Racing legend visits Selma

Published 12:00 am Friday, April 13, 2007

The Selma Times-Journal

Legendary drag racer Harold Martin began his address Thursday with a simple yet powerful message: “Dreams are possible. Don’t ever give up on them.”

That was the focus of his speech to 19 Southside seniors in an effort to encourage more youths to get involved in the motorsports industry.

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Martin spoke at three other Dallas County locations, telling students about his journey from a young man born on a Selma farm to becoming one of the most innovative minds in the automobile world.

He also talked about the Harold Martin-ACDelco scholarship, meant to specifically benefit students interested in the automotive industry.

“A lot of young people I talk to don’t have a dream,” Martin said. “Their dreams can be attained. There’s a future in this business, and it’s possible they can fit into it. I don’t expect to meet the next race car driver. I just hope they have a life they can look forward to and that they take their education seriously. There are great career possibilities for them.”

According to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, the market for automotive technicians and mechanics is expected to increase nine to 17 percent between 2010 and 2014.

The shortage of qualified technicians is reported to be in the range of 80,000 to 100,000 nationwide.

Among Martin’s many accomplishments, he was the first black driver to win an international drag racing event.

Before entering racing, he worked as an engineer for General Motors where he developed 10 patents that are used in both racing and street legal automobiles worldwide. The Electronic Fuel Injection system is regarded as his biggest contribution to the automotive industry.

Martin was inspired to race because of his father, Huston, who Martin said was also a talented race car driver.

But Martin had two advantages that allowed him to become far more successful than his father: ingenuity and education.

This year, ACDelco and Martin will award four $2,500 scholarships to high school seniors who desire to enter the automotive technology field.

“I was motivated to go to school, to have the first team in the world that was able to build everything in-house,” he said.

The ability to share his success with his mother and father is the thing Martin takes the most pride in.

And true racing fans or anyone just curious about the sport will have the opportunity to see him in action this weekend at the Spring Drags Friday through Sunday at Montgomery Motorsports Park.

Martin, although having accomplished a lot already, still feels the rush whenever he sits behind the wheel.

“I’m not only nervous, I’m itchy,” he said. “By itchy, I mean I can’t wait. I’m excited to show what I’m made of.”