The co-owner of Parise Racing based in Oakdale is a professional drag racer who drives a 1963 Corvette Pro Mod that can go 240 MPH and reach a quarter mile in 6 seconds and was licensed and trained by the Frank Hawley Racing School in Florida. The Hawley website says the only comparable sensation to drag racing would be taking off in the Space Shuttle or being catapulted from the deck of an aircraft carrier. While the speed at which these cars travel is amazing enough, what may surprise you is the driver of this car is a 5 foot tall former skater in the Ice Capades from Bellmore named Dina.
Dina’s husband, Andrew, who grew up in Massapequa, was into cars all his life and began racing in 2000. After watching Andrew drag race for the first time, Dina saw the speed that he achieved so quickly and her fate was sealed.
She recalls how she felt watching Andrew’s first race. “I said, ‘What’s better than that?’ I knew from that second on that I was going to race.”
Together they formed Parise Racing and joined the competitive world of drag racing, competing about two to three times a month from the spring through the fall. Dina explains you can either get your dragster [open cockpit] or door car license in two days. Dina drives a door car. She prefers to race the Super Gas class where you can reach a quarter mile in less than 10 seconds, with two people in the race. Even though there are no drag racing tracks on Long Island, Dina is committed to the area, and raising awareness not only for the sport but for various fundraising efforts.
The Parises are now full-fledged members of the professional drag racing circuit. “The first year we had a lot of mechanical problems, but that made me a better driver,” says Dina. “I think [this year] we will be a force to be reckoned with.” Dina is very gracious when asked about the obvious comparison between her and nationally known Indy racecar driver Danica Patrick. “I only go in straight lines, no curves!” she says.
Dina and Andrew formed the Parise Racing Pro Modified Drag Racing Team to have a positive impact on the motorsport industry. Unfortunately, they have to travel off-island to compete, with Englishtown, NJ as the closest track. “There are no drag racing facilities left on Long Island, and that is a shame,” Dina explains. “In the past Long Island was very rich with motorsports and it no longer is. The last track was in the Hamptons.”
More than just a professional hurdle, Dina sees another downside to not having a local track. “The backlash from that is I see a lot of young people being hurt or killed because they are choosing to race on the street. Other places give out helmets, fire jackets and other safety equipment and they allow racing to get it out of their system,” she explains. “I’m not going to say it’s not going to make them race at all, but it does change the proportion of kids who do get killed. And, I don’t want to be the other person on the road when these kids are racing.” Dina says she doesn’t speed when she’s driving around town, and the Volkswagen Bug that is parked on her driveway is almost contradictory to the muscle cars that are housed in her garage.
There is also some friendly competition between Andrew and Dina who are celebrating their 10th wedding anniversary on April 1st. “It’s very hard to watch your partner in a car that goes that fast, but once the helmet goes on, all bets are off,” Dina says. “I shut everything out. It’s you and her [The Beast]. You can’t take anything for granted. It’s like getting shot out of a cannon. Your parachute opens and you feel the G’s as you slow down. It’s instant gratification.”
A big part of Parise Racing’s mission is the donations they collect for charity during their travels. “Our friend was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in 2004 and we help raise awareness, hand out literature and collect donations for MS at every track we go to,” Dina says.
Andrew is a Navy veteran and the Parises also support Vettes for Vets, as part of the non-profit Wounded Warriors. “This country has a short attention span,” Dina says. “We forget that we have these soldiers coming back who are no longer serving and they help them in their rehabilitation and reincorporate them back into society. We bring veterans to the track and we host them for the day. These causes are most important to us. We like to give back to the community.” Even Bella, their adorable pug dog, helps the Parises raise money for charity. Bella is outfitted with a stroller that has wheelie bars and an umbrella/parachute just like the bar on Dina’s car. “It works really well,” she laughs.
Both Dina and Andrew also have full time jobs, Dina is a hairdresser and Andrew is the director of Enterprise Communications for Henry Schein.
“I would love to make racing a full-time job. A lot of it comes down to sponsors and backing,” Dina says. “I would love to go to businesses on Long Island and say, ‘We would love to have your name on our car.’ I’ve been trying to contact a lot of women’s companies also. I don’t think people realize how many women watch racing. The market is here, it just needs to be tapped into.”