It happened around 1:45 a.m. on Gordon Moore Road in Franklin County.
The Highway Patrol said Rashad McKnight died after he ran off the road, and crashed his car into a tree.
His stepfather said he found McKnight, just a few miles from his home.
“ He didn't come home. I knew he should have been home, I just went looking for him, and then I found him – not in a good position, but I found him anyway,” Tim Coley said.
McKnight and his step dad worked to restore the car involved in the crash.
"We'd come out here and work on the car. After we'd work on the car we'd lift weights," Coley said. "He's always wanting to work on cars and be a mechanic. That's all he talked about, being a mechanic."
McKnight’s friends said he was a popular guy who knew almost everyone at his school.
"He was a cool person, everything he did; he was laughing even when he was mad he was smiling," friend Tre Fogg said. "No matter what, he always had a smile on his face."
The close-knit community is still trying to make sense of his death.
The 17-year-old was apparently coming from Wake Forest when he crashed. It’s still not clear why he was coming from there, but troopers said speed was a factor in the crash.
McKnight was a junior at Franklinton high school, and played defense on the football team.
Some of his fellow students are wearing ribbons that bear the number he wore on his jersey in his memory.
Franklinton High School said it will have grief counselors on hand for students at school this week.