Virtual To Reality: Stafford Speedway DARE Stock Driver Forms Unique Partnership To Start Team

After years of competing in simulated racing online, 21-year old Josh Parker is taking on reality racing this year at Stafford Motor Speedway, with an interesting twist.

Parker recently formed Richards Parker Racing LLC, a partnership between himself and family friend Mark Richards that has put him on the track in Stafford Motor Speedway’s entry level DARE Stock division.

The team made its debut last Friday at Stafford, though Richards wasn’t able to attend.

Richards, a 24-year old U.S. Army veteran who has been stationed for much of the last five years in the Middle East, was in Afghanistan last Friday when Richards Parker Racing made its debut at Stafford.

Over the last few years Parker, of Exteter, R.I., has built up a reputation nationally as one of the best competitors in the world on iRacing simulated racing format. In 2009 Parker won iRacing Pro Series national championship.

Richards is a close friend of Parker’s older brother Matt. When Richards was home last March and visiting with friends he asked Parker why he hadn’t taken his simulated racing exploits onto the track in real life. It was then that Parker explained to Richards the costs involved with getting on the track.

On May 11 at Stafford, Parker, got his first chance behind the wheel at the track, running a DARE car for Gary Spinnato’s Rent-A-Racecar program. He finished 15th in his first race.

Not long after that Richards called Parker with an offer. He wanted to fund Parker’s dream of competing in real racing.

It marked the beginning of Richards Parker Racing LLC through an initial investment of $20,000 from Richards.

“He had no idea about anything with racing,” Parker said. “He just said he wanted to help me out and make it happen. I thought he was joking around. Then he called and it all happened.”

Parker finished 15th last Friday, getting involved in a wreck in the closing laps.

“I was a second off in the first practice,” Parker said. “I gained four-tenths in the second practice and by the time the race was running I was three-tenths off the leader. It felt good until I got wrecked. We had a green-white-checkered and we were three or four wide going into turn one and someone got clipped and hit into me.

“The biggest difference for me from sim-racing to this is in the g-forces and the feel of the car. Pretty much everything to do with feel. It’s totally different from sim racing. Knowing my surroundings. My racing IQ I’ve developed from Sim Racing, but I’m learning everything about the feel of it.”

And from Afghanistan Richards keeps up with what’s going.

“He wants to move up next year,” Parker said. “He doesn’t know anything about racing though. He was like, ‘What’s this Late racing stuff I see on the website.’ I said ‘They’re Late Models.’ He said ‘Will that be the next step?’ I said if we split $50,000 I could do that.’ We’ll have to see what happens.”

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