Justin Wethington’s love of racing has afforded him opportunities most 16-year-olds don’t get to experience.
Still, he’s a kid playing in the dirt.
“I’ve been racing since I was 12 years old. I started in a Hornet, then went to pure stock. I like the open-wheel racing now, but we don’t know what we’re going to get into the next few years,” said Wethington, a freshman at Indian Creek High School.
Venerable Brownstown Speedway, its first checkered flag dropped 64 years ago, is where Wethington has been competing since the 2012 season.
He raced in the Hornet class for two seasons, pure stocks in 2014 and 2015, and now is in open-wheel modifieds. Wethington has raced twice — on April 2 and April 16 — this season and looks forward to Saturday’s Battle of the Bluegrass event.
Free rides don’t exist when it comes to Wethington’s motivation to continue building his racing career.
He earns money working on cars, junking scrap metal, mowing grass, cleaning horse stalls and any other number of odd jobs.
“He’s really unbelievable. You name it and he’s done it. He’s a kid who always wanted to be in the garage with my friends and I,” said Wethington’s father, Terry, who used to run demolition derbies locally and would have his car in the garage.
“I remember him being real little and tearing a transmission apart. He would tinker with that stuff forever.”
The younger Wethington even inherited a hip nickname along the way — Jug.
His mother, Stacy, explains how one of her cousins as a toddler couldn’t pronounce Austin, the name of Justin’s older brother by four years. As a result, Austin eventually became Auggie to friends and family members.
Justin had little choice but to become Juggie.
“Since he was probably in kindergarten everyone has called him Jug,” Stacy said. “One time we signed him in at Brownstown Speedway as Justin, and everyone was like, ‘Who is that?’”
Jug played football and wrestled through middle school. Once the 2015-16 school year began, his focus shifted entirely to racing and working for the money required to keep his current ride — a 2008 Bob Pierce Dirt Modified racecar — at full-strength
The car is owned by Lawson Motorsports. Based in Edinburgh, the business is operated by Wethington’s cousin, Jason Lawson.
Jug Wethington caught the racing bug early, tagging along with his uncle, Ray Lawson (Jason’s father), to venues such as Brownstown Speedway, Lincoln Park Speedway in Putnamville and Twin Cities Raceway Park in North Vernon.
Three dirt tracks unique and challenging in their own way.
Wethington was hooked.
This weekend’s return to Brownstown Speedway is another opportunity for Jug to race and, yes, learn.
Wethington is accustomed to being the youngest one on the track, regardless the division he’s in. But the same racers who are twice Jug’s age — or older — also are the ones wanting to see the kid succeed.
“Brownstown’s really got good drivers. The people you meet, they’re just always willing to help you out,” Wethington said. “What I’ve learned from them is that I need to have more patience when I race. If you have that you’ll work your way up, but it’s difficult.
“Once you’re out there you just want to go.”
THE WETHINGTON FILE
Name: Justin Wethington
Family: Parents, Terry and Stacy; brother, Austin, 20
Favorite food: Mexican
Favorite movie: “Talladega Nights”
Favorite athlete: Chad Stapleton
Favorite team: Indianapolis Colts