After ten years of trying, Basset, Virginia native Kevin Parker was in position to finally qualify for the feature race at the ValleyStar Credit Union 300. With 14 laps remaining in the Last Chance Qualifier, Parker had charged through the field to put himself within shouting distance of the top ten spots, which would transfer into the 200-lap main event.

“We had started 28th in the last chance race, and were running 14th or 15th,” Parker recounted. “We were right there. Barry Beggarly and Annabeth [Barnes] and the 7B car [of Justin Crider], they were all battling for tenth place. We were right there. Me and my backup car, Kevin Smith, we had a chance of, if not one of us, if not both of us getting in. We had 14 laps to go.”

However, Parker was swept up in a multi-car incident which started just in front of him. Parker lost control of his machine in oil as he entered turn three, causing him to spin into Barnes before Smith drilled him in the driver’s side door.

“That’s the hardest I’ve ever hit,” Parker said about the impact. “We were all packed like sardines. Someone busted an oil line and we got in it and couldn’t stop. My backup car hit me hard, we were all in the oil and got tangled up.”

Parker was taken to the infield care center, then to the hospital for further evaluation, where he learned he suffered a concussion and brain bruising in the crash. However, he is thankful for his safety equipment that it wasn’t much worse.

“I was wearing a Hutchens [device, a form of head-and-neck restraint], and I’ve got the best Butler seat money can buy,” Parker said. “The lick that I took, when you’ve got a car coming in at 100 miles per hour, it’ll jar you. I could just never get focused after the wreck. When they looked at me after the wreck, they found something, and took me to the hospital.”

Perhaps more than the physical pain, however, Parker knows how close he was to finally making the main event at the Martinsville 300 in his tenth attempt.

“We were contending,” recounts Parker. “It would be different if I was 30th, but I was 15th, and from 15th to 10th. Barry Beggarly on back we were under a blanket.”

“That’s what really kicks you in the gut. I told all my guys in the shop we were really proud of them. We left everything on the table. I’m not looking down on anybody. It’s Martinsville.”

Parker met with his team on Tuesday morning after the race, reminding them of how proud he was to have a shot at making the race, even if it was dashed by an accident out of their control.

“I’m very proud of my little team. It’s five of us that work on my car,” Parker said. “We’ve been coming over there for ten years. I couldn’t be there without Auto Rehab. I couldn’t do it without them or my father, Gary Parker.”

“We’re a little grassroots racing team,” Parker added. “You look at all those big haulers and multi-millions of dollars, and there’s my little team with 3,000 dollars in my trailer. They’ve got more in tires than I’ve got in my whole toolbox. It’s just crazy. I really appreciate everything my team does for me. I couldn’t be anywhere or do what I do without my team.”

With the massive accident fresh on everyone’s mind, some close to the 48-year-old Parker have tried to convince him now is the time to put away the firesuit. However, he has no interest in quitting anytime soon.

“I’m glad I was able to get out of the hospital,” Parker said. “I’m back home. I will mend. I’ve had several of my family members fussing at me to quit, but I’ll quit on my own terms, when I’m ready.”

And Parker still believes he has a chance to return to Martinsville in 2016 and fulfill his dream of making the biggest Late Model Stock Car race of the season, which happens to be less than a half-hour from his home.

“I had told my team Sunday morning, listen, we’ve been coming here for ten years,” Parker recalled. “I know we’re out-monied, these cars are so outdated. We call it a dinosaur. If we don’t get in today, fellas, maybe we ought to look at running small races. But my sponsor talked to me today, and he told me ‘Listen, we’re going back.’ We’re going to make the updates on the car, updated specs, and we’re going back.”

“Hell, I’m 48 years old,” Parker added. “But I still have a dream of making that race just one time, to cross that podium in front of my hometown friends and family and to say ‘Hey, I made that race at Martinsville.'”

“I’m not a quitter. I’m not a quitter.”