Becoming a diehard fan of NASCAR was inevitable for me. I grew up in America's Home for Racing, Charlotte, North Carolina. My childhood home was less than a mile from turn two at Charlotte Motor Speedway. When I was younger and didn't have the attention span for the six-hundred-mile race that takes place every May, my family would run outside to watch the fireworks once the Coca-Cola 600 had concluded.
In the Summer of 2017, my father's land surveying business earned the business of Charlotte Motor Speedway to assist in surveying the newly constructed Charlotte Roval. I was lucky enough to be on one of the crews that located a bit of the track, and I measured out the entirety of the Xfinity Garage in CMS's infield.
My dad had surveyed a lot of Charlotte Motor Speedway. If you ask him, he will happily tell you about everything he has surveyed at the venue. If you've been to Charlotte Motor Speedway, you cannot miss the big TV board on the track's backstretch. My father will proudly tell you that he surveyed that. He told whoever, "This is where this screen needs to go." And so it was. If you don't like the positioning of the screen, you can send all your complaints to the "David Haywood Complaints Department," to which you will probably receive a response along the lines of, "I haven't seen you doing this every day for the last thirty years."
My dad is a no-nonsense kind of guy regarding his work. There's a reason he's in the position that he's in. He loves to talk about what projects he's worked on and loves riding around some random part of the state and pointing out that he's "surveyed that." But the way he talks about his work at Charlotte Motor Speedway brings out a different man. I'm not sure if that's the job he's most proud of, but how he talks about it leads me to believe so.
When I think back on it, that's what drew me to NASCAR in the first place. It wasn't so much the sport. It was going to a venue where my dad's work was quite literally at every corner. That was until the 2017 Coca-Cola 600.
My dad, best friend Tyler, aka TK, and I all decided to attend that year's race. Tyler and I loved acting as redneck as we could be. Being from Winston-Salem and Charlotte, I'm not sure you could ever consider us true rednecks at the time, but boy, if we didn't act like it at a NASCAR race.
TK is as Pro-America as they come. His father served during the Gulf War, a fact that I had not considered before taking him to the 600 that year. Charlotte Motor Speedway always pays a great tribute to active military members and our veterans. So when the bagpipes began playing Amazing Grace, TK couldn't contain himself. I'd never seen the man cry, but that did it for him.
I leaned over and asked him, "Dude, are you good?" He further explained how he couldn't help but think of his father, his grandfather, and the numerous other men in his family that served. This tribute meant a little bit more to him. We discussed further how grateful we were that we could be there because of the sacrifices so many have made. The spectacle NASCAR put on was beautiful. At that moment, I realized that this sport is more than cars going in circles. It means something to people. This sport is deeply rooted in this country, and it's not going anywhere anytime soon.
For whatever reason, that year I had gone for Martin Truex Jr. I couldn't explain why today, but I have one of these three reasons that might be correct.
First, Bass Pro was his sponsor. I loved Bass Pro. It just made sense.
Second, he and Kyle Busch had battled it out in a few previous races. At the time, I HATED Kyle Busch, and I just wanted to see him lose. Truex was his biggest competitor at the time, so it fit.
Third, my boy Austin at Mantra Supply Company had made a few designs for Truex. Gotta support the fam. This may have happened after 2017, but again, I'm not entirely sure. Again, this is just a theory.
Busch and Truex were locked in first and second heading into the final few laps of the race, and I was rooting for Truex hard. They didn't have fresh tires, and eventually, Austin Dillon caught up and won the race, but I learned something about myself that night. I could be a diehard for somebody in this sport.
Fast forward to 2022 and I've started writing about sports on Ok Listen Here. I can't remember the specific blog, but I know I was fact-checking myself and making sure that every team in the Cup Series was based out of Cabarrus or Rowan County (yes, there are a few others outside of those two). This was when I came across a team based out of Harrisburg, my hometown, JTG Daugherty Racing.
This took me by surprise. I thought every team was Headquartered out of Concord or Mooresville, but no. Harrisburg had a team of its own. They are headquartered at the corner of Caldwell Road and Highway 49, right next the QT.
"How could I have missed that?" I thought to myself. For years I had been going to that QT, and for most of my High School career, I had passed right by the headquarters daily since the girlfriend at the time lived off Caldwell Road.
I had lived in Harrisburg for nearly seventeen years and had never heard of this team. I knew of Ricky Stenhouse but had never heard of JTG Daugherty Racing. So I took it upon myself to inform the town of Harrisburg of the team.
I wrote a few articles during the 2022 season after every race highlighting how Stenhouse did and distributed the content to places where I knew my fellow Harrisburgians would see it. Quickly, those articles became my most popular articles. Viewership for Oklistenhere.com was at an all-time high. Before I knew it, my content was getting retweeted by the team and commented on by a few individuals within the organization. Just like that, I fell in love.
That season, I found myself outside Nashville the weekend of the Ally 400. Stenhouse was making an appearance at the Lebanon Kroger that Friday. I was lucky enough to work remotely on Fridays, and I wasn't going to miss meeting Ricky Stenhouse. I took a much longer than usual lunch break that day, slapped on my only Ricky Stenhouse T-Shirt, and made my way to the Lebanon Kroger.
There, I met Stenhouse, got his signature, and began heading out because I had already been AFK for nearly two hours at that point. On my way out, someone from the team stopped me and asked me, "Hey, aren't you that guy from Twitter?" Shocked, I told him, "Why yes, that would be me." We chopped it up for a little bit, we shook hands, and he thanked me for my support, and we went on our merry way.
I credit JTG Daugherty for making me fall in love with NASCAR. The fact that they took the time to engage with someone with maybe ten followers at the time on Twitter, recognized who I was, and even seemed to enjoy some of the content I produced spoke measures to the kind of people working for the team. You will not find another professional sports team with better fan engagement and hospitality. I will forever be a JTG Daugherty Racing Fan.
More recently, my wife published an article responding to my reaction to Stenhouse winning the Daytona 500. I Tweeted it out, thinking someone from the social media team would see it and like it, nothing more, but a few days later, Mike Kelly, Stenhouse's crew chief, had Tweeted out the article. He didn't retweet me. Instead, he went to the website, copied the link to the article, and Tweeted it out himself. Then I saw that Stenhouse himself liked Kelly's tweet. Ricky Freaking Stenhouse had read an article on my and my wife's blog page.
If you read her article, you know she's not into NASCAR, but she sure was listening to the PRN Network and giving me updates on Stenhouse on our drive home from Nashville this past weekend. I'll make a NASCAR fan out of her one of these days. Either that or I'll die trying.
So, all this being said, I can only assume somebody from the JTG Daugherty team is reading this. To you, I say thank you. Y'all may not even realize it, but this team has brought so much joy to at least two individuals. Your willingness to take the time out of your day to engage with me on social media, reading articles that I write about you guys, and having individuals on the team know who I am makes me so glad to root for you guys. As I said before, I will forever be a JTG Daugherty Fan. I'll buy whatever product you put on the #47 car Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to make my Kroger shopping list.