For 18 years, the Rev. Buddy Compton has been a staple at Charlotte Motor Speedway’s Jack in the Box Summer Shootout Series, providing guidance and the word of the Lord to racers, their families and the fans.

Compton is the president of Sons of Thunder Ministry, Inc., a Mooresville, N.C.-based traveling ministry that serves multiple tracks in the area, including Charlotte Motor Speedway.

“We really just enjoy being with all the folks here and really hope our presence can help in some way,” said Compton about helping out during the Jack in the Box Summer Shootout Series.

When he’s away from the track, “Preacher Buddy” serves the congregation of Pine Grove United Methodist Church. He is an ordained deacon for the Western North Carolina Conference of the United Methodist Church.

Compton’s idea for starting the Sons of Thunder began back when he used to race motorcycles.

“Back in the day, people didn’t like people who rode motorcycles and wore leather clothes and we had actually been shunned from businesses because of it. So I know that rejection,” said Compton. “Some of the churches I’ve served in the past didn’t like racing so I know how that rejection feels. I just wanted a place where we can bring church and the track together in a non-threatening way, and that’s a key word, non-threatening.

“I found a lot of things at the track that I didn’t find at my church. So I like to combine the track and church because there is a similar situation going on there. The friendship, fellowship and the joy of being there,” said Compton.

When Compton is at the track, he is joined by four to eight volunteers from different churches in the area, ministering to drivers and fans. He notices the effect the presence of Sons of Thunder Ministry has on competitors before they go race.

“Every year, there are special moments - I call them Godly moments - when I feel someone is touched by a prayer, a conversation or an act of kindness,” said Compton. “I come each year expecting something good happen.

“I have seen tears from the eyes of a driver during conversation before a race.  Those tears help me understand the pain that some bring with them every week.  Racing is a great outlet to help overcome that pain.  You can put on a fire-suit and helmet, but it is hard to cover up a heart that is in pain.  What a moving moment when a driver has the face shield up and I can see his or her eyes glisten with tears.  I know it is not necessarily a sign of weakness, but a sign of strength within.”

In its 18 years of existence, Sons of Thunder has come in contact with thousands of drivers.

“We’ve seen a lot of them grow up and become NASCAR stars and a lot succeed in the business,” said Compton.

Some of the stars Compton is referring to include current NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers and former Legend Car competitors Joey Logano and David Ragan.

Compton doesn’t just provide prayers and guidance to the drivers, but also to the fans, often providing the invocation at the Jack in the Box Summer Shootout Series. His wife also passes out the race programs at the track every week, which include a spiritual message.

Fans can see Compton on Tuesday, July 10, when he competes in the annual Faster Pastor bus race. Several local ministers will get together to compete in 13-ton school buses on the frontstretch quarter-mile oval.

“To see these ministers participate is a fun event and a great opportunity for churches to see their pastors compete outside the church, because church is competitive enough,” jokes Compton.

So what’s Compton’s strategy leading into the Faster Pastor bus race?

“Just take them all out. Usually not my strategy, but that’s usually what happens to me.”

Tickets for the Summer Shootout Series are $7 for adults and are available in advance at the speedway ticket office or at Gates 4 and 5 the night of the event. Kids 13 and under get in free. The first 1,000 fans through the gates get a free lanyard key chain courtesy of Jack in the Box.

Spectator gates open at 5 p.m. with preliminary action starting at 5:10 p.m. Opening ceremonies are at 6:45 p.m. and feature races are scheduled to conclude by approximately 10 p.m.

For tickets to the Summer Shootout Series, call the Charlotte Motor Speedway ticket office at 1-800-455-FANS (3267) or visit www.charlottemotorspeedway.com.

For live updates during the Summer Shootout Series, follow hashtag #SummerShootout on Twitter. To join in on the conversation simply include #SummerShootout in your tweet.

Connect with Charlotte Motor Speedway on Twitter at www.twitter.com/CLTMotorSpdwy or become a Facebook fan at www.facebook.com/charlottemotorspeedway.