Ray Black Jr., who lives in Flagler Beach, is a former Matanzas High School student. (© Anthony Neste)


It was 2001 and Ray Black Jr. was nine years old in Alabama, watching the Daytona 500 on TV. The voice of broadcaster Darrell Waltrip, a three-time former champion, was over-flowing with emotion. His younger brother, Michael, who had gone 462 Cup races without a win, was keeping a narrow lead over the rest of the pack, in NASCAR’s most prestigious race. The drivers were in their final turn. But then something catastrophic happened. One of the sport’s most celebrated drivers, Dale Earnhardt, was spun nose first into the wall and into the direct path of another driver. The two collided. It happened so fast, at such a pivotal moment, that the race continued its brief moments to the finish before spectators realized the magnitude of the crash. Earnhardt was killed instantly. Michael Waltrip won the race and, with tears of joy running down his face, took his victory lap. Dale Earnhardt Jr. came in second.

“I was watching that race and something clicked in my mind. I don’t know what it was,” Black says. “It was a big moment in my life—huge,” the defining kind that separates everything into before and after. “As far as I can remember, my love for racing was probably that moment—that race,” he says. “Watching everything go down, it was the happiest day for somebody and then the worst day for somebody else. There was so much emotion going on and I thought, ‘Man, to be part of that would be amazing.’” Tonight (Feb. 20), Black, now 23 and a resident of Flagler Beach, enters his first full season in NASCAR’s Camping World Truck Series, driving for Team Scuba. His father, Ray Black Sr., had expected him to go into their commercial diving business. “You kept your word,”Black’s father told him.“Now do you want to continue what you’re doing or do you want to go racing?” Most of the Black family lives in the small town of Greenville, not quite halfway between Montgomery and Mobile, Alabama.

Many are employed in Black’s grandfather’s air-conditioning business. “No one’s really left the town,” Ray Jr. says. “It’s easy to get caught up in that life. I didn’t want that. So I decided to move here with my Dad and just take a chance.” They moved to Jacksonville first, when Ray was 15, and to Flagler County about a year later. After being homeschooled, he finished his last six months of high school at Matanzas. The tranquil ocean sounds in the world of diving are very different than the sonorous whirring of the tire treads on the track. But both were familiar to Black, and he had to choose between them. When Ray Jr. told his father he wanted to race, it took some convincing, as Ray Sr., never really was a fan. “He likes racing because I do it, but other than that he doesn’t care for it,” Black says. His father hadn’t been in the room with his son at the moment of Earnhardt’s crash. “Good thing he wasn’t,” Black says…

The full article can be read here: http://flaglerlive.com/75185/ray-black-jr-nascar/

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