Race car driver Joel Anderson is one of a long line of stock car racers. Driving race cars can be traced back more than 60 years in his family.
Anderson is continuing that family tradition as he steers his #51 around tracks all over the Southeast.
Anderson has been racing competitively since the age of 9 in the Junior Late Model Division at Lanier Speedway in Gainesville. Anderson won 70 races with two championships. One championship was earned at Lanier, while the other came at Peach State in Jefferson.
At the age of 14 Anderson was able to move to Modified Mini Stock. He continued his winning ways by capturing a championship and barely lost another by only two points. Anderson won six races and had over 40 top five finishes.
Anderson is currently running in the Southeast Asphalt Tour that is sponsored by Royal Crown/Moonpie.
The tour is a branch of the American Speed Association and is brand new for this racing year.
Anderson's last race was on July 5 in Nashville, Tenn. in the Mapco Express 100. Anderson finished 13th in the event.
Anderson had mechanical problems during qualifying and started 24th, but came up to the ninth spot during the race.
Anderson felt like his car was a top five car, unfortunately on lap 60, during a restart, a car got to his inside and clipped him. The #51 car brushed the wall a little hard and his car didn't handle well after that. The race will be televised in its entirety on Sports South July 23 at 7 p.m.
The 24-year old future NASCAR hopeful sat down with the Dawson Community News last week for an interview.
What got you started in the racing business?
My biggest influence to start racing was watching the NASCAR drivers on TV. Mark Martin, Dale Earnhardt and really my dad and my grandpa watching them race. I was actually born while my dad was racing in Nashville. I guess through my dad we always had go-carts at home to race around a track. That's really how I got started.
What has been your biggest accomplishment in racing so far?
My biggest accomplishment in racing so far is winning two championships in Junior Late Models and one in modified minis. I have sat on several poles in Late Model Division. Last year we nearly won at least two Late Model races. We just ended with some mechanical problems that just wouldn't let us pull out a win. One race we led about every lap except the last four laps to go. There was a wreck in turn one and the track officials didn't get all the oil dried up and we got in it. That caused us to get in the wall. We lost the race that way.
I believe that God has really blessed me to be to be able to do this. If it wasn't for Him I wouldn't be able to do the things that I do.
What was your worst racing experience?
My worst experience was when I was 15-years-old. I was running Modified Minis and I was passing a guy for the lead going into turn three at Peach State. He didn't know I was down below him and we got into one another and I turned sideways. The third-place guy T-boned me in the driver's side. It crushed my pelvis and cracked my skull. It caused me to be in the hospital for two weeks. I couldn't walk on my leg for 12 weeks. When I was in the hospital I told my mom to tell my dad not to build any more cars. I changed my mind after I got out. When I get in a car now I always get nervous like I did before. I think the cars we are running now are safer than the car I was running when I had the wreck. I always get butterflies when I crank the car up. But when I get on the track it all kind of goes away.
Who is your favorite NASCAR driver?
My favorite driver is Mark Martin. For his age, he still does pretty good.
Who was your biggest influence growing up?
My two biggest influences were my dad and grandpa. My grandpa did good in several races, but he just liked to get out there and race. My dad is more serious about it. He did pretty good for himself. I think if he kept on racing he could have made Winston Cup. He had me and my sister so he chose family instead of racing.
Why did you choose the number 51 car?
My dad used to be 24, which is Jeff Gordon's number. But he had it before Jeff Gordon, Anderson said with a laugh. I asked my dad about using 24, but my dad said, "Well what about 51?"
My grandpa used to drive the 51 car. We have had that number ever since.
What do you do outside of racing?
Outside of racing I work for my uncle. Hanging with my friends and working around the family farm. I also take classes at Lanier Tech.
Tell me about the financial hardships and getting a sponsor that racing involves.
What you are going to get out of it, especially if you are a small upstart company, is a lot of exposure. Not only will you be on TV, but you are like a rolling billboard at the track. Terri Tragesser sponsored us at Nashville for her political campaign, and we would really like to thank her. It has been written for every dollar you spend on a sponsorship it will return 6 to 10 times that much in revenue. For the money you put in to it, you get a whole lot more in return.
We are currently looking for sponsors for next year. We would really like to have someone, or a group, to sponsor us for the whole year. That way we can race every available chance.
What is your ultimate goal in racing?
Like any other race car driver, my goal is to get a ride in NASCAR. Maybe even to get a ride in the Cup, Busch Series or Nationwide Series. If not, I really haven't figured that out yet.
Anderson continues to succeed in every level of racing that he has participated in.
Look for Anderson on Sports South, July 23 at 7 p.m. as he speeds around the track at Nashville Speedway.
E-mail Pam Jacobs at firstname.lastname@example.org.