AUDIO/FEATURE: Home State Hero; Florida’s Ray Black Jr. Ready to Kick Off Truck Slate With Daytona Debut

Marshall Gabell Audio, Featured, NASCAR, Southeast 0 Comments

PALM COAST, Fla. and CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Story by Race Chaser Online Mid-Atlantic Correspondent Marshall Gabell – Performance Motorsports Network audio – Sarah Glenn/Getty Images North America photo –

Spending a lifetime devoted to race cars — not just hoping to make it into the NASCAR national series, but succeeding — is a hard task to accomplish.

But, for NASCAR Camping World Truck Series driver Ray Black Jr., that quest to reach the top in racing has taken a few more obstacles, forcing him to endure and persevere en route to landing a full-time Truck ride with SS Green Light Racing this season.

Black, who will turn 24 in May, got his start in racing on short tracks in southern Florida — racing at New Smyrna Speedway and at the Orlando Speedworld – two tracks that don’t garner a lot of attention after their respective events are finished during Speedweeks.

“Florida is definitely a unique place to start racing in,” Black said on a recent edition of the Stock Car Steel/SRI Motorsports Show. “A lot of the series go up and down with the economy, so it is hard to get a good feel down there. At one point we would have 40 late models in one race and then it would go down to 20 cars.”

But it’s not just the car count or funding that affects these Sunshine State racers, one can also attribute the fact that just one Florida native is currently racing in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (Aric Almirola with Richard Petty Motorsports) to the state’s slow rise to motorsports supremacy – and with those statistics, more developing drivers are beginning to head into the Carolinas and Virginia to get their name into the market.

“It’s just tough down there (in Florida) because you are not in the whole realm (like you would be in) Charlotte,” Black expressed. “We had New Smyrna and Orlando but some of the other tracks just shut down over time. And now it is kinda down to just one main track which is New Smyrna. So we had to sorta gravitate towards that and it just became our home track.”

“It is just a lot harder starting out when you are not in the areas of where your most big teams are. And now that I have moved up into NASCAR, I have moved to Mooresville, (North Carolina) and am getting to know a lot of the people.”

With just one NASCAR sanctioned short track in Florida (New Smyrna), Black was one of the hard workers, dominating each track available to him until he got noticed and made the leap to the Truck Series last season.

“It really is a dream come true,” Black said about running the full season. “I have been doing this for a long time and whenever you get an opportunity to take on a NASCAR series, it just makes you very grateful. When we met Bobby (Dotter) we just clicked well. We ran those seven races (in 2014) and everything just worked out.”

While he ran seven times in the Truck Series last season, Black will get to make his debut at Daytona International Speedway this weekend as a hometown hero and an inspiration to the local Florida short trackers.

“Oh (laughter), I cannot wait,” an ecstatic Black said about getting to run on the high banks. “I finished last season at Homestead (another Florida track), which about six hours from my house, which was really neat. But now Daytona, I used to live just 15 minutes from the track. It is right in my backyard, literally. So it is going to be so much fun.”

“I have a whole bunch of people coming down (to Daytona) from my family and sponsors. We are going to go hang out after the race as well and it is just going to be a great time. Hopefully we can just start off the season on a high note. Everybody is just so happy. I am ready to race.”

Aside from Speedweeks, Black is hoping to produce successful results across the board, avoid major mistakes and be a contender in a tough Rookie of The Year class.

“It is certainly a big burden to carry when you don’t have the backing like the big teams do,” Black said about his expectations. “We definitely have realistic goals, like I am running for Rookie of The Year, which is going to be tough to get with Erik Jones and the other drivers in that group.”

“But, our goal right now is to just finish all the races and the get the most knowledge that we can – that is going to be the biggest part of it, just learning all the tracks. We are shooting for top-10 in points, hands down, anything less is just not going to be good enough.”

Black’s quest begins tomorrow night, in the NextEra Energy Resources 250 at Daytona International Speedway. Coverage of the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series season-opener begins with John Roberts, Todd Bodine and the Setup at 7:00 p.m. Eastern on FOX Sports 1.

 

Listen in to an extended cut of Race Chaser Online’s interview with Ray Black Jr. from the Feb. 5 airing of the Stock Car Steel/SRI Motorsports Show below:

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