Monday, December 04, 2006

Brad Coleman Signs With Joe Gibbs Racing

Brad Coleman, Houston native and 2006 graduate of Carlisle School in Martinsville, has signed a contract with Joe Gibbs Racing. The 18-year-old will drive in 17 of the 35 NASCAR Busch Series races during the 2007 season, sharing the No. 18 Chevrolet with Tony Stewart and Aric Almirola. This ends speculation that he would continue with the Owensboro, KY based Brewco racing.

Brad has just concluded a very successful season in the ARCA RE/MAX series, posting the highest average finishing position this year (third) by scoring eight top-fives in his nine total ARCA starts. Among those eight top-fives was his first stock car win at Kentucky Speedway in July, holding off eight-time ARCA champion Frank Kimmel during two green-white-checkered restarts. Brad ran the first of his two NASCAR Busch Series races in 2006 at Nashville Superspeedway and posted a respectable 29th-place result a mere week after graduating from Carlisle in Martinsville, Virginia. "We are excited about Brad joining our race team and what the future may hold for him," said Gibbs Racing President J.D. Gibbs. "He brings a total package approach to the sport. At a very young age, he has proven himself in a wide variety of race cars in a number of different series."

His already impressive career includes a 17th place finish in the 2005 Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona, as part of the youngest driver lineup in that series history, and open wheel experience in Formula Mazda and the NASA Fran-Am 1600 Series. Speed Network's Dave Despain has referred to him as "The prototype NASCAR young gun of the future."

Like another "Prototype NASCAR young gun" that came before him in 1992, Jeff Gordon, Coleman moved away from his hometown in order to facilitate his racing career. His move from Houston to Martinsville placed him in close proximity to Virginia International Raceway, a little known jewel of a road course just southeast of Danville, VA. (If I said it was located in Alton, VA you would think I was kidding, but I'm not.)

In an August interview with David Smith, Brad said, "I really feel like my extensive cross-training background has prepared me for any race venue. I have driven open-wheel formula cars on almost every road course in North America, Porsches and Daytona Prototypes on many different big speedways including Daytona, and stock cars at the smallest of Friday night ovals and now Superspeedways. It's all about preparation, dedication, and commitment. My family and I have made the sacrifices and paid the price. It wasn't easy leaving home at 14 to go live and train with 24 Hours of LeMans Champion and driving coach Price Cobb, but it was well worth it. I haven't just given up weekends to be successful in this sport, I have given up my childhood."

While Brad may regret giving up his childhood, he does not regret the move to Martinsville. He told David Smith, "I moved from Houston to Danville, VA to live and train with Price Cobb at Virginia International Raceway and the many short tracks in the area. After living with him for two years, I moved 30 miles down the road to Martinsville, VA so that I could finish my schooling at Carlisle School. That is the greatest high school in the world! They let me go to all of my training and races and made sure they caught me up when I returned. It was an awesome experience and I could hear the stock cars on the speedway from my apartment window. Carlisle even threw a pep-rally for my teammate Colin Braun and I before a big race. It was so cool, 500 kids and a band cheering for two 16-year-old race car drivers!"

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