LOUDON, N.H. — Most race car drivers get to the professional ranks by working their ways up through karts, then various series of auto racing. Ray Black Jr., however, took a less traditional path.
Like a lot of teenagers, Black became interested in racing at 14 years old by playing racing games on PlayStation. Unlike most teenagers, by the following year he was racing in the Florida Late Model series.
“It was a really big adjustment,” Black said at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, where he was preparing to run in the AutoLotto 200 on Saturday. “I mean, when I was coming up, I was 14, and these guys had been racing since they were 6. So they were moving up as I was starting.”
Obviously, there are a number of differences between racing on your couch and racing for real. But for Black, one of the biggest adjustments didn’t have to do with driving.
“Down in Florida — just like any other place — there are a lot of hotheads, and that kind of makes you a little hotheaded,” he said. “If you don’t know any better, you’re just going to go out and get mad.
“I tore up a lot of race cars that way, and it just wasn’t working. So we just had to pull back a little bit and ask what we were doing. But we figured it out and ever since then, I’ve stopped wrecking cars and kept a level head.”
Not only has Black stopped wrecking cars, but he’s worked his way to some of the highest NASCAR series.
In 2015, he completed his first full season in the Camping World Truck Series and now races full-time in the Xfinity Series. Black finished 11th in the truck series, but currently sits 20th in the Xfinity standings.
“There’s a lot of differences” between trucks and Xfinity, Black said. “Especially with the mile-and-a-halfs, the cars are a lot more aero-dependent. The trucks have more to do with mechanical grip. You pretty much drive it sideways all the way through the corner, and learn that when you get underneath somebody how to pinch somebody or take the guys air off.”
The way Black spends his time away from the track is different than any other driver. He is an experienced deep-sea diver, which he feels helps him behind the wheel.
“I stopped racing for two years when I turned 18 to just totally focus on our diving business and get certified in commercial diving and scuba,” he said. “That helped me mature a lot too.”
Black is Team Scuba’s only driver and, while he doesn’t have plans to add more drivers in the future, he does hope to gain experience in a wide range of racing series.
“Personally, I want to race in a whole bunch of series — gravel, rally car, IndyCar, maybe try some formula cars and stuff like that,” he said. “I want to explore a lot more, but if we continue to do NASCAR for the next 10 years, that’ll be cool too.”
Take a look at Ray Black Jr. the driver — and the diver — check out the gallery below.
Thumbnail photo via Team Scuba Racing