Jimmy Crabtree has come a long way from his beginnings in dirt track racing.
When he was 27-years-old in 1997, Crabtree said he was so determined to find a car to race that he went scrounging through an overgrown pasture to find what would become the C8 car.
"My first race car was sitting in the weeds," the 49-year-old driver said. "I took it home and thankfully I knew a lot of people who raced who helped me build it and get it together."
Crabtree said he will never forget the myriad of used parts and scraps from other drivers he bought to transform the former forgotten shell into a racing machine.
"I begged and borrowed parts and tools from anyone that was willing to help. Thankfully, there were a lot of people around who was willing to lend me a hand. That was really what I was passionate about and I was determined to do it," Crabtree said. "That's racing though, we are a big family."
Family, especially Crabtree's father Brentone, was essential in getting him started.
"My dad was a driver too and back when I started, my father did a lot of the work to the car, because I had to work full time to provide for my family. I didn't have the time to really put everything I had into working on the car and my dad did it all," the driver explained.
Crabtree's first time in a race car was also a lesson in humility.
"I think I got lapped about 20 times it felt like," he recalled with a laugh. "I think the motor I had lasted six laps and that was it. I was determined to keep at it and it's come a long way since then."
In his more than 20 years of racing, Crabtree has notched more than 100 wins at the Richmond Raceway and other tracks and also two track championships.
The driver mostly races modifieds, but has also tried his hand at late models and the sportsman series.
"I like modifieds the best, they are a little tougher to drive. There are a lot rules you have to follow," Crabtree explained.
However, the driver had some great luck the first time he drove a late model.
"Scotty Douglas told me to drive the late model, so I climbed in and did it. I had never even sat in a late model before. I ended up winning the feature that night and there were people climbing the fence. It was great," Crabtree said.
That unexpected win wasn't his favorite though.
Crabtree said when he won a $1,000-to-win at a track in Northern Kentucky he was very emotional.
"It was one of the biggest races I have ever won. The first person I hugged and kissed was my dad. I had never won something that big and I was really emotional," Crabtree said.
That close connection with his father continues to this day.
"In 20 years I don't think he has ever missed a race," Crabtree said of his father. "He don't ever miss a race. I think he gets more enjoyment watching what I do every weekend than when he was driving."
With age, Crabtree said his driving has changed slightly.
"I actually take more risks now, then when I was younger. Sometimes the other cars can get you rattled, they don't intimidate me anymore. I'm not so worried about it on the track now. I've finished some races with the doors dragging off of the car," the driver explained.
Even after all these years, Crabtree admitted he still gets butterflies every time he is behind the wheel.
"I get tore up," the driver said with a laugh. "Sometimes I get kind of sick in the car. If your adrenaline don't pump inside of a race car, then you just need to quit. Every win is special because you don't know when you will get your next one. It hasn't changed for me."
Crabtree said driving a race car is a lot like a young child at Chrismastime.
"It's God-awful. You are so excited for the race to get here and you got to wait. You got to put in the work in the week to enjoy it on a Saturday. When the checkered flag falls its like opening presents. You are jittery and emotional and there are times that I cry. Just happiness," Crabtree explained.
The absolute best part of racing though for Crabtree is the people and the bonds you create with other.
"Dirt track racing is family-oriented. It's what I have always enjoyed about it. Most people are good-hearted and will help you do anything. I'm that way. I'll help anybody. If you need a part or tool and I've got it -- I'll loan it. People did that for me," Crabtree said.
The driver has also enjoyed a front-row seat watching the next generation of drivers come up through the ranks.
"It's kind of crazy. Every child that is 24 or 25-years-old, I remember when they were a baby. I've watched them grow into men. One day they were kids throwing footballs in the grass and running up and down bleachers, now they are behind the wheels of race cars competing against me. It's so amazing," Crabtree said.
One day, the driver said he will be ready to see one of the younger generation take his place.
"I might quit driving and step away and put some young kid in a car, but I'll never step away completely from it. I'll be an owner or something. I love it too much to completely go away from it," Crabtree said.
For now, Crabtree said he is proud to be able to use his car to help others.
His C8 is currently designed in a puzzle piece scheme to promote autism awareness in honor of a close friend's son. Crabtree also has another friend's child on his car in order to promote childhood cancer awareness.
"I try to do what I can," Crabtree said. "Like I said, we are a family on the track and we do what we can for each other and be there for each other."
However, when the flag drops -- it's time to race.
"We can be friends and everything, but on the track it's every man for himself out there," Crabtree said with a laugh.
The driver always keeps family and friends in mind though, saying that who you celebrate your success with, makes the wins more special.
"I tell the younger drivers, when you win, enjoy it. Just enjoy that time with your family. It's going to mean so much more to them and just add to what you accomplish."
Crabtree has had a lot of those moments and hopes to continue his journey from the car in the weeds.
"This is the seventh modified car I've had and I think it's the best one I've had. They just keep getting better and better," the driver said.