Meet Ben Amado, a 21-year-old legends car racer from Hanson, MA. Before starting in his first full-time legends car season, Ben raced in karts for almost nine years. I sat down with Ben to talk to him about the transition from racing karts to racing legends cars, balancing college life with racing, and what being a black man in racing is like in modern-day America.
Q: Hi Ben! Before we start would you please introduce yourself to our readers?
A: My name is Ben Amado and I race legends cars at Seekonk Speedway in Seekonk, Massachusetts!
Q: I Know there are many interesting things to discuss with you about your racing journey, but before we get into any of that I want to ask you about how it all started. So how did it all start for you, Ben?
A: I was first introduced to NASCAR when I was five years old, after playing NASCAR 2005 with my cousin. I didn’t think I could race at that age so I never really thought about it much until I was 11 and was reading a book about Jeff Gordon. I saw that he started racing when he was four, and I was shocked! So I started looking for places to race. My parents were not about to just go out and buy me my own kart, so I found a place called F1 Boston, where I could race their rental karts in their children’s league. My family was never really in a position to be able to get me my own race car, so I did that until I was 17 and had saved enough money to get a legend car.
Q: So when did you officially make the transition from kart racing to legends car racing?
A: I ran my first race in a legend car at the end of 2018, and only ran a handful of races in 2019-2020, due to having a lack of money. So 2021 was my first full-time season, racing at Seekonk Speedway.
Q: What was that transition from karts to legends like for you? Was there a major change, no change at all, or was it somewhere in the middle?
A: Oh, it was a major adjustment for sure! Having to adjust to a vehicle with an actual suspension, plus much harder tires and a lot more power was definitely tough to get the hang of. It’s taken a lot of studying and practice to get to where I am now and I still haven’t gotten anywhere near the level I want to be at.
Q: I know that somewhere in between those learning periods you were graduating high school and going to college as well. How did you learn to balance learning in the racing world with learning in the real world?
A: It basically just meant I was gonna have to find time for both of them. I just started waking up earlier so I’d have more time to work on my racing and my school work. I just kind of got myself into a routine of waking up at a certain time, going to the gym, and then going to the campus center. After that, I stay the rest of the day and do whatever work I have to do.
Q: Does it ever feel like too much for you mentally?
A: Not usually. Obviously, sometimes it can be draining, but doing work for racing, whether it’s studying race film, working out, iRacing, or studying a driver coaching book, it’s something that I look forward to!
Q: Racing hasn’t always been the only sport in your life though. You played basketball in high school, correct?
A: Yeah I played basketball and baseball all through high school. I also played football my freshman year, but I had to stop because of racing.
Q: So when playing all these different sports, compared to racing, what is your mindset like? Do you have different mindsets for each one, or do they all correlate quite closely?
A: They all correlate pretty well I think. It’s pretty much the same competitive mindset. For all of them, It’s all about being assertive and having the drive to work as hard as you can to be the best that you can be.
Q: I want to switch over to a more serious discussion. Racing in our country, in particular, has long been labeled as a so-called “white man’s sport” and it has only been recently that, that stereotype has really been broken in the major leagues of racing in America. So I want to hear about your own personal experience growing up as a black man in racing?
A: It’s definitely been tough at times. I haven’t dealt with many overtly racist comments directed at me very often, but there were definitely times where I felt I wasn’t always accepted. Particularly during the B.L.M. protests in 2020, it was pretty clear where a lot of people I raced with, stood on the matter. I grew up dealing with a lot of racism in my hometown, so I’ve learned to use it as fuel to motivate me to dominate regardless of how they might feel about me.
Q: Overall do you think that there has been enough done in the sport of racing to make people of other races, genders, and sexualities feel welcomed, or do you think there is still a lot that needs to be done when it comes to diversity in the racing world?
A: NASCAR’s leadership has made some good progress for sure, but there’s still more work to do. Organizations like Liberty University being involved definitely could make certain people feel like they might not be welcome. A lot also has to do with the fans. NASCAR needs to do a better job of getting the message to fans that homophobic, racist, transphobic, ableist, etc. behaviors won’t be accepted.
Q: What do you think fans and people within the sport, who are not minorities, should be doing to make all parties feel included and safe?
A: I think it’s all about educating yourself about different kinds of people. A lot of prejudice comes from the fact that a lot of people grow up around those who are similar to them. So a lot of white people probably haven’t interacted with a lot of black people, or trans people, or gay people, or whatever minority group, so it’s easy for them to form stereotypes based on what mainstream media and pop culture show us. So going out of your way to interact with, and learn about different types of people will go a long way towards breaking some of those negative stereotypes.
Q: I think that’s the best way of putting it! Before we wrap this interview up, I have just one final question. What is your ultimate goal with your racing career?
A: My goal really is just to get to the highest level of racing I can and be the best there. Obviously, that means I’d love to make it to Cup and be the best to ever do it there more than anything, but if I can’t find funding for more than ARCA, or SLM, or even if I have to stay in legends, I want to be the best at that level.
Q: Well we at Pit Box Press hope you can achieve that goal and wish you nothing but success! OOn behalf of myself and the rest of the Pit Box Press team, thank you so much for your time, Ben!
A: I appreciate that, thank you so much for having me!