Brother's memory inspires local driver to race on - KFVS12 News & Weather Cape Girardeau, Carbondale, Poplar Bluff

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Brother's memory inspires local driver to race on

(KFVS) -

Austin and Nathan Rettig of Sikeston were raised under a racing roof.

"It gets in your blood you can't help it you're addicted to it," their father Allan Rettig said.

The eldest brother Nathan was not only addicted to the sport, he was a natural.

"He won a go-cart championship at the age of five," Allan said. "The first race he won, he went three wide into the last corner, all three carts bumped, he came up on two wheels, never lifted off the gas and won the race. I was like 'oh my goodness he's got the grit to drive this car, it's unbelievable'."

Nathan rose the ranks from go-carts to late-model cars, even attracting attention from NASCAR driver Tony Stewart at the age of 13.  

"He had a God-given talent that was phenomenal. He could drive a car give him any situation and he seemed to come out on top," Allan said.

But all the promise of Nathan's life came crashing down April 9, 2004.

"He was at a friend's house riding a four-wheeler," Nathan's brother Austin said. "He hit a ramp and the four-wheeler came down and landed on him. I didn't know what happened. I remember going to the hospital with my aunt...my uncle took me outside. I just remember mom was crying and dad stormed out type thing. It was very chaotic."

"It's something you don't wish on your worst enemy," Allan said.

Fourteen Hundred people attended 13-year-old Nathan's funeral.

"There's not a single person I've met that didn't fall in love with Nathan," Austin said.

"We was very proud of him so when we lost him it was a huge hit, a huge loss for us. It was a very trying time, but only through our faith has got us through and the only thing that keeps us going," Allan said.

After Nathan's death, the Rettigs took a few years away from the track.

Then when Austin turned 12, he started stock car racing, and reignited the passion he shared with his brother.

"I kinda wanted to get away from it and make my own mark, but I kind of took it up in his memory, and that's where I started it then I just fell in love with it too," he said.

Now 19, the Notre Dame High School grad sleeps, eats and breathes the sport.

"100 percent everything you do is for racing," Austin said. "You'll be laying in bed at night thinking about racing or you'll be out on a date with your girlfriend and she'll be like 'what's wrong with you' and you'll go 'just thinking about racing, can't help it'."

That dedication has Austin driving competitively on the ARCA racing series, with hopes of securing a sponsor to move up to the Nationwide circuit, and then the Sprint Cup.

"Needle in a haystack thing. There are so many other good drivers out there, it's all about what makes a person stand out, you can say it's luck or destiny, whichever way you look at it," Austin acknowledges. 

As Austin drives toward his dream, his brother stays with him every lap.

He tapes a picture of Nathan on his dashboard for each race.

"I think about him everyday. This was actually his old car. You can still see 'Nathan Rettig' on the roof of the car," Austin said. 

Through wins--and the most painful of losses--racing has rallied the Rettigs together, and bonded brothers to the finish line.

"It's what I want to do for the rest of my life, but it's also great cause it keeps the family close," Austin said.

"Through the loss of Nathan, it's made us a closer, tighter family. And it's a project that ties us all together as a family, and a project we all go forward with as a family, and it's worked for us," Allan said. 

Austin will attend Southeast Missouri State University this fall and continue his racing career part time while hoping to land a sponsor.

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