DAYTONA BEACH — At the age of 11, Wesley Brown developed a love for cars.
“I’ve always been passionate about racing,” said Brown, now 56. “My older brothers introduced me to racing when I was 8 years old.”
Now Brown, a Palm Coast resident, has turned that passion into a nonprofit organization dedicated to teaching kids in the community a love of racing and all things automobile.
Brown founded the Minority Racing Association in 2014, working with children of all ages, from elementary through high school, teaching a variety of car-related skills at no cost.
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‘something for everyone’
“A lot of the kids don’t want to drive,” Brown said. “But there is something special for all of them. When I did my first summer program, one of the kids didn’t want to work on the car. So I asked a manager from one of the O’Reilly’s (auto parts store) to come over. He taught the kids how to research and order auto parts. There is more than racing when it comes to cars. There are mechanics, computer engineers, technicians, marketing management, logo design. There is a place for every child.”
Brown pays out of pocket for most of the expenses necessary to keep the wheels turning.
“Because of COVID, we haven’t really done anything for the last year and a half,” Brown said. “I am planning to have a summer program teaching them about simulators. I have a guy from Orlando who is going to teach SIM racing. And we actually have SIM competitions. Kids are always into video games. This will be more productive.”
Brown said her children’s immediate need is to get a permanent garage. The team used garage space at both Advantage Motorsports and Dave Moore’s Auto Repair in Daytona Beach.
DeLand resident Brandon Hammond said he has learned a lot since joining Brown two years ago.
“The organization usually educates you on powertrain construction, maintenance and modification of vehicles to make them safer,” said Hammond, 18. “What we’ve learned can really be applied to any vehicle that someone might own.”
Hammond said he is convinced by the organization.
“I would highly recommend this to anyone who wants to learn about cars, racing or just wants to learn some new tools of the trade,” he said. “The training ranges from changing a tire on the car to taking the engine out of the car and rebuilding it. My brother and I received a toolkit after completing a portion of the program.”
But the Minority Racing Association isn’t just a boys’ club.
“I remember working on cars with my dad when I was younger,” said 22-year-old Jasmine Fisher. “I’ve learned things like changing the brakes, how to change the gear fluid in the differential, and how to change a tire. I also like to go out with my friends.”
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‘Rev those engines’
Brown’s nonprofit organization participated in the 10th annual Champ Car Endurance Series, a 14-hour race held at Daytona Beach International Speedway on April 2. The team ranked sixth in its class and 47th overall out of 125 cars.
Kamari Odom, David Dalton Jr, Noah Blake and Francis Brown were members of the driving team who took turns shifting gears in a 2005 Mustang GT.
Dalton, a resident of Charlotte, North Carolina, said he connected with Brown on social media.
“We connect through Facebook,” said Dalton, 23. “I was looking for drivers. I said yes to the opportunity as it seemed incredible. Since I can remember I have liked cars, races and their design. I have raced Formula 4 and F1600”.
The drag race at the Speedway kicked off on April 1 with everyone lining up to inspect their cars.
“Although this is a somewhat economical racing series, there are rules to follow,” Dalton said.
“I’ve been racing for about four years now,” the 23-year-old Odom said. “Everyone will have the opportunity to drive. So we’ll do what’s called ‘seasons’. It’s kind of like a tag team where there are different drivers at different points. And then depending on the amount of fuel, the strategy and that kind of thing, it could be 45 minutes to an hour or two hours, depending on track conditions.
Like Brown, Odom said he developed a love of racing at a young age.
“Brown contacted me on Facebook about this opportunity,” he said. “I was excited and couldn’t wait to get out on the track. Since I was 4 years old I love racing. NASCAR really got me into it. So my ultimate goal is IndyCar, Formula One. I would love to race all over the world.”
‘Built from scratch’
Francis Brown worked with his father, Wesley, on the construction of the 2005 Mustang GT.
“Technically it started out as nothing,” said 27-year-old Francis Brown. “We basically ripped out all the unnecessary parts. We had to rebuild parts of the engine. Then we got everyone to help put this masterpiece together honestly. Now she is quite a beauty if I do say so myself.”
Brown said his father introduced him to racing when he was 12 years old.
“We started going out to watch races at New Smyrna Speedway,” he said. “We have ventured into other racing events. We just got back from Atlanta. That was pretty fun. My favorite part of all of this is working with my dad. The group of guys we have is amazing and I love the learning experience.”
For program information or to donate, visit the Minority Racing Association at https://mra-fl.org/
Erica Van Buren covers the general assignment and government of Ormond Beach for The Daytona Beach News-Journal and USA TODAY Network. Connect with her at [email protected] or on Twitter: @EricaVanBuren32