Former NASCAR Driver Justin Fontaine Pledges $15,000 to N.C. Women’s Shelters

Photo by Nigel Kinrade Photography

By: Zach Catanzareti, Staff Writer

It has been more than a year since North Carolina’s Justin Fontaine has strapped into a NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series vehicle. Following years of pursuing a career in auto racing, the 22-year-old has since flipped the switch in a big way.

Diving further into a career in politics since his retirement at the conclusion of the 2018 NASCAR season, Fontaine now has a new endeavor, one that was kickstarted from tragedy with an eventual goal of helping others who are less fortunate.

In early January, Fontaine lost his grandmother due to natural causes at age 88. And in the months that have followed, Fontaine had decided to put money into good hands, as he has announced donations of $2,500 to six North Carolina women’s shelters, one a year, across the next six years, a total of $15,000.

These donations have a close connection to the Fontaine household.

“Not many people know this outside my direct family,” Fontaine told Kickin’ The Tires. “Her marriage with her husband, my grandfather, was a complicated situation. Again, not much has been publicly known outside my family.

“Women’s shelters became something close to our hearts to see where they would be taken care of.”

Following her passing, Fontaine sat down with his mother to discuss ideas to not only honor her life but to make a positive impact.

“I came up with the idea of taking our money, and over the next six years, I’ll be donating to a women’s shelter, one every year, around the state of North Carolina. I’m doing what I can to help the cause of women like my grandmother over the next six years.”

Through research and on-location visits, Fontaine has chosen the ABCCM (Asheville Buncombe County Christian Ministries) to receive his first donation. Fontaine was pleased with the Asheville facility and has learned more about what it takes to run these shelters.

“The one in Asheville that we’re working with right now, they basically take in and house women who have been in abusive relationships or have been involved in drugs and other circumstances in their life that made them homeless,” he said. “They take them, give them a place to sleep, do job training, give them people skills and to be able to get back out into the world again.

“It’s a place for women to go to feel safe and learn valuable skills when they go back into the regular world.”

This experience has broadened Fontaine’s perspective on the importance of these foundations.

“It was really, really impressive,” he said. “Obviously, there are going to be some [shelters] who aren’t financially stable as others. There are some who aren’t as fortunate as others. I’m going to be looking at them as well. I’m looking forward to seeing it from that perspective and to see what they’re doing.

“I’m still researching and looking into them. Each one I decide on, my plan is to visit each one personally to look them up and down to make sure it fits the standard of places I think are going to do a good job to help people get back on their feet. Once we determine that, I will make the donations.”

The hard work doesn’t feel like work for Fontaine, who finds his spark of inspiration through the memory of his grandmother. The two had a close relationship, specifically through Fontaine’s teenage years.

“She was the first person I was close to who I’ve lost in my life,” he said. “She and I would have this tradition every year during the summer months we would travel down to Texas. I was her travel buddy, we did that for five or six years. As the years ticked on, we didn’t do it as much.

“We would go out to lunch and she was the person I was really close to you. The last couple years of her life, she was in pretty rough shape. She wasn’t a big part of my racing years because by the time I got real serious in it, she had gotten fairly old and had trouble getting around.”

With his family behind him, Fontaine is thrilled to have this project ahead of him.

“It was just a simple way to do something that’s more important than my bank account,” he said. “I wanted to do something that would have mattered to her and that would have meant something to her.”

The shelter donations come during an interesting time in Fontaine’s career in politics. After interning with North Carolina Congressman Patrick McHenry last year, Fontaine picked up the position of McHenry’s deputy campaign manager for the 2020 election cycle.

“I’ll be doing this all this year,” he said. “Not sure what opportunities will be around after that but definitely enjoying it.”

With both eyes focused on the personal and professional sides of life, Fontaine hasn’t completely forgotten the days of racing past.

“Part of you wants to look back and then there are parts of Daytona where you go, ‘I’m good,'” he said. “The work I’m doing now is fulfilling and keeps me busy for sure. There are obviously times I want to get back in the car.

“My rule is that I don’t want any family funding to have to take care of it. I want to do it on my own, through my own sponsorship I can find. That is hard to come by nowadays.”

Earning two top-10 finishes in his lone full-time NASCAR effort in 2018, Fontaine chose to retire in September of that year. Without completely closing the door on someday pushing a racecar to the edge of disaster once more, Fontaine knows it’s a tall task.

“I’ll keep looking if there’s a company that wants to break in,” he said. “It’s tough with my schedule to [attend a race]. I’m either sleeping or working on the campaign trail right now. I’m looking at maybe doing Charlotte again, maybe Bristol or something like that. Nothing too far from home.

“I’m keeping an eye out for more opportunities, nothing really concrete has ever come up but you never know when an opportunity will arise.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *