How Parker Chase shifted from sports cars to NASCAR
Forty-five minutes southwest of Circuit of the Americas, Parker Chase grew up watching racing from home in New Braunfels, Texas.
Whether it was NASCAR on his television or passing Hill Country Kart Club Raceway, the go-kart track 10 minutes from his house, Chase was mesmerized by the sense of speed.
In 2011, at age 10, Chase finally asked his parents if he could race at Hill Country and was swiftly met with a no. Shortly thereafter, Chase’s dad went to the NASCAR race at Texas Motor Speedway, which only frustrated Chase more.
“That (ticked) me off and I told him, ‘Well, this is what we’re doing when you get back,’” Chase said in an interview with NBC Sports.
So began his motorsports career, with a journey filled with go-karts and sports cars that included a stint as Kyle Busch’s teammate in the 2020 edition of the Rolex 24 at Daytona.
These days, Chase is pursuing the stock car route. And on Saturday, just short of 10 years after attending COTA’s debut for the Formula One United States Grand Prix in 2012, Chase will make his inaugural NASCAR Xfinity Series start at his home track, driving the No. 26 Toyota for Sam Hunt Racing.
“To make my Xfinity debut there is special ...” Chase said. “Having everybody that supported me for the last 11 years that I’ve been racing to watch me make my Xfinity debut is special.”
While Friday’s practice session will mark his first laps in an Xfinity car, Chase has plenty of laps around Circuit of the Americas in other vehicles.
His stint in go-karts progressed into road racing, sending Chase into sports cars at a young age. His first laps at COTA came in 2016 during a test session. And at 15 years old, Chase was there to drive a Porsche for the Pirelli World Challenge Balance of Performance test “just to get some track time.
“I ended up hopping in a different car and went out and went pretty quick, and so my whole year’s plans changed,” Chase said. “We went and did a full season of Pirelli World Challenge in GT4 (with Performance Motorsport Group). And I think my first race there was about a month later, and we ended up third on the podium and fifth in another race.”
That season propelled Chase into the sports car world on a regular basis, notching multiple podiums across two seasons with PMG and making his 2017 debut in the IMSA WeatherTech Sports Car Championship at COTA. The following year, Chase competed in two separate Pirelli World Challenge series, winning a combined six races and one championship.
He made his first start in the 24 Hours of Daytona in 2019, competing for Starworks Motorsport as one of six races with the team. But it was his race at Road Atlanta in October that changed Chase’s eventual path.
Chase ran that event for AIM Vasser Sullivan Racing, and three-and-a-half months later, he was back with the team for the 2020 24 Hours of Daytona. Chase was driving the team’s No. 14 Lexus as a teammate to Jack Hawksworth, Michael De Quesada and some guy named Kyle Busch, who entered fresh off his second NASCAR Cup Series championship. The group finished ninth in the GTD class in Daytona.
Chase grew up watching NASCAR, but nothing prepared him for the heaps of attention Busch’s presence brought.
“It was cool just to see the amount of people that wanted to talk to Kyle Busch,” Chase said. “Everywhere you go, there’s always a swarm of people following him. And even the autograph session that we did, I think the line for our table was probably four times longer than anybody else’s. And there’s plenty of people there that have won Le Mans multiple times and everything you can imagine. But the Kyle Busch table was the longest.”
The outings with Lexus partnered the Texas native with Toyota Racing. With Chase recognizing the opportunities at his disposal, he made the decision to shift toward stock-car racing, leading him to race late models in 2020.
“As I got older, I realized that I felt that there was more opportunity in NASCAR to make a living,” Chase said. “Because if you ask anybody that’s not in motorsports, they say, ‘oh yeah, racecars.’ And when you’re racing in sports cars, they say, ‘oh, like NASCAR!’ So I think NASCAR in the United States is obviously the superior form of motorsport. So I just felt that you know, if I went that route, I have a strong opportunity of making it a full-time career.”
The wheels are in motion to help that goal become a reality. Chase made four ARCA starts for Venturini Motorsports in 2021 with a best finish of fourth at Charlotte and will make 10 starts this season. Already, he earned a runner-up finish at Daytona in the series’ opening race.
The Toyota connection also came full circle as Chase made two Truck Series starts for Kyle Busch Motorsports, partnering with his former IMSA teammate for the Daytona road course (23rd) and COTA (18th) last year.
Ahead of his Xfinity debut with Sam Hunt Racing, which led its first laps two weeks ago with John Hunter Nemechek behind the wheel at Phoenix, Chase expects to be competitive on Saturday afternoon.
“I think I want to at least finish in the top 10,” Chase said. “I think it’s gonna be quite hectic, so if we can stay out of trouble and not getting any serious contact or break anything and just keep it clean, we have an easy chance to finish on the top 10 I think. That’s my bare minimum goal, but obviously want to go out there and win as everybody does.”
Chase is taking each opportunity one race at a time. He remains hopeful for a full-time opportunity in any national stock car series for 2023.
“That’s obviously the goal,” he said. “I want to be able to go out and contend for a championship in whichever series it may be. So at the minimum, I want to be able to do that. And then maybe, say if we’re doing a full season of ARCA, I want to mix in some trucks or Xfinity stuff just to keep learning as much as I can.”
At COTA, Chase will have plenty of hometown support, including primary sponsor, Bahnbrëcker, a craft whiskey brewed in his hometown of New Braunfels.
“I’m gonna have, I don’t know, 100 people there at least, just friends and family and everybody there that wants to come see it,” Chase said. “That’s cool just to have be able to have everybody that I’m close to there at the track.”