At the age of 12, Josh Hobson was already driving at more than 70 miles per hour. Today, the 18-year-old takes stock cars around a track at top speeds against some of the best drivers in the country. His dream is to become a NASCAR driver, and his challenges and triumphs as a young racer are documented in the POV film “Racing Dreams,” which is available to watch online for a limited time here.
Josh talked to NewsHour Extra about his racing career, the importance of school and his advice for other young dreamers.
Why this Student Spoke Out
The POV film 'Racing Dreams,' which aired on PBS stations last month, documents the challenges and triumphs of young race car drivers, who must often make major sacrifices to realize their dreams.
Why do you race, and what do you love about it?
I love racing because I was born with it in my blood. it’s amazing to be behind the wheel of a race car; it’s just an experience that you can’t get anywhere else. It’s completely unique. I’m sure you feel somewhat similar feelings in other sports, but things are happening so fast and you have to make constant calculations in the car. The physical and mental demands just make it so much more superior than any other sport to me.
It’s a huge misperception that cars just go in circles around a race track. I will lose eight pounds in a race because of the speeds that we go and how fast things happen; it’s just about addiction, it really is. And 'Racing Dreams' captures that moment, but it’s something that I love and something I’ve always dreamed. I can remember being a little kid in the kitchen playing with the Matchbox cars, pushing them around on the kitchen floor and pretending that I was racing a car then and realizing that dream is something that I admire and I’m very grateful for.
Josh at age 12, when 'Racing Dreams' was filmed
How does the type of racing you do compare to major NASCAR races like the Daytona and Indianapolis 500? What levels do you have to progress through to get to that point?
The race car I’m driving now is the same size as what you would see in a NASCAR race. The only difference is the size of the engine; there is not quite as much power as you would see in NASCAR. So, from this point on, I’ll just increase the amount of power in the race car for as long as I’m able to keep climbing up the ladder.
Are the people you race against much older than you, and do you ever find that intimidating?
Yes, most people are a lot older than me, typically in their 40s. However, occasionally you do find some kids that are just as young as me if not younger. I’m very fortunate to be where I’m at because it’s a lot of times the place where some people end their racing career. So, having 40-year-olds in the same series as me makes me feel really fortunate that I’m so young and I get to be able to call myself a race car driver at such a young age. Not a lot of kids have that opportunity.
How do you feel the skills you’ve gained from racing have transferred into what you do in school and the rest of your life?
In racing there are all these people that are a part of your race team and put in the hard work to help you try to be successful on the track, so there is a lot of cooperation involved with racing. I’ve learned that you have to be consistently prepared in a race car (and) you have to think before you act. I think that can help you, whether it’s in a wrestling match, in a student council meeting or in everyday life at school. It’s always important to think before you act and I know that can be hard at times, especially in a race car when you are going the length of a football field every second. But racing has definitely helped me a lot. It’s helped me to be a better leader and to follow my dreams.
Josh poses next to a Ford Mustang that he and his dad restored together
What challenges have you experienced in realizing your dream? Did you ever have a moment when you thought your goals wouldn’t happen for one reason or another?
Yes, the biggest challenge is getting sponsors. With the economy struggling as much as it is, it’s so difficult to find sponsors and to market yourself, especially being so young. I know right now a lot of kids are trying to find scholarships for school, and I’m one of those kids. I want to pursue my education, it’s important to me, so paying for school is difficult. Just winning a $100 or $200 scholarship is very difficult, and with racing, I’m trying to convince multimillion dollar corporations to invest in me and help me follow my dream.
My family has to make a lot of sacrifices, (and) as far as being a kid, I would say the sacrifices are giving up times with your friends. The biggest sacrifice is this year it’s my senior prom and I can’t go (because of racing). I’m never going to go to prom so that breaks my mom’s heart.
Do you have plans to go to college? How do you go about about balancing racing with your education?
School has always been the top priority. Racing has been a bonus, but there is also pressure on me to do well in school. It’s something I’ve always seen as extremely important, so I plan to go directly into (college) next year. I don’t know for sure which school I’m going to attend but I’ve applied to schools in North Carolina, New York, South Carolina, and, of course, in my home state of Michigan. School is by far the most important thing on the agenda right now.
What would you tell other young people who want to succeed at something the way you succeed at racing? What advice would you give them?
My best advice is to, of course, follow your dreams - that’s number one. Definitely set high goals for yourself and try to pursue them. I would surround yourself with good people. People are products of their environment and so if you surround yourself with good people, then good things are bound to happen. I’ve also been told contacts make contracts, so definitely network with people, try to meet as many people as you can and one day maybe somebody will know someone else who can help you achieve your dreams.
The biggest thing that’s helped me be successful with my racing is being positive. Positive actions lead to positive situations, so I would recommend that you try and act positive. No matter what happens at the racetrack, if we were involved in an accident, it’s extremely critical to thank your crew and the people that have helped you try to reach your dreams.
The trailer for 'Racing Dreams,' which is now streaming on POV's website.
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Josh Hobson is an 18-year-old student and race car driver who competes on the national circuit. He was featured in the documentary 'Racing Dreams' as a 12-year-old go-kart racer.