Justice Served at Bojangles' Summer Shootout
Natural talent behind the wheel? Check. Winning personality? Check. Supportive race team? Check. Those qualities are what it took to motivate 15-year old Hollywood, California, native Justice Calabro to pursue his passion for speed at America's Home for Racing.
This summer marks Calabro's second year of driving a WIX Filters Legend Car in the Bojangles' Summer Shootout at Charlotte Motor Speedway, where Calabro competes in the PMG Young Lions division.
"I'd say the best part about competing in the Bojangles Summer Shootout is getting to be here in front of all these fans. This place holds a serious energy," Calabro said. "There's a lot of people here who love racing and there's a lot of people here with a passion for racing."
Two years ago, Calabro visited Concord, North Carolina, to test out a Legend Car for the first time. The aspiring driver's ability to learn quickly and cultivate his raw talent landed him a spot on the Stillwell Racing team, with whom he competed last summer.
Nevertheless, Calabro's first stint in the Bojangles' Summer Shootout was a learning experience.
"I kind of got thrown in with the bees," Calabro said. "I got thrown in with the people who actually knew what they're doing, so I was forced to learn really quickly. I learned a lot about racing in the pack (and) making moves.
"I've learned a lot of things (at) the Summer Shootout. I've learned how to race fair, how to be a good loser and a good winner. You take what you can get and you work with it."
Growing up, Calabro spent time with his father watching classic car movies, such as "The Love Bug." The 1968 film about an anthropomorphic car struck the impressionable youngster.
"We actually owned a replica movie car of Herbie the Love Bug -- the 1963 Volkswagen beetle. That's what originally sparked my desire to become a race car driver," Calabro recalled.
At age 8, Calabro translated his interest in what he saw on the screen to the motorsports industry. His skills became apparent to those who watched Calabro compete after he competed in his first race, a six-hour go-kart endurance race, which landed him a spot on a karting team.
From there, Calabro's success as a kart racer - which included a junior-level championship in 2015 - inspired him to take a bigger, faster step. He tested a Legend Car for the first time and left such an impression that he and his parents, Cliff and Vanessa, opted to move to the Carolinas - the hotbed for future racing superstars. He's relished every minute of it, too.
"This is the center of racing, this is where it started," Calabro said. "We even have a (NASCAR) driver like Bubba Wallace here - that says a lot. This is the roots, the grassroots of racing, this is where it all starts and It's an honor to be a part of an amazing community."
Calabro's bid for his first win of the season will come in Tuesday night's action sponsored by Lancaster's BBQ, when the Bojangles' Summer Shootout hosts area media personalities for a Media Mayhem school bus slobberknocker on frontstretch quarter-mile.
Gates open at 5 p.m. with opening ceremonies scheduled for approximately 6 p.m.