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NASCAR DRACULA!

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Ever since he was young, Count Alexandru Craioveanu had a thing for American culture. “Call me Alex,” he says. “That’s a start. I can’t get with the long names, the final u’s. Just plain old Alex.”

Being “plain old” anything has been a lifelong struggle. Alex’s father, a disgraced Romanian nobleman, moved the family to Louisville, Kentucky, when Alex was only four, and the boy struggled to fit in at first. “People made fun of my accent, the way I brushed my hair.” 

He found solace in fitting in— watching hours and hours of Sunday morning cartoons, eating sugary cereals, memorizing college basketball statistics, and learning everything he could about cars. 

Especially cars. “I loved them from the first time I saw one. The faster the better.” When he was fifteen, he snuck out of the house, stole a muscle car parked down the street, and took it for a joyride

His father was furious, but he made some new friends drag racing on the outskirts of town. “They loved cars just like I did. They loved the noise and the speed. Whenever I could, I made time to visit them.”

Alex was determined to turn his back on his heritage and become an All-American boy.  And then his father helped him out, in a way. “He disowned me,” he says. “He called me a disgrace. And he’s the king of the castle. Really—we live in a castle.

No longer welcome in his own home, Alex went back across town, to his drag racing friends, and found a second home among the gear heads. “I was happy. I felt like I fit in.”

NATURE OVER NURTURE

But then, when he was eighteen, his heritage returned with a vengeance. Overnight, he was transformed into a vampire. “I guess I knew it would happen but I was in denial,” he says. “I was in a sheep meadow, just messing around, and all of a sudden, I had an urge to kill the sheep. I ran out of there that night, but the urge returned.” 

Other changes came on as well: an aversion to garlic, a love for bats, and physical pain upon contact with sunlike. “We don’t die, like in the movies,” he says. “But it’s not pleasant. We’re like extreme redheads.”

And the fangs, of course. “That part was kind of cool,” he says. “I have lots of body-mod friends, and they were big backers.”

His first love, car racing, also suffered. He found he could only race at night . “That limited sanctioned races,” he says, “and put me mostly on the amateur circuit. Pretty early on I bumped into a retaining wall and got a bad concussion. For about a week I tried to bite anything red: tomatoes, children’s building blocks, even stop signs.” 

One of his drag-racing friends also happened to be a science prodigy, and she outfitted Alex with a special protective suit and goggles that permitted day racing. That put him back on the circuit, where he enjoyed almost immediate success. “The first race, I came in second. Then first”

He also picked up a nickname that stuck: NASCAR Dracula. “I don’t actually race NASCAR, so it might be a copyright infringement thing. But it’s cool. Again, American.

THE HUMAN HEART

Last month, Alex competed in his biggest race yet: the Carruthers 200. He only came in sixth, but he had an even greater victory in the form of a face in the crowd—his father. “He was way back under an awning, but I saw him. It was brave of him to come out during the day. I know how much it hurts. I haven’t called him yet, but I will. Speed works for racing, but not always for the human heart.”

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