The Will of a Champion: Austin Wright

First of all, I want to get this out of the way: Austin has full spectrum autism. I mention this now because it will help you understand the additional challenges he had to overcome this race season but it will be the last time you hear me mention it because the real story here is one of passion, determination, persistence, and in the end, victory.

It was late 2012 and Austin was with his father Donnie, travelled home from a road trip to Alabama. Austin saw an RC track as they headed back toward Pensacola and asked his dad to stop.

Now something you don’t know about Austin is that he’s a big Kyle Busch fan. Possibly the biggest fan Kyle Busch has, and that’s saying something. Well, when Austin saw the Kyle Busch #18 Toyota Tundra racing around the track he was sold. He told his dad he had to have one.

Donnie made a deal with Austin: Keep your grades up and don’t bring any disciplinary notes home from school and the truck was his.  Then, while Austin was watching the racing action, his dad snuck into the shop and bought the truck anticipating his sons desire to be out there racing too.

Austin’s performance at school was exactly as his dad expected and soon he was driving and LOVING his new Kyle Busch RC truck. The next logical step was to get him involved in the race community, driving with other hobbyists and participating in local events.

It made sense that they start Austin in a beginner’s class called “run what you brung”. After all, Austin was new at this hobby and running in that class allowed him to run his Kyle Busch truck with no restrictions. Problem is, anyone that races RC will tell you that it takes time and experience to get the feel of driving around a track and in a beginner’s class, you’ve got a lot of novice drivers struggling to learn the ropes. To add to that, this was a very diverse class that included drivers running some high powered vehicles with more raw power than what Austin’s Tundra was currently putting out. Initially Austin became frustrated when things didn’t go his way. If someone made contact with his truck or he had mechanical problems it was a major challenge for Austin to keep his head in the race. That, however, was only when things weren’t going his way.

Truth is, Austin was nearly dominating his class at the local track. When he was firing on all cylinders, (or maybe in this case, “cells”) Austin was practically untouchable. In one particular race he even finished in 5th place after the controls on his transmitter were completely reversed. That’s right, with reversed throttle AND reversed steering, Austin managed to make his way back into the pack and successfully finish the race. He was having so much fun it was decided to put Austin in a second, pan car class. Keep in mind; this is still his first year of racing.

So Austin joins the local sportsman pan car class and again, Austin saw success. As their activities at the track grew, friends were made and soon they were contributing to the community. Everyone at the track did their part to help show Austin the ropes. They helped with repairs and set up on his car with some of his fellow racers really stepping up to the plate loaning equipment or transponders to make sure Austin could keep running. This “collective pit crew” helped Austin truly feel like “One of the guys.” This sense of belonging was something that Austin rarely found outside of this family and his day-to-day routine. This was something that kept him focused and collected.

Racing became Austin’s passion.

Diving into the race community headlong isn’t an inexpensive endeavor. Any seasoned racer will tell you that. Even with the support of newly found sponsors like Venom and a few others; things were tight in the Wright household. Yet the joy and satisfaction that Austin gained from his racing was important enough to their family that despite the increased financial burden they soldiered on. So did Austin.

Much as he did in the “Run what you Brung” class, Austin performed at the top of his game in the Sportsman Pan Class as well.

When the smoke cleared at the end of this race season, Austin had claimed the series trophy in the “run what you brung” class and ended the pan car class as the points leader (There were not enough races in this class in 2013 to award a trophy.)

The word started getting out and people began to take notice.  First, it was the local newspaper. Next, the local television station did a story on their success. Then came the national news and interviews with “Good Morning America”.  All of this, a seeming whirlwind of affairs, Donnie and his ex-wife Jessica work together to manage and schedule for Austin’s benefit. “I’m the driver, you guys are the managers.” Austin tells them, and yet he knows that they are so much more than just managers. They’re also Austin’s publicist’s, personal assistant’s, purchasing agents, sponsor managers, moving crew and above all, they’re still his parents.

In that respect, Donnie and Jessica couldn’t be prouder of their son. Watching Austin take the reigns and run with his new found passion has given Donnie a sense of satisfaction you can hear ringing from his voice with every achievement and accolade he spoke of as I interviewed him for this article.

“Austin’s turned down other sponsors this season.” Donnie tells me. He says to me “Venom was the first company to step up and help us. Austin wants to earn his place here.” That amount of loyalty and devotion is something that we don’t see very often in this business. Generally speaking, when people are offered that “bigger-better” deal, they usually jump on it, which means loyalty is rarely even a consideration.

Later in our conversation I’m told that Austin’s #1 goal for next year is to make it to a Tier 1 sponsorship, something that in the RC race world is the equivalent of a “full ride” when it comes to receiving products from a sponsor.

Well, we here at Venom Group are honored to let Austin and Donnie both know that for the 2014 racing season, Austin HAS earned his place on Venom’s Tier 1 team. His hard work and dedication to the sport has shown the world that he has the determination, drive and passion to be a dominating force in his region. We are honored to have him driving for us. Congratulations on your successful 2013 race season Austin, you’ve truly proven to Venom that you have the will of a champion.

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