great guy.’ He passed away when I was eight-years-old. I still have memories of him, but at the same time, I wish he was here to see me now, and this step of my racing career.”
SE: As you move up the racing ladder, are you prepared to be interviewed by your father, Phil Parsons, a NASCAR on Fox broadcaster?
SP: “Yeah, I sure hope so. Hopefully we get the opportunity to do that tonight. We’ll see how qualifying goes, and we’ll go from there.”
SE: You raced against your cousin, Kevin, at Myrtle Beach Speedway earlier this year for the first time. What was it like to race with and against family? Is there a competition between Kevin and yourself to put up better results?
SP: “Yeah, there is always a friendly family rivalry. We were competitive down there. Most of the second race was Twin 40s, and we got caught up in a racing incident. It was cool to race against Kevin. It was just cool to have two Parsons in the field.”
SE: What does the future hold for you, where will you be one year from now?
SP: “Hopefully in the Truck Series. Hopefully in a competitive ride, being at the racetrack every weekend. It’s so tough in the sport nowadays, a lot of money involved. Hopefully I can find a good sponsor and partner that I can help to build their brand, as well as mine. We’ll see what happens.”