Editorial: Whale Watching, September/October
Your future--at work and play
The 2005 racing season got off to an unusual start: Those renowned red Italian cars did not clean up in F1, and half of the Nextel Cup ran on Saturday night. Yet I knew fuel was in the air by my regular "Race Report" e-mail updates from DND Racing.
Chances are you aren't familiar with DND Racing (www.dndracing.com). It doesn't have a big-budget racing program. No matching crew uniforms--unless the crew happens to all be in clean white T-shirts at the same time. No high-end race car with a torque value for every fastener; these guys drag race a car with no aero and no trunk. In fact, their car is an AMC Gremlin. No color-coordinated, sponsor-stickered field-length transporter, although their motorhome is nice. And they don't have the list of world records on the trophy wall (do they keep records of fast Gremlins?).
What they do have is a lot of fun--and day jobs in the car business. One of the Ds in DND Racing is a car company senior manager. Not the senior level where Bob Lutz or Bill Ford Jr. are, but senior enough that there's some discretionary income to be poured into a drag-racing campaign, one weekend at a time. Despite being senior management, by the time SEMA rolls around, D has barely enough vacation days left to make it through the first hall of the convention center, but as long he gets to the Performance Hall and can glance at the Mopar display, he's happy.
One of the first in a long succession of D's cars was a 1950 Ford, as was the 20th (give or take). He had a van "before they were cool." With an Associates in internal combustion engines and a B.S. in mechanical engineering, he joined the Big Three. He put a Wankel in a Gremlin. Met guys like Donohue, Hill, and Baker at Penske's track. Wrecked his wife's Corvette. Got together with some diesel fanatics to run a pickup across the salt at over 141 mph. Now, his weekends start as he awakens to the sound of open headers outside his motorhome.
Guys and gals like him are all over the automotive business, out breaking parts and getting dirty every chance they get. Many of them do exactly that on their day jobs, the only difference being who pays for it. Most racers will tell you that, unless you're in the top echelons, you're not doing it for the money.
One of them used to work for us and traded in his journalist's hat to put his engineering degree to work. I never saw him race, but I did see the video of his heavy, old land-speed car going through the timing lights backward, mid-spin, well above 100 mph. And I rode with him on more than one occasion because, unlike some of our other colleagues, he knew the street made a lousy racetrack. We wouldn't be surprised to find him leading the tuner division of a car company one day. Others in the group have vintage racers, Sprint cars, wee-little sports cars, Trans-Am-size behemoths, and everything in between.
It's been suggested that those lacking the wherewithal to go racing might be jealous of the guys who do, but I sincerely hope not. Regardless of how they fund it or find the time, these are the guys working on what may be your next ride, your motoring future--and you should be grateful that their blood is 102 octane (10W30 in D's case). That they enjoy cars so much they're willing to experiment and push the limits is something for which we should all be thankful. Think about that the next time you hear about some new fuel-saving technology or towing improvement that makes our lives better.
To protect the guilty, D will remain nameless. His day job is in powertrain planning, where he's primarily responsible for meeting fuel-economy standards. He calls it job security. But on weekends, he measures economy one quarter mile at a time.