Nineteen-year-old Austin Crafton of Jasper is a huge fan of Nascar Racing, and for the past several years, he has attended every race at Talladega. He said he loves doing everything he can to help promote the track and the sport.
But last year Crafton did something that would not only bring recognition to the sport of Nascar Racing, but to himself as well. He showed up at Talladega sporting a black and white checkered suit, yellow shirt, red tie, and green handkerchief and was an instant hit.
“The minute we got there everyone wanted to have their picture made with him,” Crafton’s mother, Misty Cleveland, said. “He is known as ‘Mr. Talladega - Executive Race Fan,’ and everyone loves him.”
Austin said he takes hundreds of photos over the course of a race weekend, but he enjoys every minute of it. He became a huge Nascar fan after his father passed away nine years ago.
“His dad had just passed away, and I was looking for something that we could do together so we started watching Nascar on TV,” Cleveland said. “It was the same year Dale Earnhardt was killed and Austin felt sorrow for Dale Jr., because he knew what it was like to lose your dad.”
Cleveland said it was then they started going to the races at Talladega, and Austin fell in love with the sport.
“It’s a great experience, and there is nothing else like it. I just want to be a good ambassador for both the track and the sport,” Austin said. “The suit I wear was specially made for me by the ladies at the Curiosity Shop in Jasper, and it’s a hit from the minute we get to the track on Friday until we leave on Sunday.”
In fact, Austin is such a big hit with the fans, drivers and folks at Talladega that a camera crew from ESPN’s Inside Nascar followed him around during the race in April of this year and filmed him shaking hands and posing for photos with the other fans for a segment on their show. He also helps promote the sport of Nascar Racing at other venues. He was a big hit with all the folks who attended Race Fever 2012, a fundraiser held in April for the Alabama School For the Deaf and Blind.
So all you race fans, be sure to be on the lookout for Walker County’s own “Mr. Talladega - Executive Race Fan” at this weekend’s race.