Local teen meets his idol, gains a fan

News 12 Sports
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Monday, February 6, 2012

Evans, GA - Justin Salter officially became a NASCAR fan when he went to a race eight years ago. Since that day, he's been a die hard fan of Dale Earnhardt, Jr.

His best memory of Dale Jr was always his win at Daytona in 2004...at least it was, before last week.

Last week, Earnhardt came to Augusta for a meet-and-greet put together by his Nationwide sponsor, Augusta-based TaxSlayer.com. That was a day Salter won't forget.

He said, "My favorite memory of meeting him in person was all the pictures, autographs, giving him my gold lucky charms, and most especially when I verbally told him that I love him, and he said, 'I love you too, buddy."

Justin was diagnosed with cerebral palsy when he was only a year old, so saying anything verbally is a bit of a challenge. Hearing him tell NASCAR's most popular driver he loved him was special enough for his family, but the response was something more.

Justin's mother, Heloise, said, "When he says, 'I love you,' you can really understand it, so when he told Dale, 'I love you,' and Dale said, 'I love you too, buddy,' it just made my heart warm and it really just made me want to cry."

Justin had met Earnhardt for a brief moment at Atlanta Motor Speedway, and this time he wanted to give the driver something that would bring him luck and help him remember his special fan.

"I needed more time to tell him things with my computer privately, and to give him my gold coin lucky charms to win races," Salter said.

The gold lucky charms are gold dollar coins with a picture of Dale Jr's biggest fan on the tails side.

If Justin wasn't quite sure Earnhardt would appreciate the coins, he got his affirmation during the question-and-answer session.

Heloise Salter said, "Somebody had asked him, 'Do you have any lucky charms or anything to help you win races?' Dale said, 'No.' I looked over at Justin because we were about to speak to Dale, and Justin had the biggest grin on his face like, 'He's gonna have something soon!"

Justin spent about 15 minutes talking and taking pictures with his idol, and then Earnhardt had to move on, but the connection doesn't end there.

"Dale Jr. asked me to come to the Atlanta Motor Speedway on Labor Day weekend."

So, the story of Justin Salter and Dale Earnhardt, Jr. continues. While the fan still idolizes his favorite racer, it seems the feeling might go both ways.

"He expressed that meeting Justin was an experience that he'll never forget, and it was definitely a highlight for him as well," said Heloise Salter.

One thing everyone knows about Justin is that he doesn't waste any time setting goals. So, with this meeting checked off the list, his next dream is to go to the Country Music Awards and meet Carrie Underwood.