Interviewing the Industry: Joshua Parker

The NASCAR industry is full of fun and exciting people to talk to.  Each person has a different role to play, and a different story on how they got there.  Nonetheless, each individual helps make up the fabric of the NASCAR we see today.  Last week, I was able to interview Joshua Parker.  Joshua is a driver and champion of the NASCAR Heat Pro League.  Joshua won the championship with Joe Gibbs Gaming this past season of the Pro League driving the #18 Interstate Batteries Toyota.  He competed in Season 1 of the Pro League as well with Chip Ganassi Gaming.  I talked with Josh about his experiences with NASCAR Heat and the NASCAR Heat Pro League.  Here's what Joshua had to say:

Q: When did you start playing NASCAR games? How did you get into them?

A: "I started playing NASCAR games when I was about 9 years old.  My best friend (James) who I grew up with had a wheel and pedal set for his computer back in 1998 and we would play NASCAR Racing 2 from the moment we left school till the time my mom would call his house telling me dinner was ready."

Q: What made you want to tryout for the NASCAR Heat Pro League?

A: "I became a professional sim racer back in 2009 when iRacing launched the what is now "Coca-Cola Series".  I won the first ever PRO series title which is how you qualified for that series back then and still do now.  I ran in that series from 2010-2013 running for Dale Earnhardt Jr.  Being 19-20 years old at the time was becoming very difficult to balance my life with my sim racing hobby as I was trying to establish myself in the real world, so I eventually backed out of the series in 2013.  Now that I'm 29 with a steady career I have some extra time to enjoy my hobby again.  It takes a long time and a lot of effort to requalify for the Coke series so trying to qualify for the Heat Pro League was a little easier way to get back to becoming a professional sim racer again."

Q: With your previous success in sim racing, were you confident that you'd land a spot in the Pro League or were you nervous at all?

A: "To be honest I had no idea what to expect.  I knew I could be one of the top contenders but I did not know the game at all.  I'm a iRacer by heart and stuck to PC simulation gaming not really console gaming.  I literally bought the game just to qualify for the Pro League.  Luckily I was able to pick up on the setups pretty quickly and grabbed good stats to be part of the top 50 in the country that was eligible to be drafted."

Q: What was the feeling like for you when you found out you were selected to drive for Joe Gibbs Gaming?

A: "Well this is my 2nd season.  The first season I was drafted by Chip Ganassi Racing.  After each season each team is allowed to drop 1 or both drivers but cannot keep the 2 they drafted.  I was unfortunately dropped by CGR but was redrafted by Gibbs in season 2.  Being redrafted was amazing.  I grew up a huge Bobby Labonte fan so to be driving the virtual Interstate Batteries Toyota for JGR is pretty badass."

Q: What would you say is the biggest difference between driving competitively and casually on the Heat games?

A: "The competition.  Driving casually you can pretty much throw a mediocre setup in and run well.  When you have some of the guys over for a few drinks you would probably run what we call a fix setup lobby which is where you can't adjust the setup, arrive and drive.  Racing competitively is a whole new world.  You're running hundreds of laps to gain a tenth of a second."

Q: Is there any game in the NASCAR Heat franchise that you've enjoyed running on the most?

A: "The latest ones, NASCAR Heat 4 and 5 by far have been the best for me because each game gets a little bit more realistic setup building wise which falls right into my hand with all my experience."

Q: How do you think the Heat Series compares to other NASCAR games from the past?

A: "I've enjoyed them.  EA Sports set the bar high years ago so I feel like everyone will always compare racing games to those.  NASCAR Heat has done a great job improving the game each year."

Q: Is there anything 704 or Motorsport games could do to make the games or the Pro League better, in your opinion?

A: "I'd love to see some more cool features.  Maybe a website or a hub that has pro league stats (past champions, winners, poles, laps led) type of deal.  As far as the game goes itself, I'll leave that up to the engineers.  There's countless things I'd want but I would have no idea if it's possible so I'll leave it up to the guys who know what they're doing."

Q: What advice would you give to someone who would like to get into professional sim racing?

A: "Believe you're the best.  Confidence is key when it comes to something like this.  If you don't become one one year, keep trying for the next.  This thing is only growing larger and larger and is a great little community to be a part of."

Once again I had an absolutely wonderful interview with Josh.  He's an awesome guy and he's super talented when it comes to sim racing.  I'm grateful to have gotten the opportunity to interview him and I hope our paths cross in the future as well.