ATOKA, Tenn. — Brandon Lovelace is a sprint car driver with a story; one that has inspired countless other racers of all ages from across the country.
Lovelace, 16, is a 305 sprint car regular who fights — and overcomes — the effects of cystic fibrosis (CF) in his everyday life to race at a high level with his family-owned SNL Racing team in Tennessee and beyond.
Cystic fibrosis is a genetic disorder that mostly affects the lungs, with excess mucus leading to clogging of the lungs’ airways. Long-term issues include difficulty breathing and coughing up mucus as a result of possible lung infections, but Lovelace has a regular system in place that helps him combat the symptoms of CF.
“I have an everyday routine of breathing treatments (saline vapor) … and after that I have to put on a vest that shakes me and sends air pulses through it; that gets my lungs moving. … I can do a lot of things everyone else can do, there’s just a few things that I can’t.”
Lovelace’s first dream wasn’t actually in racing, however; but in the field of military service.
“People have always asked me what I want to be when I grow up, and I tell them I don’t know. I know what I want to be, I just can’t be it. I want to be in the Navy. That is the only thing I’ve (ever) wanted to be. I want to be a Navy fighter pilot, but I can’t. It doesn’t bother me too bad though. I’m not going to be a sob story, I’m just going to keep going and do what I can do.”
And what Lovelace can do is race.
Competing last season in his first full year with the 305 sprint car, Lovelace has his eyes set on the Mid-South Sprint Car Association schedule this year, but his racing story doesn’t start there.
In fact, he’ll tell you: it’s a pretty funny one.
“My career actually started when my mom met my stepdad in September of 2006,” Lovelace said. “They got married the next spring and I started racing that March. The very first kart race I ever watched was the one I was in. I’ve been addicted to racing since the very first night I went and watch sprint cars, though, which was my parents’ very first date. Go figure!”
Lovelace’s career started in 2007 in dirt go-karts, and within six months he had won his first race in the novice sportsman champ class – appropriately on Mother’s Day weekend.
“I ended up lapping everyone in the field twice that race. It was my mom’s present. I won that race and I was in a beat up ole’ kart that looked like a sprint (car). Had a tail tank and everything. We knew absolutely nothing about karts at that point. My stepdad knew about sprint cars and stock cars, but we started from ground zero on the karts.”
Up through the 2013 season, Lovelace took the kart world by storm. That final season in the division, he raced three different karts that year — an aqua sportsman champ kart, a junior champ kart and a junior clone 2 kart.
That season also yielded a big moment, as Lovelace collected the track championship at Atoka Raceway Park, his true ‘home track’.
“I ended up having three karts that year, but that was the year I won track championship,” Lovelace explained. “I won the junior champ and the junior clone 2 class titles and the track championship all in the same year.”
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