CONCORD, N.C. -- No. 9 hauler driver Devin Alston's career in NASCAR goes back to a chance encounter at Martinsville Speedway.

As a child, Alston grew up near the track and went to a qualifying session before the race when he was 8 years old. He got the ultimate treat when he went to the track with the husband of a coworker of his mom, who was an elementary school teacher. There he met Geoff Bodine, the No. 5 driver for Hendrick Motorsports at the time.

“We sat for qualifying day at Turns 1 and 2, and it was the first time I’ve ever seen race cars there,” Alston said. “We were leaving and I just happened to see him in this Levi gear; I didn’t know what a race car driver was at that time. I said, ‘Hey! Look at this guy!’ And they were like, ‘That’s a race car driver.’ 

“He talked to us for about five minutes and asked us if we wanted to take a picture. We all took a picture with him and the next day at school my mom shows me the picture is actually in the Martinsville newspaper. It was pretty cool.”

Alston was able to meet Bodine again nearly 30 years later at Charlotte Motor Speedway and he brought up their chance encounter at Martinsville.

“Geoff was a pretty cool guy,” Alston said. “I met him again at the 600 probably about five years ago and showed him the picture. He had me send it to him, actually! He was like, ‘I have to have that picture.’ So, we took another picture then and it was a reunion-type thing.”

For Alston, that experience at Martinsville all those years ago fueled his love for racing. He fell in love with cars and said he and his mom would wait with him at a specific truck stop as a child during race weekends to see the haulers parked.

“If the trucks weren’t there, my mom would sit in the car and we would watch them go by,” Alston said. “It was pretty cool as a kid, and she would take me to races. I never thought I’d do this until I started meeting people in the sport and then I thought, ‘I can get into this.’

While Alston didn’t immediately jump into racing like many of his teammates did, he started driving haulers as a contractor several years ago while he still worked as a police officer. It was only last year that he joined the No. 9 team full time and was on hand to see driver Chase Elliott win at Martinsville to earn a spot in the Championship 4 and eventually become the 2020 champion.

While that race was special because of Elliott’s impressive win, being at the track was extremely sentimental to Alston for another reason.

“Another full-circle moment was our pit stall was right in front of where I sat as a kid,” Alston said of the November race. “I sat right there. It’s pretty awesome to have that big moment. It’s kind of like everything you dreamed of having in a big moment. I played sports in college and had a dream of winning championships and all that stuff, then I got one my first year here on the team. It was a very big moment.”

Alston now will focus on helping the No. 9 team defend their Martinsville title and earn its first win of the season. The race will be Saturday, April 10 at 7:30 p.m. ET on FS1.