Standing at a staggering 6 feet 5 inches, the sight of Justin Bridges can be slightly intimidating to someone from the outside, but to get to know him you realize he's humble, extremely funny, and in my case, a real smart alec. I always like to stop by and chat with Justin because giving each other a hard time and joking around is part and partial when I'm at the same track he's at. The formidable outside exterior of this big guy only hides an interior of a genuine, easygoing guy and one that will help any and everyone who stops by his pit for help. Whether asking for a part or setup advice, he's always there to help those who need it. He may give you a little bit of a hard time but it's always in good fun and he's well known for his humor and good natured ribbing. Speaking of ribs, besides racing cars and being a city councilman, he's an excellent grill master, learning from the one and only Myron Mixon, who is a legend in smoking and grilling himself. My love of food has made me get Justin to promise to cook something. His talent on the race track is equally impressive and after running the All Star Series this year he has become even better and more fierce with his level of competition.
Justin was raised in racing and his dad, Sonny Bridges, was a crew member for Ken Reagan, father of Nascar driver David Reagan. Racing and travel was always part of Justin's life but unlike many others his life was tied into Nascar. He started going to Cordele Motor Speedway in 1989 when it was dirt with his grandparents to watch his cousins, Jimmy Borum and Darryl Robbins race in the hobby division. Afters years of racing, both men decided to retire from racing for the most part and at the same time Cordele was becoming asphalt. At around 20 years old Justin decided to buy a car and try his hand at racing so he bought a Camaro and hit the track following in his family's footsteps. His first time out he says he had no clue what he was doing and was pretty bad but looking at the glass half full he says "at least I didn't get lapped". The first 2 years were a struggle but the 3rd year got better when buddies, Eddie Brodick and Cody Hale, who he says are from "Booger Bottom", started helping. Soon after he started winning races and finally in 2009 won the points championship.
Around 2010 he decided to try a new aproach and went to dirt at Cochran Motor Speedway for the first time. In his transition he says that the biggest difference was going from a heat race to a feature and deciding on how to get the stagger just right. It was definitely a learning experience and in 2011 he won his first dirt race at Cochran. At the end of the 2013 season a new up and coming series was coming along in the hobby division called the All Star Stock Car Series and Justin began hearing from other drivers like Michael Davis and Lance Floyd that they were going to be running so he decided he wanted to check it out. He liked the idea of traveling to different races, the level of competition, and having the best in the southeast running. The inaugural season of the series Justin just came as a fan to the All Star races but at the $10,000 to win race at Golden Isles last year, he knew for sure this was the series he wanted to be in. He saw in the pits the level of respect the guys had for each other, the family atmosphere, and the general positive attitude everyone had for each other. On the track he was impressed with as much money on the line no one ran over anyone. It was respect in the pits and on the track and watching Bradley Frakes go from the rear to the front for the win was the most impressive thing he had seen yet.
His first All Star race was this year at North Florida Speedway and he said that when he got there for his first race, the sheer number of cars, an astounding 51 cars, was a little overwhelming. He didn't know if he would have a chance to make the feature but was determined to make a go at it and was successful. He started 14th and finished 12th and with the level of competition, it was a good feeling. At the last race for the series in Cochran Justin started 10th and in 2 laps made his way to 6th but halfway through he ran out of tearoffs and when he went to wipe his shield with his glove he only made things worse and going high into one of the corners 6 cars got by him in that one mistake. This hasn't deterred him though. It actually makes him look forward to the next race for the series on June 20th at Cochran again. He said it was actually a morale booster to know he can make the race and run with the guys there.
For the rest of the season, Justin plans to runs every series race because his ultimate goal is to be high enough in the points to be locked into the race for $10000 to win at GIS at the end of the season. It has him looking forward to each and every race and always at the top of his game. He has a goal and wants to see it reached. Going from last year as a fan on the outside to this year as a driver on the inside of the series he says the level of competition is getting better and better and the drivers truly are as helpful and friendly as he saw from the outside last year. Going to different tracks with the series, in his thinking, is making better drivers of the series and something he hopes to continue to see for the future of the series with more tracks coming on board and a bigger schedule. When asked about what he thinks makes the series so successful his response was the drivers and how they bring a show to the fans and also because of the series owner, Leo Johnson.
Seeing other series in racing, Justin says unlike many others, Leo is constantly walking through the pits, talking to the drivers, asking their input on how to make things better. He's always wanting feedback, always wanting to improve on the series where most series and race directors won't. He says Leo truly cares about his drivers and what they think and when a driver feels respected he will be loyal to a series. In Justin's affiliation with the series he says he plans to run with the series for many years to come and is extremely excited for the upcoming Golden Isles and Volusia races because they are tracks he's never raced at and loves the challenge of trying somewhere new. He, like many others in the series, are very loyal to running with the series and it truly is a family. Speaking as someone on the inside of the series I can tell you these guys are family. Justin knows this just like everyone else. The fans of the series have become family to Justin and the other drivers because they are just as dedicated and loyal as the drivers. Justin says that's what makes him come back to each and every race and as long as Leo is running it. His final words of the interview ring true for him and I think sums up what the other drivers and fans would say.... "As long as ya'll have a series, I'll be there". Come out and see Justin and all the other All Star drivers June 20th at Cochran Motor Speedway. It'll be a show you won't forget.