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Weekend Warrior Parton Eyes Colossal Upset
In a modern-day David vs. Goliath story, Furman Parton will be looking to slay the giants of dirt late model racing during the second annual Circle K Colossal 100 April 20-21 at The Dirt Track @ Lowe's Motor Speedway.
Parton, 37, of Union Mills, N.C., is a true weekend warrior while a majority of the competitors he will battle in the $50,000-to-win, two-day spectacular are full-time racers who have been barnstorming the nation's dirt tracks for a decade or more.
A relative newcomer with only five years of late model experience, Parton's first taste of competition came on two wheels in 1991.
"I raced motocross for about seven years and then my father, Carl, wanted to start racing with my brother Patrick and I," Parton said. "So we got Legends Cars and raced them for roughly five years. My father had an accident and couldn't compete any more. At that point, my brother got out of racing and I decided I wanted to try dirt late models."
The switch was a logical step as the Parton family business, Parton Lumber Co. in Rutherfordton, N.C., had been a fixture at North Carolina dirt tracks for several years as the sponsor of one of the company's employees, local late model racing sensation Ricky Weeks.
"I had watched Ricky Weeks race through the years and I'd always wanted a car like his," Parton said. "At the end of 2002, we got a dirt late model and that was really the first dirt racing I'd ever done in a car. We ran limited late model races and in 2003 we purchased a super late model motor specifically for one of the big races at The Dirt Track in Charlotte."
Parton won three races last season and has shown he can run with some of the best in the business, but racing is not a priority.
"The lumber company is my main focus," Parton said. "If it's not running, we don't race. I also have a wife, Amy Jo, and three little girls-Ali who is 8 years old, Shay is 5 and Keeley is 2. I have a family to look after, so we generally race within three hours of the house.
"The good Lord comes first. Then you have your family and I guess racing is a pretty strong third on my list," Parton continued. "Racing isn't above the mill or my family, but when it comes to my hobbies, racing is my favorite thing to do. I would like people to think of me as competitive, yet having my priorities where they need to be."
The fact that Parton would rather talk about the friends who comprise his team rather than the success he's enjoyed speaks volumes.
"All of the guys that work on the cars and travel with me are good friends. Roger Iwerks is my crew chief and has been with me since we were in Legends Cars," Parton said, "He moved over to the dirt cars even though he had no idea what they were or how they worked. But he stuck with me."
Other crew members who help prepare and maintain the No. 6p Parton Lumber Co. late model include Aaron Adkins, Jeff Kanipe, Jeff Hensley, Randy Edgerton, Scott Hughes and Parton's father, Carl.
"All of those guys have been helping me through the years and we have a lot of fun," Parton said. "Now don't get me wrong. We're a competitive bunch when we're at the race track. We try to do as well as we can, but when all is said and done we don't get mad at each other. We just get back in the truck, head home and try to do it again next week."
Parton won a Dixie Thunder Series limited late model race at The Dirt Track @ Lowe's Motor Speedway in 2005, but his greatest accomplishment at the four-tenths-mile clay oval came during last year's Circle K Colossal 100. He lined up 29th in the 100-lap finale and charged to a ninth-place finish, the best showing by a local racer.
"There were a lot of circumstances that lined up for us," Parton said about last year's event. "We had an awful qualifying lap. I just couldn't make the car go-it wasn't even in the ballgame compared to the other guy's times.
"We came back Saturday knowing we were going to have to go through the C and B Features. There were some big names in our C Feature, so we didn't even expect to advance beyond that race. But we changed a lot of stuff on the car Saturday morning and when I got out on the track, the car felt really good. We made the right decisions on the set-up and ended up winning that C Feature."
Parton then charged from 21st to fifth in one of the B features, earning a starting spot in the 100-lap finale.
"In the main event, things came together even more," he said. "The car ran really well and we had some fast guys fall out."
Parton's goal for the April 20-21 Circle K Colossal 100 is to improve on last year's result, but he's also realistic about challenging the biggest names in the sport.
"If it happens that I don't make the race, I've still got a way to make a living," he said. "My living is made at the lumber yard and not on the race track. A good week at the saw mill will make up for a bad weekend at the race track."
The Friday night portion of the Circle K Colossal 100 will feature group time trials and heat races. The top two finishers in each heat will secure a spot in the 100-lap finale and a draw will determine the starting lineup.
Saturday night's program begins with a driver autograph session and the on-track action includes at least four additional qualifying races prior to the main event. The race will be part of the 360 OTC World of Outlaws Late Model Series, but The Dirt Track's traditional format, including the extremely popular double-file restarts, will be utilized.
If purchased in advance, reserved tickets for both Friday and Saturday night are $49 for adults and $19 for children ages 12 and under.
Two day pit passes are $60 in advance.
Tickets and pit passes for the April 20-21 Circle K Colossal 100 can be purchased online here or by calling 1-800-455-FANS.