NASCAR driver Justin Boston watched his first stock car race in Dover, Del., and he'll be returning there Saturday — this time, behind the wheel.
Boston, of Sparks, made his Nationwide Series debut in the VisitMyrtleBeach.com 300 last Saturday in Sparta, Ky., finishing ninth out of 40 drivers, but his second race in the top-tier minor league series will be at a location closer to his heart.
"It will be really cool to run there for the first time after watching there [while] growing up," Boston said this week. "It will hit home for me for sure because it's so close to where I grew up."
Until Saturday, Boston rode primarily on the lower-level ARCA Racing Series circuit, where he's fifth in points this season after 19 starts. But on Sept. 17, Joe Gibbs Racing announced that Boston was selected to ride its No. 20 car in the Nationwide races in Sparta and Dover.
Kevin Kidd, Boston's crew chief for his two Nationwide races with Joe Gibbs Racing, said Boston was part of the team's program to give rookies a shot in a higher-level series.
"We have the opportunity to give a couple of races to young kids to evaluate and see where they're at and give them a chance to see if they're cut out for this or not," Kidd said.
Boston hasn't finalized his plans for what series he'll race in next year, but he says he'll be happy as long as he's racing.
"I don't think my career in ARCA is over yet," Boston said. "I'm not on full-time anymore, and I have to move up when the opportunity comes. It's my time to … try to prove myself and move my way to the top. I have to move up the ladder at some point."
Caron Boston said her son is prepared to move up for more Nationwide races.
"When you feel like you're contending for the win every time, it's time to move up," she said. "Now that we saw how well he did [Saturday], we know he belongs there."
Kidd said Justin Boston's top-10 finish was a big accomplishment.
"Getting a top-10 finish in his first race in the Nationwide series is a really big deal," Kidd said. "Some guys [compete] all year and never get one, and other guys do it all year and only get two or three. So to do it the first time is a big deal."
Nationwide races are more difficult than ARCA ones because the cars have less grip, so they are harder to drive, Kidd said. Although the two series use some of the same tracks, Nationwide's other tracks are longer, he added, and the competition is more fierce.
"In ARCA, you're legitimately running against seven to eight [drivers], but Nationwide is more like 10 to 12," he said. "Not only are there more competitive teams, but you're running against some of the very best drivers in the world."
Watching his first stock car at Dover made Boston interested in racing. He started racing motocross when he was about 4 years old, but his parents made him stop because he kept getting hurt. To pursue his passion, he turned to cars.
"It's been a lifelong dream of mine to race for a living," Boston said. "A race in Dover got me interested in stock car racing. I could've ended up in drag [racing], but I happened to watch a race at Dover and that's why it means a lot to me. That's where it all started for me."
He rode at Dover International Speedway for the first time last year in a K&N Pro Series East race, in which he finished second. Boston said his experiences at racetracks used in Nationwide will help him as he faces series veterans.
Boston's parents attend most of his races, but with the track about an hour and a half away from where he grew up, some of his friends from Boys' Latin will be able to make the Dover race, too. He lives in Charlotte, N.C., and missed his five-year high school reunion for a race, so Boston relishes the chance to see old friends.
"It's going to be fun because I don't get to see people I grew up with often because I travel so much," Boston said.
Caron Boston will be watching from the sideline wearing a headset to hear her son's comments while he's racing. She said being at Dover will be nostalgic because the family used to drive past "The Monster Mile" on its way to the beach.
"We never, when he was little, ever thought he'd come back to the track and [race]," she said. "So it's exciting to come back to our home area and come onstage like that. It's a dream come true for him."