AL's South To Run Food World 250
Entering the season planning a limited schedule in the ARCA RE/MAX Series, 18-year-old Birmingham driver Justin South said the races selected for competition were not definite, but there was one thing he and his 3D Motorsports team knew for certain: they would be at Talladega Superspeedway for the Oct. 6 Food World 250.
"When the year started we didn't have a set schedule, but we knew that if we could only run one race, we were going to run Talladega," South said. "I am really excited about it. I have been excited since I attended a test session 7 months ago with my teammate. We have put a lot of money and research & development into the car we are going to bring, and basically a lot of blood, sweat and tears. We've probably put more into this car than any other, but that is what you have to do at the big superspeedway races. And it's worth it."
The recent graduate of Gardendale High School began racing at age 12 in Bandolero cars, eventually winning the Bandolero National Championship, Young Guns division in 2002 with 21 wins in 32 starts. He moved up to the larger Allison Legacy Cars, earning Rookie of the Year honors in 2003 and finished 5th in national points. The next year, he moved up to Late Model cars, winning his first Late Model race at Birmingham International Raceway just one week after turning 16.
In 2004, South made an impression in his first ARCA RE/MAX Series start at Salem, Ind., finishing second in his Alabama Brick Delivery-sponsored ride. He made five starts in 2005, among them another top five and a top-10 at Salem. This year, South has made four of seven scheduled starts so far, and has had stronger days than final results might show. At Salem, he led 20 laps before getting caught up in trouble and finishing 12th. At Toledo he ran as high as seventh before spinning out and falling back to finish 14th. In Pocono, his first race at a track over a half-mile in length, he qualified ninth and had worked his way to third with only 15 laps to go when his motor expired. At Kentucky, he qualified 15th and finished 14th. His next race is Nashville this weekend, then Chicago on Sept. 9 before returning to his hometown for Talladega this October.
South said his performance at Pocono gave him a much-needed confidence boost in terms of running at a larger track, and hopes that superspeedway success will continue when he races here at home on Oct. 6.
"Doug Reid of Hueytown, Ala. is my team owner and crew chief, and I think he made good choices on what tracks would be best for my limited schedule based on his experience in the series, including choosing Pocono as the first large track for me. We were one of the fastest cars there and it was a huge confidence boost to do that well and to think that maybe I am not just a short track driver," South said.
In addition to racing at home in front of friends, South said the pressure will be a little higher to do well at Talladega because it will be his last race of what he feels is a "make or break" season. South's father, Jeff South, owns the company serving as the young driver's primary sponsor, Alabama Brick Delivery, and is the major source of financial backing for Justin's efforts.
Justin acknowledges his family has made major sacrifices to help him achieve his dream, and with the constant search for sponsor backing is an ever-present concern, said he tries to focus on each race as if it may be his last chance to show he's got what it takes to progress.
"This year has gone by so fast, and there are only so many opportunities to prove myself. I feel like I analyzed my performances more critically after each race than ever before. I just wish we could get some better luck or know that something on the horizon is more definite, " South said. "I believe it will pay off. I would not be able to do this if it were not for the support of my great family. It's not just financial but emotionally as well. They have
never tried to take the focus off of my racing, which affirms how much they believe in me and want me to achieve my dreams."
"Racing is a South family affair," said the elder South. "It's something we began as a family activity to enjoy with Justin and his brother, but it was easy to see Justin had talent, even at 12. We hope that if he gets a full season of ARCA racing, he'll get picked up by a NASCAR team. A win at Talladega would do it."