Alex Brock didn’t spend any time behind the wheel of a car when he was younger, but he spent a lot of time at the racetrack.
Brock’s family has owned the restaurant Brocks Barbeque in Chester, Virginia for 32 years, and they frequently cater races and events at Richmond Raceway and Southside Speedway. As a kid, Brock would go to the tracks with his dad and help feed the drivers.
“There’s a picture in the restaurant of my dad feeding Dale Earnhardt when he was a teenager,” Brock said.
It was at Southside where, on his 10th birthday, Brock was helping his family for Denny Hamlin’s annual Short Track Showdown at the Midlothian, Virginia track. He and his dad were in the press box with Hamlin and NASCAR Cup Series champions Joey Logano and Kyle Busch.
Five years later, Brock made his debut at that very track.
“Seeing what everything was about where a lot of people as a kid didn’t get these opportunities,” Brock said. “Sitting there listening to them talk was really cool. Just talking about how they finally got to get into a late model and go to the short track and run with each other side by side in a non-stressful environment.”
Brock started testing a U-Car at Southside when he was 13. Two years later he got into a late model for the first time, and became the youngest late model driver to win rookie of the year at Southside Speedway.
Brock’s uncle worked on NASCAR Cup Series pit crews, but Brock is the first person in his family to actually get behind the wheel and drive, with huge support from those closest to him.
“This was something we’d all known our whole life being on the outside going to and watching the races and feeding the drivers and all that,” he said. “Me finally getting to do it, I was that 5-year-old kid that had every single diecast car. Whenever I got to do that, that was just amazing. And the whole family has supported me this whole eight year journey.”
Now, the 21-year-old Brock is in his second season racing full time at Dominion Raceway, a NASCAR Whelen All-American Series sanctioned 0.4-mile asphalt oval track in Woodford, Virginia. He’s currently fifth in the track’s late model points standings, with three top fives and seven top 10s in 10 races.
Brock is a Chesterfield, Virginia native, the same hometown as Hamlin. He received advice from the best of the best as a kid watching races with his dad, and now he’s learning from the best late model drivers as he starts his career. His crew chief, Chris Hopkins, won the track championship at Southside the same year Brock won rookie of the year. A year later Hopkins took over as the head of Brock’s team.
With Hopkins being a former driver himself, Brock is able to use that unique expertise to his advantage.
“We are both able to bounce these ideas off of each other and work together,” Brock said of Hopkins. “He can watch the car, I can give him the feedback and then he can jump in the car as well and say, ‘Hey this is what we need to do.’… He has just helped us with the learning curve for me. I’m just able to get what we need to out of the car and I’m very fortunate for that. Not everyone can have that crew chief that’s a driver and a champion.”
Brock is also able to gain a lot of knowledge from former NASCAR Whelen All-American Series national champion Philip Morris, who has split his time between Dominion and other Virginia tracks this season.
In his very first race at Dominion, Brock held off Morris for a second-place finish, one spot ahead of the national champ. Now, the two are competitors, but Brock said he’s fortunate that Morris will open up to him about racing.
“I love to watch Philip Morris. I talk to him every single race before the race,” Brock said. “I went and saw him in Victory Lane last race. He’s taught me a lot about the track and just what it takes to be that national champion. The drive it takes just by watching him and seeing what he does in qualifying and practice. Just enjoying what I have with him is really cool.”
Brock is quick to point out all the people who have helped him get to this level of racing. Beyond Hopkins and Morris, he mentions his first coaches and crew chiefs Steve Little and Brandon Butler, and the Kain Family with A-Plus Roofing Racing, who has been his team partner for two seasons.
The support of his mentors and family allows Brock to keep racing while working full-time and going to school. He’s a senior at VCU, with a double major in in finance and management, both of which he hopes to use as he continues racing well into the future.
The next step in that racing career is picking up a first win. After racing with a car that was 20 years old, and finding success with it with a rookie of the year title and six second place finishes, he will debut a new chassis this weekend. He’s comfortable in his new car, and hopes it helps him reach his next goal, and the ones after that.
No matter what, Brock is living the dream of that 10-year-old boy who was admiring the racecar drivers on the track. Now, he’s one of them.
“I wanted to say I’m very blessed to do what I love and I’m supported by my whole family, my girlfriend, and I’m very fortunate to get to live each day as a racecar driver,” he said. “That was my only goal as a kid was to be a racecar driver and I’m living that every day.”
NASCAR racing will return to Dominion Raceway on August 31 beginning at 7 p.m.