Ahnna Parkhurst hasn’t been racing all that long, but the young driver is already making her mark in the Dirt Late Model world as she has drawn the attention of some of the biggest names in the sport. And in 2015, the 14-year-old hopes to make even more of an impression as she takes on Crate Late Model fields all across the South.
Parkhurst began her racing career in go-karts, where she experienced success, but has since moved toward Late Models. Her season will get underway this weekend in the Ice Bowl at the Talladega Short Track in Eastaboga, Alabama.
“I ran about eleven Late Model races this past season and I got a few top-10s and a top-5,” the Augusta, Georgia native explained. “This season, I’d like for the top-10s to be where I am for the full season. For some reason, I’m not always very good at qualifying so I’d like to qualify in the top-10 every week. If I could get that done in 2015, that would be a goal.”
Look for Parkhurst’s No. 23 MasterSbilt machine at some of the region’s most competitive weekly racetracks during the coming season.
“My schedule is set for me to run twice a month down in Georgia(Swainsboro) and the other two times a month I’ll run Cleveland Speedway on Friday nights and Boyd’s Speedway that Saturday.”
The young driver got her start in the sport by capturing the attention of the folks at Richard Childress Racing a couple of years ago.
“I started racing in June of 2013,” Pakhurst pointed out. “My dad works for Bad Boy Buggies and when they started sponsoring Kevin Harvick when he was over at RCR, my dad became really good friends with all of them so they decided to sponsor the boys(Austin & Ty Dillon) as well.”
Her connection to the Dillon brothers also led to a connection with their famous grandfather.
“I just got to hanging around Austin and Ty a lot at the races when we would go, and then I started getting closer to Richard Childress,” she added. “One day we were in Atlanta and he asked me what I wanted to do when I got older and I said a racecar driver. The next day he called my dad and said he had talked to Austin and Ty and the three of them wanted to get me started.”
As part of the Team Dillion Racing driver development program, Parkhurst has the opportunity to work with one of the top crew chiefs in all of Dirt Late Model racing in Shane McDowell. The younger brother of Dream winner Dale McDowell not only maintains cars for his brother, but also works with a number of younger drivers as they make their way up through the sport.
“Shane is really good for me because he gets it,” Parkhurst declared in a recent telephone interview. “Other people I’ve worked with know how to set the car up for them and their strengths where Shane has worked with Austin and Ty when they were younger so he really knows how to set up a car for someone my age and my skill level.”
The female driver has also received advice from others who have shared the same experiences, including a former Snowball Derby winner who has competed in NASCAR.
“Johanna Long has come out to some of my go-kart races because she was good friends with one of the other drivers I raced with,” Parkhurst said. “She and I would talk and she helped me out some. I really look up to her.”
As for the future, Parkhurst hopes to continue moving up through the ranks in the sport. At the same time, her greatest goal is to simply be the best she can be at whatever level she competes at.
“I really like the dirt, but I want to move to asphalt when I get older. If I could make it to NASCAR, I’d want to work my way through each level and do the trucks, and the Nationwide(now Xfinity) and the Sprint Cup rather than start right out in Nationwide or Cup. I want to work my way through.
“I just want to make a good name for myself and do good in every level of racing I go into. We were successful in go-karts and I want to be successful in Late Models. And if that’s where it ends, I just want to be successful in that. But if we keep going, I’d like to be successful in everything I do.”