This is the year of change in the NASCAR World. This year the No. 3 came back and fans have been, and still are, very vocal about that. We have the change to “The Chase” again with much talk and disagreement as to if it is a good thing or bad thing. We have many fans that want the “old NASCAR” back and new fans that have no idea what the “old NASCAR” even is as that was before their time.
NASCAR, whether you think it’s going downhill, or having the best year ever, one thing remains consistent and that’s the charitable ways of the NASCAR family. NASCAR drivers, teams, and NASCAR itself gives back, there is no arguing that. Some of the charity you may never know about or see, but it’s there. What we don’t always see is how it helps the fans. This is the story of just one fan that NASCAR has touched without even knowing.
This is where I want to introduce to you a very special teenager. His name is David Heller and I met him on social media. Like most NASCAR fans we flock to social media for NASCAR news, but also because that is where much of our NASCAR family is. This is where we debate what is going on in the world of the sport we love. It is also where we develop friendships, more so than any other sport. I like to think we care about each other, we truly feel like family.
Heller and I started talking and at first I had no idea he was a teenager until he became extremely excited about his upcoming 15th birthday. He was new school; I was old school. He was impressive with his knowledge of NASCAR and where he thought it should go in the future. He knew the sport like very few teens do, and his attitude was amazing. If he has bad days you never see it. He is always positive and I must say he actually changed my view of the sport.
He was too young to remember Dale Earnhardt racing, all he knows is the NASCAR as it is now. I was so impressed by this young man that I asked him to manage one of my social media sites that had been just sitting there. Heller agreed and he went on the site to introduce himself and that is when I was floored. Heller is autistic but if he had not stated this in his introduction, you would not have known.
I spoke to Heller’s father Terry Heller who told me that his son at age 4, could tell you what driver drove what car number. Heller wasn’t diagnosed as autistic until he was nine years old. Today he can tell you driver and car number for all three series, the Sprint Cup, Nationwide, and the Camping World Truck Series. His favorite driver by far, is none other than young gun, Austin Dillon. David believes he is capable of being the first driver to win the championship for all three NASCAR series.
According to the elder Heller, being so knowledgeable in racing and sports in general has helped his son with conversations and has also helped him with his spelling. It’s also helped him with his coordination as now he watches television, runs the computer, runs the laptop, and runs his iPad all at the same time. He has a confidence about him that is unmatched. He will tell you that NASCAR has made him smarter and he has become one of the biggest fans. He has come to love all sports and will be the first to tell you, “Sports has helped me overcome autism and has helped me become the biggest sports fan of this generation, of this country!”
His enthusiasm is contagious but he doesn’t see the effect he has on others. On bad days he will make you smile and his sports knowledge is impressive. One of his other hobbies is weather so do not be surprised if you see him come on Facebook with a severe weather report, as he will let you know if anything bad is coming your way. I also must give credit to his parents Terry, and mother Joyce, for encouraging his love of sports, no doubt adding to his confidence.
My point in all this is to tell fans we all have disabilities, it’s just some are easier to see, so as fans let’s embrace each member of the NASCAR family. Instead of wishing for NASCAR past or worrying about NASCAR’s future, let’s take a page out of this young man’s book and take it one day at a time.