When I first moved to this town I had a lot of big ideas and plans with no road map or recipe to get me to where I planned to go. I began working for the first team that would give me a shot. That part was easy. They knew, I knew plenty about sprint cars and nothing about stock cars, so the expectations weren't very high. My plan was to work hard, even if I didn't know what I was doing. Lucky for me this sport is built on the rock of hard work.
My second year here in Charlotte was the hardest. For all intents and purposes I had learned quite a bit. The expectations kept getting higher and the pressure to keep up was becoming taxing. I somehow managed to be offered the position as "suspension specialist" with a front running, well-oiled Craftsman Truck Series team (now known as the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series). I proudly accepted the job and wheeled my toolbox into their suspension room. Soon after accepting this job, I realized I had a lot more to learn than I had realized. Ironically the man who offered me this job would be the one to challenge me and second guess my every move.
I remember him asking me to do things he knew I had no idea how to do. A sense of panic would hit me. "I don't know how to do that!?!" Somehow I'd squirm, make phone calls, stare at parts .. do whatever I had to in order to figure out how to accomplish, what seemed at the time to be, lofty requests. I had moved to this town with no stock car experience. Most times I kept my mouth shut in fear of someone finding out how little I actually knew. It wasn't until I
began working for (let's call him) "Henry" that myself and everyone realized how green to NASCAR I actually was. Throughout my career as a "suspension specialist" for Henry, I hated my job. I hated the sport. Most of all, I hated Henry. He had a way of shedding a god awful spot light on every weak area that I had as an individual and as a mechanic. He was a horrible beast in my mind. I hated his smell and the sound of his voice. The day I got another job offer I reveled at the idea of working for someone else. Greener pastures. Sunny skies. All these things were waiting for me out from under his wicked fortress of a race team. Oh happy day!
Dream on Alice. AGAIN, I soon realized that I, still, had a lot to learn. I spent the next year, in the way. The following year I spent, trying to get out of the way. Then after a few more years I realized that I was, no longer in the way. I was actually figuring all of this out. I had FINALLY put my glove on and become a player in the game.
Fast forward, to this past week in St. Louis. I am now a car chief in the Nationwide series. A position that took all seven years to truly be ready for. As I walked through the garage, looking at my feet, shuffling through the days procedures in my head. I looked up from under my hat to be standing face to face with Henry. For the first time in nearly 5 years. He smiled at me and made light conversation. "What are you doing now?" he asked. I proudly stated, like a child who had just won the spelling bee, "Car chief. I'm the car chief" I highly anticipated a critical response and in a last ditch effort to throw up an, in your face, checklist of what I had accomplished over the past five years I blurted out "I've learned a lot since I worked for you. You ignorant old bastard"..ok well I didn't say that last part, but I wanted to. As he walked away he said "I always knew you would." :gasp: What?!?! No You DIDN'T! Hmmm........Maybe he did.
I guess you could say that since I walked out of his race team I have been on a mission to prove my worth..in hopes that one day I could have my, in your face, moment with him and all the other Henrys I have faced along the way. But I guess that was his intentions all along. So once again, there I was in St. Louis with egg on my face learning another big life lesson. He taught me exactly what he wanted to.
The truth is, this sport in compiled of die hard, rough, egotistical men. I wasn't at all prepared for it. How I have survived and learned to cohabitate the garage area with these men is hard to explain. But what I do know is the "Henrys" of this sport, are the ones who have built me. When I began working for Henry I was too simple minded and sensitive to be a mechanic. I didn't deserve to be there. He wasn't going to allow me to jump ahead in line without earning my spot in the garage. Now I am grateful for that. Had he treated me like the "Harrys" I may have never made it past sweeping floors and cleaning parts. I guess it's easier to accomplish things when you have something to prove.
"Hell, there are no rules. We're trying to accomplish something here." -Thomas Edison