Young NASCAR driver already giving back
Saturday, May 30, 2009
By Lee Warren
KANSAS CITY, Kansas (BP)—NASCAR driver Brad Coleman is often referred to as one of the young guns of the sport, with good reason. At age 21, he finds himself back behind the wheel at Joe Gibbs Racing — one of the premier organizations in NASCAR — after a one-year absence.
In 2008, he started 24 of the 35 races in the Nationwide Series (the second highest series in the sport) for Baker Curb Racing and he finished 23rd in the overall standings. He also had the opportunity to do some testing for Hall of Fame Racing in the Sprint Cup Series (the highest series) in 2008. And he climbed into the car to start one race for Hall of Fame Racing, in Michigan.
He’s come a long way in a short amount of time.
When Coleman was 12, LeMans champion driver Price Cobb saw Coleman racing at an indoor karting center in Brad’s hometown of Houston, Texas, and Cobb knew that Coleman was going to be something special. He approached Coleman’s parents and offered Coleman the opportunity to live with his family for the summer and travel with him on the CART circuit. Coleman trained with Cobb and in 2002, during his rookie season, Coleman won nearly half of the karting races in which he competed.
He caught the eye of World Speed Motorsports and was offered the chance to test a Formula Fran-Am car for them. He excelled at that as well, and, at the age of 14, became the youngest American driver ever to receive a professional open-wheel racing license.
Around that same time, still just 14 years old, Cobb invited Coleman to move to Virginia from his home in Houston to prepare for his racing career. The move turned out to be life-changing in more ways than one.
Coleman trained with Cobb and ran late model stock cars — and various other cars — for the next two years, which led to many other racing opportunities. By the age of 18, he was getting his feet wet in the NASCAR Nationwide Series.
Something else happened when Coleman moved to Virginia. He was already a Christian, but his faith became more real to him.
“He introduced me to their church,” Coleman said about Cobb and his family. “And I took the initiative on my own to go to Bible study and Sunday school. I mean, when you are a kid, you do the stuff, but a lot of it is not exactly fun because your parents are making you go to Sunday school. But when you really want to do it, you become your own Christian.”
As he matured in his faith, he learned to trust God with his career — even in the difficult times, which, some would say, began for him late in the 2008 season. After racing a part-time schedule in the Nationwide Series with Joe Gibbs Racing in 2007, he signed with Baker Curb Racing for 2008, and the deal didn’t work out as planned. So he was on the sidelines for the final stretch of the season.
“What you really have to learn is to keep your faith and not give up and not let the down times get you down,” Coleman said. “There will be years when it will be the best year of your life all the way until a month to go in the season, and something can happen that will make it the worst season you’ve ever had, and it would be really easy to say, ‘God, why are you doing this to me?’
“But you’ve really just got to stay strong because he’s testing your faith. You know he has it all planned out for you and you know it’s all for the better.”
Coleman grew up quickly due to his career choice, but off the track he’s a lot like every other 21-year-old who is immersed in technology. In addition to playing PlayStation3, and being a frequent texter on his iPhone, he also has a blog on his Web site, and he even chooses to read the Bible via an application on his iPhone that sends him daily readings.
Not everything he is interested in off the track can be enjoyed with the push of a button, though. He loves to visit sick children.
“I go to children’s hospitals on race weekends just so I can say hi to the kids and do whatever I can to make their day better,” Coleman said.
He’s also done some work with an organization called Parent Project Muscular Dystrophy that helps children with Duchenne muscular dystrophy.
“It’s a really tragic disease,” Coleman said. “We’ve had kids come to the race track in wheelchairs and they get to look inside the car and be with me when I go to the driver’s meeting, and it’s really cool because so many of them come back and say, ‘That was the coolest experience of my life,’ and that really makes my day.”
Coleman will make his 2009 Nationwide Series debut on June 6 for Joe Gibbs Racing behind the wheel of the No. 20 car in Nashville, Tenn. He currently shares the ride with two teammates who are Sprint Cup Series regulars: Denny Hamlin and Joey Logano.
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