It is not often that a NASCAR driver marries his passion for racing with a passion for scuba diving. But NASCAR Camping World Truck Series driver Ray Black Jr. has done just that, balancing his love for being on the track as well as under the sea.
“I grew up scuba diving,” the driver of the No. 07 ScubaLife.com Chevrolet for SS Green Light Racing said. “My father got me into it at a very young age. I was born in Alabama, but we moved to Florida when I was about ten years old.”
“I got into scuba diving then. I had a good time, enjoyed it and stuck with it. I ended up having my own business from it, like inspections on boats and salvage too. So, I still do some of that when I can.”
While Black has thoroughly enjoyed his life underwater, he was also bitten by the racing bug in his early teenage years.
“I just like going fast in just about anything,” Black said. “I started watching racing on TV and got hooked on it.”
“I got my Dad to get me a race car. It took me awhile to convince him, but he finally did, and we were good at it. We started winning a little bit here and there and he turned the reins over.”
“I was young and 14 years old. So, he thought it was just a phase. It took a while to convince him but then I think he saw the light.”
“I went to mini-Cups, a full-body quarter scale race car. I raced that at Orlando Speed World and other small tracks in Florida. I did that for two or three years and then went straight to Pro-Trucks and late models.”
Although Black loved going fast, he actually took a calculated step away from the sport, regrouping to focus on diving and to assess his career goals.
“When I turned 18 years old, I stopped racing for two years to focus on diving,” Black said. “I just kept tearing things up and being irresponsible.”
“So, I’m glad that I had to stop but then had the opportunity to get back into it. My Dad told me if I would learn diving, become an instructor for scuba and commercial, and pay my dues, he would look back into racing if I still wanted to do it.”
“And then two years later, I turned 22 and he asked me if I wanted to get back into it. And I did. We started doing late models and I started doing a lot better at it.”
“I definitely felt that I had matured, was more focused and was not taking it for granted,” Black said. “I got a second chance and it’s really rewarding. You start realizing that you can’t tear things up all the time. You start seeing the other side of things and have more respect for it all.”
Black also feels that he and his team have really come together this year. He is, however, a bit harder on himself as a driver, feeling that he still has room to grow.
“As a team, I would give us an A grade or maybe an A-minus,” Black said. “The team chemistry is awesome. We have one of the most lively teams out here. We bring a lot of people who go to all the races. They pump everybody up and get everyone going.”
“We just have fun and make sure that no one is too serious. We’re all here to have fun. Once you make it too serious, it is not enjoyable and it kind of wears on you. I think everyone is having a good time. We like them and they like us. I think we’ve bonded really well.”
“As a driver, I’m probably a B-plus. I’m not exactly where I want to be, especially because I haven’t been to most of the tracks. It’s a learning curve.”
One of Black’s major goals is to get into the top-10 in the point standings.
“I think we’re doing a great job. We’re fighting for a top-10 in points and we’re on the verge of it,” Black said. “There are some circumstances that have held us back. I’m not making excuses but we have blown two motors and you can’t fight those.”
“You kind of plan for a few bad races but to have those things happen, now we can’t have any mistakes. Other than that, we’re having a good season. Once we get in the top-10 in points, I’ll feel a lot better about it.”
Unfortunately, Black did not have the race he wanted at Pocono Raceway this weekend. He wrecked trying to avoid the No. 94 of Wendell Chavous. The impact from the inside wall locked up his transmission, preventing him from being able to re-fire and finish the race.
And while he finished a disappointing 24th, he still maintained his 11th place position in the point standings and will go on to Michigan seeking further movement forward.
Until then, Black will continue to balance his racing and his scuba diving, believing that the two sports are definitely complementary and synergistic.
“When you’re under water, you are by yourself,” Black said. “You have a good team above you to help you out but you have to make the final decisions. At the end of the day, it is all you by yourself under the water.”
“So, that’s like racing where you give all the feedback you can and you let them set you up the best they can. But at the end of the day, you have to perform, make sure you stay out of trouble and finish.”
“It’s just all focus, mental preparedness and physicality in both sports. Most of it is just staying calm under pressure. So, there are a lot of things that transpire to make it is what it is. And I love it.”
“It’s cool to be at the helm on the track and underwater,” Black continued. “If there is a mistake, it’s hard to blame anyone but yourself.”
“You have to step up to the plate and that makes you that much more of a better person.”