CONCORD, N.C. – Last weekend, Hendrick Motorsports made Sam Morris its first-ever pick in the inaugural eNASCAR Heat Pro League Draft.
For the organization, it felt like a coup to grab its No. 1 prospect at the No. 8 pick in the Xbox portion of the draft. For Morris, it felt like a dream come true – and, honestly, “a relief.”
“I put a lot of time into this,” the 23-year-old explained. “I don’t know if you saw my stats – I raced 1,300 times in the span of a month.”
During qualifying for the league, Morris competed in 1,326 races, winning 615 times and finishing inside the top three on 1,166 occasions.
That’s a lot of racing, and Morris said it was made possible by a perfect storm of timing. Currently in his final semester of college, two-to-three weeks of the qualifying timeframe fell conveniently during winter break.
For work, Morris helps run baseball tournaments – which have not yet begun – and his construction job takes place during the summer.
In other words, with no work and no school, he was able to shift his focus almost entirely to “NASCAR Heat 3.”
“It was crazy,” he said. “I’d get up and start racing at like 9 a.m. and I’d probably be on most of the day except for just a little bit until 1 or 2 a.m. every day. I’d just hop in races, and pretty soon I was just like, ‘I’m pretty good at this.’”
Morris’ average finish in those 1,326 races was a staggering 2.1.
“It worked out really, really well. I’m thrilled. Hendrick Motorsports is like NASCAR royalty."Sam Morris
Racing games had always been one of Morris’ passions, but he had never done so online in a competitive capacity until approximately six months ago.
Things picked up steam from there.
When the qualifying period ended, Morris found himself listed among the top 50 drivers on Xbox, and when 704Games – which produces “NASCAR Heat 3” – put out a mock draft leading up to last weekend’s event, Morris found himself listed No. 2 overall.
“I went from a complete unknown to being second on the mock draft,” Morris said. “It all happened really, really quickly.”
When draft day arrived, Morris made sure to isolate himself from his friends for what he knew might be a stressful – yet hopefully exciting – day. He was driving as the draft was set to begin, so he simply pulled over and watched a live stream on his phone in his car.
“I chose to be alone,” he said. “I didn’t want to be anywhere near anxious souls, because I didn’t need any more help being anxious.”
After being named the No. 2 prospect in the mock draft, Morris was confident that he would make it into the league. But picks No. 1 and 2 passed and his name wasn’t called. Then came picks three through seven and he was still waiting.
“I knew if I fall, there’s still teams I’d love to work with,” he remembered telling himself. “I felt confident even if I slid, I’d be OK. But it’s one of those things you never know.”
When Chase Elliott stepped on stage to make Hendrick Motorsports’ selection at No. 8, the waiting ended.
Elliott announced that Morris – who was at the top of the team’s draft board – was headed to Hendrick Motorsports. That’s when the feeling of relief set in.
The driver of the No. 9 NAPA AUTO PARTS Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 even gave Morris a call to congratulate him afterward.
“At that point when he gives a call, you’re more in shock and, ‘Oh my God, this actually happened,’” Morris said. “He was just saying he’s excited for me to come down just to get to see the campus. My voice was probably cracking at the time, I was just more in shock that I just got picked, then I’m talking to him in like a 10-second span. It happened very fast.”
And in the end, the wait was well worth it.
It almost seemed too perfect that the Dupont, Indiana, native would end up at Hendrick Motorsports.
From the name of his hometown to the fact that he drinks so much Mountain Dew that he’s practically known for it, Morris couldn’t believe the fit. He even comes from a family that exclusively drives Chevrolets.
“It worked out really, really well,” he said. “I’m thrilled. Hendrick Motorsports is like NASCAR royalty. I collect a lot of old racing stuff and stuff like that and I have a ton of old Hendrick Motorsports stuff – Geoff Bodine, Ken Schrader, Terry Labonte. Still, to me, it really hasn’t set in that I’m going to work at the same place as some of those people.”
In fact, he said he models his racing style after one of those legends.
“I kind of emulate, being a Hendrick Motorsports fan, Terry Labonte,” he explained. “I’m not a really aggressive driver, it’s not my M.O. I stay pretty calm and relaxed and let the races come to me. I don’t really force the issue or anything like that.”
Patience, he said, is the best word to describe his approach on the track.
But remaining patient until the eNASCAR Heat Pro League season begins this spring is a whole other story.
Fortunately, Morris, who grew up on a 200-acre farm with “cows, goats, pigs, all that good stuff,” knows exactly how he’ll pass the time until then.
“To be honest with you, last night I was racing all day,” he laughed. “I got so used to doing it. It’s something I can’t really shake at this point, it created such a habit.”