The Story of NASCAR’S Richie Parker Asks You to Leave Your Excuses at The Door
How do you get through your day? Make it from one place to another? One task to the next? How do you do it?
Hendrick motorsports is the most winning organization in NASCAR. From Jimmie Johnson to Jeff Gordon to Dale Earnhardt, Jr. For any engineer drawn to racing, it is the elite destination. For Richie Parker, it’s been a job for the past 8 years. As a vehicle engineer at Hendrick, Parker designs chassis and body components for all the race teams and does all his design works the way he does almost everything; with his feet.
Every step of the way in life, there were people who said I couldn’t do things. I couldn’t ride a bicycle. People that said I couldn’t live on my own. Couldn’t get a good job and support myself. I couldn’t go to college and graduate. I don’t listen too much to people when they tell me I can’t do something. It’s not a whole lot that’s gonna stand in your way.
There are a lot of people that when I first started in the Hendrick motorsports, they had no idea what I could do and what I was going to do. I have some guys that I’m good friends with now and they told me that when they heard I was coming and when I first got there, they were just standing like “what is he going to do?”
“It’s very demanding. We have somebody come back from the race track and he says he needs something next week that’s gonna help him win a race. No is never the answer.” Read:“Real Winners Don’t Give Up”- Chef With No Hands, Maricel Apatan
Richie Parker was born in May 1983 in a coastal town of Beaufort, South Carolina. Right away, his parents knew something was wrong.
“They said that there was a little issue and complication with the baby and I was like “what?” The doctor said the baby did not have arms. And I was just sort of dumbfounded and was like “what do you mean?”- Tracy Parker, Richie’s father.
Doctors told the Parkers the abnormality was a result of a non-genetic birth defect creating a bilateral amelia (a limb deficiency)
“I’m thinking “how are we gonna get through this? How will he eat? How will he open doors? How will he do just a normal day to day thing? But I saw Richie, there was no question after that “- Lottie Parker. Richie’s mother.
“He was the cutest baby and he was the cutest little boy. After about five minutes, it was “when can I take my kid home? Just give me my kid.”- said Tracy Parker
“we wanted his childhood to be as close to any other child’s childhood as possible. That has always been our attitude. We were going to make it work. We might just do it differently but it will work.”- Lottie Parker
“There were always things around the house that I didn’t need to ask somebody else for help to do it. And that was always important to me. I had two parents who from day one, they tried to make it so that my life was-I guess you could say- as normal as possible. Whatever normal is.” – Richie Parker
“A lot of kids in the neighborhood had a bike. Well, Richie is going to ride a bike. We understood some of the dangers so got long handle bars and he rode it across from one arm to the other. And after that, he rode a bike with other kids in the neighborhood and he was just a kid riding his bike.”- Tracy Parker
As a teenager, Richie’s sense of independence founded his sharp focus in cars.
“I always wanted to drive. I was told by a few different people that “well, there’s a bus in your area, there are taxi cabs. That’s all you need to do. You should use that as your transportation “. But that just wasn’t me.”- Richie Parker
When he was 15, Richie spotted his dream car. A 1964 Chevrolet Impalla SS. The Parkers convinced the owners to sell it. 15 years later, it’s still Richie’s ride.
“If the bicycle gave him a certain amount of freedom, the car I think gave him a great amount of independence and pride.”- Tracy Parker
In truth, Richie’s entire life has been one remarkable study in engineering. Nearly every task requires engineering.
“I can’t say there is anything that I can’t do. I don’t know if there is a whole lot in life that I can say I can’t do. Just things that I haven’t done yet.” -Richie
That attitude carried Richie to his current job at Hendrick.
“I think I had about 20 resumes that I went through before I settled down to Richie’s. I knew he could do the things that I needed him to do. It was more of a question of how?” we sat down and he showed me how he works on the computer and how he does his design work. I write with my right hand, you write with your left hand. He happens to write with his feet. “- Rex Stump, Hendrick Engineering Manager
Parker’s initial internship with Hendrick was supposed to last 10 months. 8 years and 5 championships later, he is still there.
How do you get through your day? Make it from one place to another? One task to the next?
Don’t ask Richie Parker. He’s already moving on down the road.
“I’m just never satisfied. It’s what drives me. I don’t know where it comes from. Sometimes, it drives me crazy but it’s how I live my life.”