Growing Up NASCAR

June 17, 2018

Seth and Sutton Sharp

Throughout NASCAR’s storied history, many things have changed. From the cars, to the drivers, to the points system, differences can be found every season. Despite all the changes, one thing has remained a constant. Family always comes first.

From the beginning of time, we have witnessed multiple generations of families participate in the sport in varying aspects. Before a race starts, families of drivers and crew members can often be found on pit-road next to their team’s car right before the command to start engines is heard. Family members can be found on the pit-box during the race. Now in modern times, they can be found interacting with fans on Twitter talking about the race. More often than not, the first person to greet a driver in Victory Lane is their significant other and their children.

These families sacrifice so much to be able to share the success and accomplishments of their loved ones. No matter the era there have always been family members at the track, creating memories and unforgettable moments along the way.

We talked with a few kids who grew up in the sport and asked them about what it was like living such a unique life on the road and in the pits, all while watching their Dad chase and live his dreams.

 

Erin Blaney (Daughter of Dave Blaney)

@ErinBlaney on Twitter

The year I was born was the year that my Dad made the transition from Sprint Cars to NASCAR, so we attended a lot of races. It’s almost funny because I remember always feeling almost like an outcast in school because my Dad did not have a normal job like all the other kids.

I was so young when all of this started, so I didn’t fully understand why my Dad was gone all the time or why we were traveling to so many foreign places on the weekends. One day, my Mom explained that although what my Dad did was different, we should treasure it. We, unlike so many families, had the opportunity to watch and cheer on our Dad doing what he loves.

We did all the things normal families would do on the weekends, except we just did it in different places. It is where I first learned to throw a softball, learned how to ride a scooter, and played on the playground with all of the other kids. That is when I started considering the racetrack to be “home”.

When I was younger, my two favorite parts about the races were the travel and MRO. Getting to spend time in the motorhome or on the plane together, just as a family, was always time I valued. MRO was a place where I did most of my growing up and learning and I am still thankful to this day that I got to be a part of that environment.

As I got older, my favorite memory from the racetrack then became shifted more towards fans. Getting to see how my Dad (or now, my brother) has encouraged the dreams of young children, simply by doing what they love will always be something that I value.

Jeb Burton (Son of Ward Burton):

@JebBurtonRacing on Twitter

Going to the races as a kid was always a lot of fun. I used to play with all of the other kids in the coach lot all the time.

I would go to about 20 races every season. I loved the competition and would always be wanting my Dad to win. My favorite track was Daytona. I loved their playground and Dad won the Daytona 500, so it was a great place for me.

Paige Burton (Daughter of Jeff Burton):

@Pburton31 on Twitter

Traveling to the races when I was growing up was always an enjoyable time. I have a lot of memories growing up at racetracks and being able to travel with my family. My Dad would leave earlier in the week and because my brother and I had school, we would meet him at the track on Friday. A lot of our friends growing up also would go to the tracks with their fathers. It was really cool to have friends on the road and be able to travel the country together. I would go to almost every track as a kid, but the ones I would occasionally miss were the ones on the West Coast.

Thinking about my favorite memory at the tracks brings me back to the summer Daytona race. It would almost always fall on the week of my birthday, so my family and I would celebrate together. We would all sit down and have cake and just enjoy each other’s company.

Motor Racing Outreach would also have fun summer games to play. They set up kiddie pools, water guns and would have sparklers. We also had watermelon eating contests which were always fun. It was a really fun time and allowed all of the kids to have a really great summer day.

After the race was over, my family and the Andretti’s would take our yearly trip and drive to Disney for a few days.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. (Son of Dale Earnhardt)

@DaleJr on Twitter

Traveling as a kid was fun. We drove to most races in custom vans. The rear couch seat would make a pretty decent race track for matchbox cars. It was really the most time we would spend with Dad. He wasn’t around during the week, usually at the race shop and came home late. We stayed in hotel rooms and would go to local restaurants for dinner. It was a family vacation for us kids.

I went as often as possible. I missed a lot of races for school, but rarely ever missed a summer race.

My favorite memories were hanging out with the other drivers, owners, and crew-chief’s kids. If there was a local pay-to-ride go kart track nearby, we were there. Otherwise, we would run all over the race track property, buying souvenirs or eating candy out of the team haulers. We would ask the crews to let us wax the race cars. We would wander all over the place and it was just wonderful.

Chase Elliott (Son of Bill Elliott):

@chaseelliott on Twitter

I just thought it was the coolest thing ever, my Dad has always been my hero and to go to a race and see the people there to watch those races put it all into perspective for me.

I went as much as I could get out of school to go, which I probably pushed a little too hard sometimes!

The Brickyard in 2002 would have to take the cake as my favorite memory at a track. I don’t remember much but being in the pictures even is pretty damn cool to me.

Tyler Green (Son of Mark Green):

@Tyler_Green20 on Twitter

I loved traveling to all the races we could as a kid. I always thought staying in a hotel was a vacation. I always wanted to be a part of the team and help out any way that I could.

I was able to attend most of the East Coast races. I lived in Owensboro, Kentucky until I was 10, so we would drive and go to most of the races east of St. Louis.

My all-time favorite memory as a kid was at the Brickyard 400. My uncle Jeff asked me to ride in the back of the truck with him around the track for driver intros. After the race, I rode with him to the airport with Richard Petty in the passenger seat. It was an amazing experience and was thankful to have the opportunity to work for The King when I spotted for Aric Almirola a few years later.

Zach Jarrett (Son of Dale Jarrett):

@jarrett_zach on Twitter

It was great. My sisters and I would usually get ready to go with my Mom on Friday or Saturday and be there for the weekend. We always looked forward to going and supporting Dad as much as we could. While I was young, we went as much as we could. When I got older, we stuck to most of the races that were closer because both of my sisters and I had school and sports that took over our schedule.

We loved to try and make it to every race that we could, but if we couldn’t make it we would always watch it and follow along to see how Dad did.

Being in that environment, I don’t think we thought any differently than just being together as a family. Now that I can look back, it does seem like such a fast paced lifestyle that we led.

There are so many memories that we compiled over the long, successful career that our Dad had, but the championship had to be at the top. Being able to ride the float with the team and all of the families was incredible. Looking back, it is great to know that all of the time and hard work that my Dad put in paid off. It was always great being at the track and seeing our Dad do his thing and in his element. We learned a lot from watching him all of the years.

Kristy Labonte (Daughter of Terry Labonte):

@KristyLabonte on Twitter

Growing up in NASCAR was very fun, exciting and sometimes hectic. Justin and I were born into racing, so we didn’t know life outside of NASCAR. It was our normal. We spent a lot of time in cars driving to racetracks, sleeping in the backseat or in the car hauler. We entertained ourselves by collecting lugnuts, playing football and hanging out in the car hauler.

Back during our early childhood, there weren’t as many races on the schedule and most were on the East Coast. We went to most of them. We had our favorite tracks of course. Pocono and Daytona were some of the first tracks to cater to racing families. They let us hang out in the air conditioned stand. Otherwise, we would hang out in our parent’s car in the infield, trying not to drain the battery while we listened to the race on the radio!

If we didn’t go to the race, we stayed at our grandparent’s house, which were my Dad’s parents. Our Grandpa had a shop in the backyard for Bobby’s late model stocks, so even if we weren’t in Daytona, we were still around cars.

My favorite memory is Atlanta in 1996. In 1984, Justin and I were only 1 and 3 years old. We always thought it was so nice of him to wait and win his second championship so that we could remember it! With my Uncle Bobby winning the race and my Dad winning the championship, it was something that we never dreamed could ever happen. Winning a race is hard. Winning a championship is even harder. Being able to experience both in the same day was nothing short of incredible.

My other favorite is Darlington in 2003. It was the hottest race that I’ve ever been to! Dad fought like a champ all day and his crew never gave up, so when they got that checkered flag, it just ignited the team and got them to the top-10 in the standings. That same day I gave up my days as a sorority girl. They fined me for missing a meeting, so I removed myself from the sorority. I am so thankful that I didn’t leave early to beat traffic and get back to campus!

I got pulled over for speeding once. The officer recognized my name and simply said “Well, even though I’m an Earnhardt fan, I’m going to let you go this time!”. Thank you Dale!

Brandon McReynolds (Son of Larry McReynolds):

@Bmcreynolds28 on Twitter

It is really cool growing up in a sport and having so many people to look up to, especially someone like my Dad. The best part was being able to travel around the country at a young age and being able to watch the majority of races live and in person. The worst part having to leave early to get back home for school.

As a kid, I attended as many races as possible. I would stand on top of my Dad’s pit box on pit road or on top of my family’s motorhome and watch every lap. I can remember being in Darlington watching all 500 miles on top of it for the Southern 500.

My favorite memory at the track was when I won the Talladega ARCA race in 2012. Being there in Victory Lane and having my Dad reach his head in the car before I got out to congratulate me was the coolest feeling in the world. I really took a lot of pride in winning for him in his home state of Alabama.

Brad Means (Son of Jimmy Means):

@_bradmeans on Twitter

It was my favorite thing to do and I loved it. There was no flying back then, so we drove everywhere. I would go to most of the races in the summer and all of them within a six hour drive from Forest City, NC. Bristol was my favorite track.

There was a whole pack of racing kids and we lived to hang out together. Dale Earnhardt Jr, Jason Jarrett, Heidi Bodine, Scott Williams, Mike Whitcomb and so many others.

Brittany Wallace (Daughter of Kenny Wallace):

@Brit_Wallace on Twitter

Growing up in the NASCAR circuit is something that I will always cherish! My sisters and I had the privilege to visit some really cool places and support our Dad, so we had the best of both worlds. Along with that, I also made some lifelong friends. It’s crazy to look at the leader-board these days and imagine the kids you used to play with at the playground are now actually driving a race car. Reality set in that we all eventually grow up!

I traveled to about half the races when I was younger and then when middle school came around, we had a lot going on with sports and our friends so we stopped going as much.

My favorite memory at the track was my Dad’s last win, which came at Rockingham in 2001. Our entire family was there and the look on my Dad’s face was something that I will never forget!

 

Updated: June 17, 2018 — 3:14 am

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