MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - Many kids have dreams growing up, but seeing that dream through is truly special. One local student who has a need for speed wants to take his childhood dream all the way to NASCAR. He's racing Saturday, September 10th, at Myrtle Beach Speedway to get one step closer to making the dream reality.
You could say it's in the family genes.
"My mother actually, her and Dale Earnhardt, Sr. used to drag race cars together down Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington DC," Ray Hicks said. His son, Alex Hicks, has a passion for the sport like no other. Eighteen-year-old Alex Hicks got his start in racing the classic, American way.
"We bought him a little cart off Craigslist…and we were at the school parking lot and I started dreaming," Ray said. "It wasn't weeks later…we were back on Craigslist buying him a racing kart."
"They didn't [go kart] race around [Myrtle Beach]. So by myself, between each race, I used to just race by myself around the track," Alex said about practicing his driving.
Next, Alex was racing go-karts in South Carolina and nationally, even beating current NASCAR driver Spencer Davis in go-karts, Ray said.
The Hicks family continued to fuel Alex's dream, and he showed promise. "His second year he won a track championship...he was this tall and his trophy was that tall," Ray said, laughing.
But racing is a hard and expensive sport to keep up with. While go-kart racing, the family would spend about $3,000 a weekend for races.
Instead, the Hicks family graduated Alex to his own racecar when he was fourteen. Then, he began racing his black and orange late model, sporting Dale Earnhardt, Jr.'s classic number 88.
Also when he was 14, Alex was looking for a high school that would further his knowledge in motorsports. His father, Ray, found PALM Charter High School in Myrtle Beach, and they began visiting the school almost daily.
"Dad is the one that really found out about the school and from about a year before the school had opened we were in there every day, just to visit…and we knew that was going to become a charter school and we were just waiting for that to open…and when it finally opened we went," Alex said.
PALM transitioned from a night school to a charter school in 2012. Alex is part of the first class to go through and graduate the full, four years.
"The school is a tremendous support for racing, not just racing, but his passion for metal fabrication , welding...he's talked to me about becoming mechanical engineer...we've always encouraged him to go for your dreams but have a second plan," Alex's father explained.
Alex said he wouldn't be where he is today, or even have a racecar, if it wasn't for PALM. The school has contributed tremendously when it comes to repairing his wrecks. An average wrecked racecar costs Alex and his family an average of $1,500, he said.
PALM has taken care of that for free. As a student, Alex's teachers would use his car as the 'subject' for students to fix as part of class. After all, learning the ins and outs of a racecar and building one back in to working order is what PALM Charter High School is about. The school has a focus of motorsports for students wishing to take a vocational path career wise.
Alex says students would show up for race days, cheering him on. But out of school, his family is his support system. An only child, Alex's passion has been provided to him through the sacrifices of his family.
"You just support it, lots or peanut butter and jelly, you support it…you can't deny a kid dreams because of finances - you do what you can and you race when you can," Alex's father said.
But the sacrifices have also lead to amazing bonds and memories.
"He's put his car in every corner of the wall except for that one," Ray said, pointing. "We used to make him sit in front of his car and take pictures of his wrecks."
"We really don't have much, but everything we do have I mean it feels privileged that it goes in to me and this," Alex said.
Alex said he hopes racing is something he can continue to always do. Hopefully, he'll race in his dream, the Daytona 500, as a professional NASCAR driver one day.
You can catch Alex Hicks racing at Myrtle Beach Speedway Saturday night, September 10.