In the world of stock eliminator drag racing, the NHRA (National Hot Rod Association) U.S. Nationals is the ultimate event of the year. The NHRA, the sanctioning body of drag racing, is the largest motorsports governing body in the world. Its U.S. Nationals is to drag racing what the Super Bowl is to the NFL or the World Series is to the MLB. To come in second place in the world, only being beaten by one of the most experienced and accomplished drivers in the industry, is quite a feat. And that’s just what native Sapulpan Parker DeVore did over Labor Day weekend in Indianapolis, racing his stock car a quarter of a mile in just 11.67 seconds.
DeVore says his win, at this stage in his career, is “unheard of” and makes for “a pretty incredible year.” He says “stock eliminator drivers race their whole lives” and don’t come this close to winning Nationals. This is just his second year. “To have been doing this for two years, to go to Indy and win a divisional race and runner up to nationals, is surreal.”
A few weeks after his second place win in Indianapolis, DeVore, who now resides with his family in Blanchard, went on to win his division at Nationals in Dallas. He also competed in Nationals in Houston, St. Louis, and Las Vegas last year. All of these races were part of the 2020 NHRA Lucas Oil Series. “Our race season runs over an entire fiscal year and contains numerous different races all over the country,” DeVore clarifies.
He grew up watching his father racing (who was in turn influenced by his uncle) and became interested in it at a young age. His father sold his racecar when Parker got into Little League baseball and other youth sports, but, in this case, out of sight did not equal out of mind. When he reached his senior year at Sapulpa High School in the fall of 2005, he decided it was time to try racing for himself. He started bracket racing at Tulsa Raceway Park and learned he had a natural ability.
Though he was the “young up-and-comer” in a sport populated by mostly more mature racers, he won or tied 5 out of the next 6 years in the No Electronics Points Championship at Tulsa Raceway Park. Then ten years after he first dabbled in the sport he was in Mississippi winning a $10K prize at the “Super Bowl of bracket racing.”
In 2017 he bought a 1980 Plymouth Volare Roadrunner and started competing in stock eliminator races, a different class of drag racing. In this discipline the cars must remain almost exactly how they were when they came from the factory and the concrete drag strip is a straight quarter-mile long, as opposed to the eighth of a mile track in bracket races. Additionally, the races involve a dial-in faster than the class index. In dial-in racing, drivers guess how long it’ll take their car to run the strip and “dial-in” as close to that time as possible. The object is to be the first to the finish line without going faster than the dial-in.
He says that, until he became runner up in Indianapolis in September, he has been “moderately successful” at this “hobby that takes up all of our time.” By “our,” DeVore is referring to his family, all of whom have an important role to play in his passion. His wife Brittany, also a drag racer, though in a different class, attends and races in many of the same races as he. (In fact, they met at a bracket race.) His mother-in-law watches his two-year old son P.J. while he and his wife are busy, his father-in-law dials the car in and often races himself, his dad is the mechanical mastermind behind the operation, setting the car up and getting it ready to go, and his mother and sister attend as many races as they can, and are his most ardent cheerleaders. Even P.J. knows how to check tires and wants to be in the shop with his mom, dad, and grandfathers.
DeVore is also grateful for the support of Oklahoma City and Moore-area businesses Carter Maxwell and Goodyear Tires, White Safety, 405 Performance Products and Sunoco Fuel, and Universal Roofing.
Drag racing is largely a social endeavor, with a friendly, connected community of drivers, families, and teams. A dedicated crew is crucial for success and helps the driver practice, make important decisions, and perform vehicle maintenance. But the sport is also “very self-dependent,” explains DeVore. It requires total focus and concentration from the driver as an individual. Once the helmet is on, the harness is buckled, and gauges are checked, the crowd fades away and “It’s just you.” Win or lose, “it’s all on you.”
DeVore’s racing career has not been devoid of challenges. In fact, “it’s been a tough couple of years,” he recalls. In addition to working full-time at an abstract company, raising a two-year old son with his wife, performing all the work that goes along with owning an active drag race business, and traveling so often that at one point last year the DeVore family was out of state three weekends in a row, he and his family have endured multiple crises, car accidents, performance issues, and bad luck, such as a blown transmission, losing a tire on the starting line of a race and ultimately toppling a nearby tree, among many others.
“There was always light at the end of the tunnel,” however, DeVore says. “I knew that we were so close to being successful.”
The off season, which runs from November to February, keeps DeVore and his team as busy as the racing season. It’s their chance to maintain the vehicle and resolve any issues that may have come up while competing. They’ll change the oil, change the plugs, rotate the tires, get the motors and trains ready, and perform any other maintenance tasks the car needs.
His first race of this year’s season will take place the last weekend in February in Belle Rose, Louisiana. Both he and his wife will be competing there. They’ll also travel to races in Missouri, Texas, Arizona, Nevada, and Oklahoma this year.