Blake Lothian's background in racing doesn't appear too different from those who have ascended to the summit of the NASCAR world.
He got his start at indoor tracks. He found a local league that he liked and wound up winning a lot of races. He built his own go-kart and now competes in the U.S. Legend Car Semi-Pro Series.
"I picked racing over basketball and baseball," Lothian said. "I tried soccer. What won racing over for me was just the rush and the adrenalin that you get. To me, you can't get that adrenalin from soccer or anything else."
Lothian even chose seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson as his favorite driver as a child, but the rising senior at Wellesley High School in Massachusetts is different from most of his competitors. The 17-year-old African American is in his second year in NASCAR's Drive for Diversity Youth Development Program, and he certainly has been following what Bubba Wallace has experienced in recent weeks.
Wallace, the lone black driver in NASCAR's Cup Series, has been honored by his competitors this year, most notably at Talladega. The Associated Press, however, reported that booing could be heard last Wednesday night when Wallace was introduced at Bristol Motor Speedway's all-star race and that cheering could be heard when Wallace crashed.
"It's certainly highlighted the issue of race, and it's also highlighted what NASCAR is doing well," Lothian said. "I stand by everything they've been doing and for what they've been doing for diversity. When I first went to races, there were a few black people around, but now you're starting to see more and more in the stands and working on the pit-crew side of things and Bubba Wallace in the Cup Series."
When asked if he's had to encounter some of the social media ugliness Wallace has endured, Lothian replied that it hasn't happened yet.
"I've had a few comments on Instagram that have been a little offensive, but nothing too severe," said Lothian, who doesn't have a personal relationship with Wallace but would love to develop one.
Lothian is being viewed as a rising star in the sport, having amassed more than 30 trophies in the last five years. In 2017 alone, he was the F1 Boston Indoors Champion and the NHKA LO 206 Senior Champion.
A recent guest of "Press Row" on Chattanooga's ESPN 105.1 FM, Lothian runs track for Wellesley and sings in the school chorus, but it's clear where his motivation resides in the months and years ahead.
"I have no plans but racing," he said.
Contact David Paschall at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6524.