MCDONOUGH — Several years ago, Justin Campbell of Griffin went to Atlanta Motor Speedway’s Thursday Thunder summer series with his family and got hooked on racing.
After seeing the Bandolero and Legends race cars speed down the quarter-mile track at AMS, he was inspired to get behind the wheel himself.
In 2015, his wish came true as he competed in his first season at Thursday Thunder in the Rookie Bandolero Division and in subsequent seasons he transitioned to Legends cars.
Two years ago he was named to the NASCAR Drive for Diversity program and is in his second season racing Legends cars for the Rev Racing team in Charlotte.
Now the 16-year-old hopes to inspire other kids to pursue their racing dreams.
Campbell was part of a special program at the Shaquille O’Neal Boys & Girls Club of Henry County on Friday that also included NASCAR Cup driver Daniel Suarez, pit crew member Jeremy Kimbrough and driver Rev Racing. Lavar Scott (who competes in the NASCAR Advance Series of weekly auto parts tours).
“Just to give and inspire people to do what I do and what other people love to do…and that’s either be a fan or race yourself even though it’s very expensive to do,” Campbell said of Friday’s program for children. “But with the program I’m in, it gives me the opportunity to compete.”
His advice for kids who want to get into racing?
“Never give up and do your best,” Campbell said. “You will make mistakes here and there, but overcome them.”
Kimbrough, who played in the NFL for the Washington Redskins in 2013-14 before joining NASCAR, benefited from Boys & Girls Club programs growing up and is now happy to give back.
“Love it,” he said of Friday’s event. “I went to programs like this Boys & Girls Club. I played a little basketball in my youth, so for me it’s great to come back and open their eyes. It’s not like a stick and ball sport that kids are used to seeing, but it’s an introduction to something new for kids. I greatly appreciate the chance to do so.
Kimbrough has been in NASCAR for six years and is in his first year with Trackhouse Racing and Daniel Suarez, who recently won his first race at Sonoma Raceway.
“I love it,” Kimbrough said. “I’m happy to be part of the team, to be able to compete every Sunday and it’s the best Daniel has driven so far and I can say he loves the environment and vice versa for us too, so it’s just a great environment to come to work and compete and be able to perform on the weekends in. It makes it a fun place to go to work.
The Boys & Girls Club of America is an Official Youth Partner of NASCAR and one of the reasons for Friday’s event is to give students a behind-the-scenes look at NASCAR and show them various NASCAR career opportunities.
Atlanta Motor Speedway is one of 17 tracks the Boys & Girls Club is partnered with and on Sunday approximately 20 students from the Boys & Girls Club of Henry County will take a tour of AMS.
The Boys & Girls Club race car will also be at the AMS Fan Zone on Saturday and Sunday.