Leesburg's Garrett Bullington, 15, is ready to race with the big boys tonight at Albany Motor Speedway in his first National Late Model Series race, becoming the youngest to ever compete at AMS' top-tier division.
ALBANY -- Garrett Bullington is 15 now and he just got his learner's license, but if there was ever a teenager who didn't need one, it's probably him.
A month ago at just age 14, Bullington posted three top-five finishes in the Auto Value Late Models series at Albany Motor Speedway and currently sits in fourth place in the local points standings. This weekend Bullington, a Leesburg native, will be running in the National Late Model Series at AMS against some of the best dirt track racers in the Southeast as part of the Labor Day Weekend Shootout.
Racing begins at 8 p.m. today with all classes running, including the National Late Model Series "Chase for the Championship."
Bullington, who started racing three years ago with go-karts in the World Karting Association, hasn't won yet but has run up front against drivers three times his age. It's only a matter of time before the young phenom drives to victory lane, though.
"I've just got to keep trying," Bullington said. "It is surprising to me really. I didn't think we would be up there this quick. (Running up front) feels better than being at the back like when I first started out."
AMS has several competitors between 13 and 19 years of age competing in different classes on a regular basis, but few have run as clean, and consistent, as Bullington has in the No. 97 Albany Lighting and Appliance Center and Ben Summerlin Farms car.
"He's done a great job this year," AMS Race Director Ben Sumner said. "He's been consistent and he's taken care of his equipment. He finished fourth in the NLMS (earlier this year), which was a heck of an accomplishment against people who travel from all over."
Underage drivers are required to fill out the proper release forms to race, but Bullington has quickly earned the trust of his fellow drivers.
"I think at first they were kind of worried," Bullington said. "After a while, I've gained their respect. I don't think they're too worried about it now."
And why would they be? He's got his license, albeit a learner's permit, now. The driver's license test in a year will likely be a breeze.
"Should be," he said with a laugh.
Bullington got interested in racing after seeing his grandfather, long time racer and former AMS manager Skip Pannell, race all over the country. Since then, he's been running every other Saturday night on Highway 19 and hopes to move on to the World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series, or eventually maybe even NASCAR down the road
For now, though, he's looking for that first win while trailing Charles Sealy by 134 points in the local late-model points race.
"That would mean a lot," Bullington said. "It would really help us out."