Thursday, April 18, 2013
It was a hero's welcome Thursday afternoon in Emporia for a hometown guy who's made it big on the NASCAR circuit.
Clint Bowyer was in Emporia for the Grand Opening of the new Clint Bowyer Autoplex, which was known as Emporia Motors. It's under the management of Wichita's Davis-Moore.
It's the same car dealership Bowyer worked at as a kid.
"My younger brother and I both worked here," Bowyer said. "It's amazing to think that you're able to because of (your) job come back here and buy a business that was the first job you ever had."
Bowyer, along with Darrell Waltrip, signed autographs for the many fans who waited in line at the celebration.
One of those fans was Jackie Gay, who's been keeping track of Bowyer's success long before he was on a NASCAR racetrack.
"I taught him in seventh grade math," Gay said. "I thought he was a fine young man. I thought he'd do well."
But Gay and many others say they had no idea he'd do this well. Bowyer, now a champion racecar driver, hasn't taken that success for granted. Gay says Bowyer has consistently brought back much of what he's earned and put it into the community where he grew up.
"I couldn't be prouder if he was my own child," Gay said. "Because for him to come back and do all that he's done, he's put Emporia back on the map for sure."
She's watched him start the charitable 79 Foundation in town and provide for the Clint Bowyer Community Building on the Lyon County Fairgrounds.
Now, she's watching him become an Emporia business owner.
Thursday, she waited more than 30 minutes in the cold for him to autograph an ESPN article and other stories she's kept on him.
"I just wanted to be here and support what he's done," Gay said.
Clint's father, Chris, who owns a tow business in town says he's proud of his son for wanting to still be a part of the Emporia community.
"I'm just real thankful that he's remembered where he's came from -- the town that allowed us to do what we did," Chris Bowyer said.
He says he's also proud that his son wants to help inspire the next generation of Emporia young people.
"Maybe we can help some other kids to come along and hit somewhere and have a dream come true," Chris Bowyer said.
Just as the dreams has come true for his son.
"It truly is a big day for me and my family to see all this come true," Clint Bowyer said. "It really is an unbelievable ride."
Bowyer will race Sunday in the STP 400 at the Kansas Speedway.