Even as a 10-year-old, running around his dad's auto shop in Yonkers, N.Y., Bobby Daniels knew that racing would be his life. Decades later, the longtime Augustan can still be found behind the wheel as he races for family, fun and his future.
Daniels, who moved to Augusta in 1976, began racing on the NHRA Super Street circuit in 1978. Inside the door of his racing trailer, you'll find what he refers to as his "Hall of Fame," dozens of stickers denoting his first- and second-place finishes from across the country.
After spending the majority of his life on or near a drag strip, Daniels says he still gets the same thrill racing today as he did the first time he ever rolled up to a starting line.
"Whether you win or lose, it's all about the adrenaline that you get," Daniels said. "For the seven seconds that you're in that car, it's like taking something that's out of control and controlling it."
Daniels is preparing to take that passion to the next level. After nearly three years of maneuvering, he has joined former NBA player Tom Hammonds and will drive his NHRA Pro Stock Series car in 2010.
"It's like going from the minor leagues to the big leagues," said friend and crew member, Ron Johnson.
Throughout the 51-year-old's rise to the upper echelon of drag racing, there has always been one constant: his devotion to his family.
Displayed prominently on the back of the car he races in the National Muscle Car Association series is a tribute to his late father, Raymond Pierce, who put Daniels on the path to racing. Daniels co-owns Hot Mouth Motorsports with his brother Ritchie, who helps run the team from Memphis, Tenn. His youngest daughter, Brandi, also has recently gotten involved in racing.
The way he sees it, even those team members who aren't related to him are still family.
"I take care of the people around me," Daniels said. "I think that's the most important thing. Sure, we argue, fuss and fight, but I love them all."
Daniels also makes sure he takes care of others through his charity work. He has made significant contributions to the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation, and his racing club in Memphis offered to foot the bill to make the dreams of three terminally ill youngsters come true through the Make-A-Wish Foundation. The group helped send one child to Disney World, one to St. Louis and gave the other all the video games he ever wanted. Estimated cost: $5,000 per kid, he said.
"That really tugs at your heart strings," Daniels said. "You can't even put it into words."
Daniels says the pinnacle of his career would be becoming the first black team owner to have cars in each major NHRA series.
"Me and God would shake hands," said Daniels of his emotions should that happen.
Ultimately, he's hoping to use influence of ownership to bring a drag strip to Augusta, something he feels would significantly raise the profile of Augusta as a racing community. He says the biggest issue is the lack of sponsorship during difficult economic times. However, he's confident that one year in Pro Stock will give him the resources to start up his team.
Even after a lengthy career, Daniels said he has no plans on leaving the sport and has zero regrets about the life he's spent around racing.
"They'll bury me with a smile on my face," he said.
Reach Joey Jones at (706) 823-3304 or firstname.lastname@example.org.