CHARLOTTE, N.C. – As far back as kindergarten, Spencer Davis was making it known he was going to be a racecar driver.
Now 17, Davis is well on his way by competing in the K&N Pro Series East. While enjoying a luncheon as one of the newest members of the 2016-17 NASCAR Next class in downtown Charlotte, Davis smiled and said if he went through the files Mom’s kept, his pledge would probably be there in black and white.
“Walked in and they asked what you wanted to be, and mine was a NASCAR driver,” Davis said. “Someone asks me ten years from now what I want to be I still want to be a NASCAR driver. I eat, sleep, think, breathe racing.”
His introduction to racing was almost too good to be true, or as Davis says, perhaps perfectly planned out. With his father being a racer himself, the two were traveling to what was once Gresham Motorsports Park when Dad happened to bypass the go-kart track.
Davis didn’t realize kids his age was allowed to compete, but the seed had been planted. He turned to his Dad and said he ‘needed’ a go-kart and he ‘wanted’ to start racing immediately. The following week, Davis was.
“I remember we had a little smaller trailer; it was him and me. I believe I qualified third, and I was leading the race and coming to the checkered flag I got spun out and finished second backward,” Davis recalled. “From that point on, something went inside me that I wanted to win, no matter what. Second wasn’t good enough.
“I got out and was a little bit mad. Even for a five-year-old you have very hard feelings if you lose something that you know you could have won. That fire has been in me ever since; it’s never slowed down, only gotten brighter.”
A native of Dawsonville, Ga., Davis went from go-karts to running local short tracks in both Late Models and Late Model Trucks. His first win in a Late Model (2012) came at the facility where he caught the racing bug, Gresham. Davis went on to win the track championship later that year.
The 2014 season saw him run a full NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified schedule, earning seven top-10 finishes in 14 starts. At season’s end, he was ninth in points. The steady and successful climb into the spotlight has made Davis one of motorsports top prospects, as shown by his inclusion into the NASCAR Next program.
With a combined 10 K&N starts between the East and West Series, Davis landed with Lorin Rainer, a long-time spotter in the Sprint Cup Series. Well aware of Rainer’s connections, Davis keeps in the back of his mind how impressing his boss can lead to doors being opened.
“Any time you have someone talking good about you, it’s definitely a help. Especially in this industry because you’re not going to get noticed if no one is talking about you. (Team owners) want someone who is getting talked about, who’s running up front; who’s getting the job done; who’s the whole package, and word of mouth is one of the best things for an up-and-coming driver,” Davis said. “For instance, if you raced against Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s car and Josh Berry tells him, hey this kid is good, we raced hard for the win, this or that, stuff like that helps and definitely being one of Lorin’s drivers helps because he talks to a ton of people. He’s a well-recognized name in the sport.
“Until I actually met Lorin I never knew who he was because he’s not a name you hear in the media a lot but once you get to know him he’s an awesome guy. Then you start to realize how much he’s involved in this sport and knowing that his involvement is so major if you can run good for him and show your raw talent and what you can do, any type of word passing along is going to help.”
Davis has not discussed with Rainer what his next step could be, but in addition to owning two K&N cars Rainer also has an ARCA and Camping World Truck team. Looking ahead, Davis would love to move up and next try his hand at trucks before eying a full-time XFINITY ride in about five years.
But even for a teenager, Davis already understands the importance of patience.
“I don’t think there’s a single kid in here that wouldn’t hop in a Cup car tomorrow if they could, but obviously, you have to think realistic goals. First off is to get through this year and compete for the championship, which we’ve done so far until we had a bad string of luck these last two races,” he said. “But I would love to go into next year signed up for a truck deal with a good, solid team I know I could build with and go win races with.
“At the end of the day, you don’t want to move too quick because you don’t want to create a big flame because it’ll burn out quick. You want to take it one step at a time and build a solid foundation.”
And fight for some wins along the way, which Davis has been doing ever since he got that go-kart.
“All I want to do is win. Unless something very bad happened and we come out with a good finish, I’m not going to be 100 percent satisfied with second,” he said. “Yeah, it’s nice to finish second, and you still have to think about points, but at the end of the day, I want that trophy. I go into every race every weekend with the mindset that I’m going to go out there, and I’m going to win. That’s all I think.
“Now, my mindset is going to have to be a little bit different points racing because I’m not going to move someone for the win when it could be a better points day finishing second. But, I feel like I’m built for speed and the happiest I am is when I’m in Victory Lane sitting with that trophy.”
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