WAXHAW – There’s no greater feeling for Devin O’Connell than the adrenaline rush of heading full throttle through a challenging racecourse.
The 16-year-old Marvin Ridge High School sophomore has loved racing since kindergarten, and what began as a hobby has turned into a passion that’s brought Devin numerous wins, hundreds of trophies and a chance to show the nation what he can do. Last week, he won second in points at the Winter Nationals at Auburndale Speedway in Winter Haven, Fla.
“It was great, because people really watch this stuff,” Devin said of the accomplishment.
Devin was about 5 years old when he first became interested in the sport and eventually began racing go-karts at Stafford Motor Speedway in Connecticut when he was 9.
“I nagged (my parents) on for four years,” Devin said. “After four years, they broke loose and let me get in” and start racing.
Despite his humble beginnings at his first race – he showed up with a kart and old tires, a utility trailer, bicycle pump and one Leatherman tool – Devin finished third. He had three wins and 10 Top 3 finishes out of 18 races, and finished second in points by the end of his first season.
As Devin continued racing in New England, he advanced in rank from Tiger Sprint (for racers ages 7 to 11) to Junior Outlaw (ages 11 to 14) and eventually Outlaw (ages 15 and older). His family relocated to Union County in July 2012, giving Devin the opportunity to participate in a series of southern races including the U.S. Legends Winter Heat Race Series at Charlotte Motor Speedway earlier this month, where he nabbed three Top 3 finishes including a win on the road course.
Devin has driven in both Allison Legacy and U.S. Legends races and received both the Sportsmanship Award and the Most Improved Driver Award for 2013 at the Allison Legacy banquet in January. He practices daily with racing simulator technology that allows him to choose from a number of different cars and race on virtual replicas of real-life racetracks from across the country.
“It’s my training,” Devin said. “I can’t go to a track everyday, so sometimes that’s all I’ve got … it’s definitely made a difference (in how I drive) on the tracks.”
Devin plans to race in the Allison Legacy series later this year, as well as participate in upcoming Legends races at speedways in Charlotte and Concord. His long-term goals include driving professionally in a top race series such as the NASCAR Sprint Cup. But to do that, he has to continue building a name for himself and begin recruiting corporate sponsors to help fund the “expensive” sport.
Sean O’Connell, Devin’s dad, has a lot of confidence in his son and believes Devin will eventually achieve his goals as he continues to build a network of fans and supporters.
“He keeps very focused on his goal,” O’Connell, who also works as Devin’s race coach, said. “He’s found that passion, and it helps when you find that passion, and it keeps you from straying down the wrong path.”
Despite his accomplishments, Devin still encounters people who consider racing “just turning left.” But he hopes to use his success to show others how complex and fulfilling the sport truly is.
“It’s an adrenaline rush, like nothing else I’ve ever experienced,” Devin said. “Doing this just gets you on this high.”
Devin also hopes to use his platform as a successful driver to encourage his peers and others to pursue their dreams – whatever they may be.
“You’ve just got to go out and do it. It’s simple,” he said. “If you want it, go out and do it because life’s only so long.”
Find more about Devin’s story and follow his racing success at www.devinoconnell
racing.com or www.facebook.com/