19-year-old Devin O’Connell has made a career in racing despite autism spectrum diagnosis

By: Ryan Kristafer, WTNH Reporter

(WTNH)– A 19-year-old Madison teen is not letting his diagnosis on the autism spectrum slow him down.

Devin O’Connell has made auto racing look easy. The teen just finished his first season on the American-Canadian Tour, where he won Rookie of the Year.

He still can’t believe he’s a professional racecar driver.

“It’s pretty cool to be able to call myself that,” O’Connell said. “I was like five years old when I heard kids could race and start that young, and I was just begging my dad, ‘Dad, I want to do this!”

Devin was able to twist his dad’s arm enough to get his first racing cart at 9 years old.

“I went out, went to the racetrack Stafford Speedway, and in my class there were 16 cars that showed up and we finished third my first time out, so after that we were hooked,” he said.

Just after Devin started racing, he was diagnosed with Asberger’s Syndrome. But he kept the diagnosis to himself in his early teenage years.

“Probably about a year or so ago, I was like OK, I’m going to start coming out with this and see what goes down, what do I have to lose?” he said. “It’s actually led to some pretty cool opportunities, you know, and it’s kinda cool seeing people get inspired by hey, if this kid can do it I can do it.”

“I actually got invited down to Danica Patrick’s after I made a video that got over 16,000 views on Facebook. It’s so weird because you know, when I was in school I couldn’t focus on anything, but put me in a racecar and everything changes it’s like OK, I’m the most focused person you’ve ever seen in your life, but I’m setting out for one goal and that’s to win.”

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