It would be hard to imagine how things could have gotten any better for Greg Estes on Saturday night at the Volunteer Speedway. The driver who is relatively new to Late Model racing scored the biggest win of his career when he captured the $2,000 first prize in the Walter Ball Memorial for Limited Late Models on the Bulls Gap, Tenn. track.
Estes made a pass for the lead on lap 32 of the 40-lap feature event and held off one of the hottest Late Model drivers in east Tennessee when he kept Cory Hedgecock behind him over the final few circuits of the race.
“I guess you could say this is my first big money race, my first in a Late Model in a race with a name associated with it, that I’ve ever won,” Estes declared after his victory on the third-mile clay oval. “This is probably my fourth year driving Late Models.”
Even with less experience than the drivers in front of him, Estes began to chase down leader Jason Welshan and second running Ross White as the race neared its midway point. Just after the halfway mark, the door was thrown wide open for Estes and the rest of the field when Welshan, who had won two Limited Late Model features in a row at Volunteer, slowed suddenly in turn four.
“I’m not sure what lap it was but they had about a half a straight lead on me, then they started backing up to me,” Estes recalled. “All of a sudden Ross was right on my nose and Welshan wasn’t very far in front of him, but I don’t think I could’ve gotten around Jason. When that caution came out(for Welshan’s mechanical trouble) I thought I had a chance, but I don’t think I had anything for Jason.”
Estes stalked White for several laps before finally making what proved to be the race winning move with just eight laps remaining. He believes fast track conditions worked in his favor on Saturday night.
“I’m not real smooth on my right foot,” the driver of the white No. 31 said. “I try to drag my brake and feather the throttle and roll in and roll out, but I’m not near as good as those guys who have been doing this for years. I’m starting to get to where I can drive a slicker track, but when I can drive in hard and set the car then pin the gas, that suits my style.”
The night would get even better for Estes although the anxiety wasn’t quite over for the feature winner, even after the checkered flag waved over his race. His 17-year-old daughter, Parker, was set to start just her fourth feature event in the next race on the track.
The young high school majorette started from the outside of the second row in the 25-lap race for the Modified Hobby class. But as the race played out, she worked her way into the runner-up spot, trailing only Volunteer Speedway veteran racer Jamie Whitt.
As the laps wound down, Parker closed right to the back of Whitt’s car. She made an attempt to pass in turns three and four as the field came toward the white flag, but the former track champion was able to hold her off. Nonetheless, it was quite a performance for such a young racer and quite a night to remember for the Estes family.
“I was a mess,” the proud dad admitted later. “My daughter came in second in her class. We watched some video during the week and we talked about this and we talked about that. She’s a sponge. Vic(Hill) will tell her something or I’ll tell her something and she just takes it all in. She’s the best student I’ve ever seen holding the steering wheel.”
Even the young driver herself was caught a bit off guard by her early success.
“Yeah, that was surprising,” Parker said of her finish. “I never imagined that to happen so early in the season. But with my dad winning, I wanted to win on the same night. That would have been amazing to have both of us win. I’m just speechless, I don’t know what to say.”
So what got this beautiful young lady who can often be seen twirling batons in front of a marching band into racing?
“Being around my dad is what got me into it,” she explained. “I’m always at the shop with him. I’ve always followed him around. I just love it.”
And what would she like to be doing five years from now? “Hopefully still racing. I’d like to move up to a Late Model someday.”