On 5 May, The Checkered Flag got to speak with Dylan Parsons as he prepares to move up from 1600 Single Buggy to Pro SPEC for the 2023 Championship Off-Road season.
The full transcript of the interview is available below. Some text has been altered from the actual dialogue to improve readability and remove verbal pauses.
TCF: Can you break down the move up from buggy to Pro SPEC for this year? You already were one of the top drivers in 1600 last year, but when and how did the plan to switch start coming together?
DP: So it came together last year in June. We had built a new side-by-side and I was racing Pro Stock, and I’m like, ‘I don’t know if I could do both,’ and it just was too much. And then this chassis came up for sale and one of my buddies was like, ‘Hey, you should go buy that,’ and I’m like, ‘I don’t know.’ Then I told Matt Gerald and then he’s like, ‘Go talk to Mikey, Mike Vanden Heuvel.’ And so I went, I stopped over at the shop that night and he’s like, ‘Go buy it.’
So we kind of had it planned all last summer and we really didn’t tell anyone, and then on the Champ Off-Road Podcast, I said I’m building a Pro SPEC for next year.
TCF: You ended up finishing second in points last year but had a good run going at the end—I think you didn’t finish worse than second like the last five races or so. Even though it’s not a second straight title, how much confidence does that performance carry over for you into this season, even if it’s in a different class?
DP: Yeah, for sure. We were coming in strong at the end of the year there and it was just the beginning of the year, it was just kind of dumb luck that was happening, a little bit of just little things. We were so close where we should have won a couple of races and we didn’t at the beginning of the year and end of the year came strong. Just like every year, it seems like at the end of the year, I can finish off stronger than the beginning. So that’s what we’re working on this year is to start off strong.
TCF: How much of a learning curve do you expect there to be going from one class to another?
DP: A ton. Going from a buggy and a side-by-side to a truck is going to be a huge learning curve. I feel I got a lot of people behind me that I hope will help me make that jump quickly.
TCF: What specifically are your goals for this year? Do you see this more as a learning year to get used to the truck, or do you think you could compete for the championship right away?
DP: I think we should be close. It’s going to be a learning year for everyone, but the good part is this class is still fairly new. There were four trucks last year, I think three of those are returning, and then the rest of them are all new so everyone’s in the same boat. There’s a few guys that have converted their own truck, so they’re familiar with their truck, I guess I should say, versus some of us coming in that it’s all new to us.
TCF: For you, how has building the truck been, like how far along is the build or if it’s done already, have you gotten around to testing it yet?
DP: Testing is soon. We had a few setbacks with some electrical components that really seems like it was beyond our control. I started it for the first time this week, but we’re having some little bit of issues. It should be close. I want to drive it soon.
TCF: Obviously, they’re both different beasts, but can you break down any specific similarities or differences that you found in building and prepping the Pro SPEC versus the 1600 or side-by-side?
DP: They’re all really similar to the same; they all have the same components, I guess I should say. It’s just some stuff’s bigger on others and it’s, like I said the other day, the truck’s just a big buggy. It’s got all the same components. It’s just where they are and how big they are and a little bit more fluids and stuff like that.
TCF: Champ is racing at MidAmerica Outdoors for the first time ever at the end of this season. How do you feel about the series heading outside the Midwest for the first time and have you raised yourself before?
DP: I’ve never been to MidAmerica. I did go to their event at Wheatland last week, just with some side-by-side guys and they seem like they have a lot going on. I’m not sure, I guess Champ is ran a little bit streamlined more. They’re still learning down there, but I’m excited to go to MidAmerica and they said that they’re spending like $50 million on the track or something down there. It’s pretty insane kind of money going around. Hopefully it all pans out and it’s fun and good and that facility seems top notch.
TCF: I believe MidAmerica recently bought the West Coast series as well. What’s your view on how short course has been developing in these past few years?
DP: I think like the last few years it’s been at its top. The West Coast guys all coming out here, like it’s hard on them and I could see how it’d be hard on us to go out there, so there kind of needs to be that happy medium between the two I hope, I guess. I don’t know where that’s going to happen. Maybe this will open some doors to MidAmerica. I think Wheatland really needs to be in our schedule. That’s the first time I’ve ever been there and that place is insane.
It’s a cool track.
TCF: Of the other tracks that are on the Champ schedule, which one are you most excited to race at in your truck?
DP: Probably ERX or Bark River’s right there too, between those two. Crandon’s fun but it has all the hype and it just brings more stress on yourself. Just with all the hype and there’s just getting around there, there’s so many people there in the fall. I’ve done well at Crandon and I like Crandon, I’ve been going there for thirty years, whatever my whole life, but ERX, definitely the flowiness of that track is the best and it sets the drivers apart versus just holding it wide open.
TCF: Outside of Pro SPEC, what else do you have planned for racing this year, like are you going to do racing in another class or with SODA again, with IODA, or some other series?
DP: I might run the buggy a little bit. We didn’t sell that yet. If the opportunity comes about to drive something else, like I’m going to race the buggy at the Dirt City race in two weeks, I believe. SODA, IODA, if there’s time, I’ll go run one of those just for… I mean, I learned that two years ago, racing the side-by-side and the buggy, the more seat time, the better. Doesn’t matter what you’re in. Seat time. Last year, towards the end of the year, I started running a light buggy at the SODA races a little bit and then I ran it at Bark River. That seat time made me better in my own car too.
TCF: On the topic of SODA and IODA, I’m sure you’re aware of that whole split between the two that led to IODA being formed this year. Can you offer your thoughts on that situation or is it more like just ‘racing is racing’ for you?
DP: Yeah, I try to stay out of all that. I was involved in that at the beginning, like back when Gravity came about, I was involved a little in the beginning of it and I don’t want to be involved. I’ll go race, but politics isn’t my thing.
TCF: Yeah, that’s fair.
It’s probably too early to look deep into the future, but if things go according to plan, what’s your plan for the future? Do you just plan on climbing the Pro truck ladder into Pro 2 or Pro 4? Or is there any other sort of racing you’d like to try?
DP: I’m not sure. If the window of opportunity for something’s out there, for sure. I think the truck is the goal for everyone, to get into a truck at some point. It seems like that’s the goal. This Pro SPEC, I feel we fit there pretty well. It’s still a driver’s class. It’s not who has the most money, hopefully, I mean hopefully it doesn’t go into that, but you’re pretty limited on what you can do. You can change gearing and stuff like that, in the tranny but not the rear end, so it’s real similar to what the buggy has going on as far as that kind of stuff.
TCF: Before we wrap this up, is there anything else you would like to add?
DP: I’m excited on this, like it’s getting exciting. I couldn’t do it without everyone involved, Matt Gerald, Mikey Vanden Heuvel, we were at his shop most of the winter and I’ve learned a ton from him. Jayce (Gudex) at Fabworx, he got the aluminum done and it like, he knocked that out of the park; it’s a little over the top but he spent his time and he wanted it to look perfect and it’s probably one of the nicest out there for aluminum-wise on all the trucks. He’s been doing a lot of the side-by-sides and I’ve helped him along the way on that.