Young racer succeeds on track and in school

At the age of 3, Austin "A.J." Davis knew he wanted to drive a race car like his idol Jeff Gordon.

Growing up in Kannapolis watching NASCAR races, he shared the love of the sport with his father, Jason Davis, and grandfather, Ken Davis of Davis and Sons Racing.

"At 2 and 3 years old he was talking about how he wanted to drive, and his favorite race car driver is Jeff Gordon, so he was saying all along, 'I want to be like Jeff Gordon,'" Jason said. "As soon as he was old enough, we said all right, here you go."

A.J. picked up the family racing tradition and started his career driving go-karts on dirt at 5.

"It's kind of something that you talk about and think, well, maybe he'll want to do it," said Jason.

"We didn't really push him to do it. As soon as he was old enough to talk, he said that he wanted to be a racer."

Now 10, A.J. spends weekends at Concord Speedway racing Bandolero cars and dreams of one day racing with the big dogs.

"I would like to win the Daytona 500, and I would also like to win a Sprint Cup trophy," said A.J.

He said he plans to reach these goals by leading in points and dominating the competition.

This is A.J.'s third season racing Bandolero cars, said Jason. The quarter-ton car is capable of speeds of 70 mph.

A.J. has traveled to compete at Rockingham Speedway, Atlanta Motor Speedway, and Charlotte Motor Speedway to race Bandolero cars.

In 2009, he entered 36 races and grabbed a win in B-main Bandolero Nationals in Atlanta, 12 Top Five finishes and 24 Top 10 placements. Currently, he is ranked fourth in points in the nation for his division.

With his success on the track comes international, national, and local sponsor support from Nestle's Juicy Juice, Donatos pizza, Simpson Race Products, and Herc Enterprises.

"To have those types of companies put support behind you, we are pretty proud of that, especially at a time when even your professional drivers are having trouble getting sponsorships," said Jason.

"It can only help (A.J.) in a sense that people from the outside are watching and seeing a young man with that support."

A.J. also had the opportunity to be in a SPEED Channel commercial airing now, nationwide and in Europe, said Jason.

Aside from track victories, A.J. excels in school and was recently recognized by the Kannapolis City School Board and the Cabarrus County Chamber of Commerce for being an outstanding and exemplary student, said Jason.

With straight As on his report card each term, A.J. has been nominated for a program by Duke University to nurture the success of youth and is also a part of the Academically Intellectually Gifted (AIG) program.

"(AIG tries) to challenge kids who seem like they need a challenge other than the regular curriculum," said Jason.

Jason said A.J.'s family is proud of his accomplishments both on and off the track.

Though busy at the race track and in school, A.J. always finds time to lend a helping hand to special-needs students, said Jason.

"I help out whenever I can with teachers and other students," said A.J.

After achieving his racing career goals, A.J. said he would like to be "a scientist and study space and planets and discover new planets to see if there's human life on other planets."