Get in the Game – NASCAR Mechanics

If you’re into mechanics and cars, then perhaps this scenario appeals to you. Just picture this: as you stand at your station, you are patient despite the excitement that abounds. Screaming fans, loud engines, and brightly colored cars surround you. This is where you work. As your car pulls into the pit, you work like a maniac to make sure your driver can get back out on that track. You may not change tires or gas up the car, but you ensure the proper working of the vehicle so that your team can win! After all, you are one of the best NASCAR mechanics.

Steer Your Way to a Mechanic Career

NASCAR mechanics have a variety of tasks in which they may specialize, including tires, brakes, and welding. And it’s best to attend mechanic schools to learn these skills. Just ask Lee Bob Cunningham. During the week he works as a mechanic on the Aaron’s Toyota Camry (#99) in the Busch Series, fielded by Michael Waltrip Racing, and at races, Cunningham shifts gears, changing rear tires in the pit. But Cunningham didn’t just walk off the street and into a job at NASCAR after he realized he wanted to work with cars. His decision, prompted him to decide on one of the mechanic schools, the NASCAR Technical Institute (Mooresville, NC), to provide him with training that would get him the job he desired.

“I’ve been a big NASCAR fan for as long as I can remember,” says Cunningham. When he heard that there was a school where he could learn to do what NASCAR mechanics do, Cunningham looked into it immediately. He needed to gas up his mechanic career in order to go far. After spending about a year and a half at the school, Cunningham was ready to look for work with teams seeking NASCAR mechanics. He had had training in many different concentrations, as each class lasts for three weeks. He learned basic automotive skills, along with fabricating, welding, and set-up. He then attended a training school that taught him to do a pit stop correctly.

Crossing the Finish Line

After attending one of the country’s mechanic schools, Cunningham began putting his resume out to everyone he could. “I tried out with a lot of teams,” he says. “You start to know a lot of people that way.” This kind of networking is extremely vital in securing a job as one of the NASCAR mechanics. In October 2005, Cunningham received an offer for a job as the eighth employee at Michael Waltrip Racing. “I wanted to learn just coming out of school,” he says. “It was a start-up and a small shop so I got to know people quickly and they got to know me. It was a good learning experience for me.”

Cunningham says that the most challenging part is the competition both on and off the racetrack. “The pit crew is pretty challenging because you are competing against some of the Cup guys and people who have been at it for 15 years,” he says. But with a certificate and training at an accredited institution, you’re sure to get great experience and train to become one of the great NASCAR mechanics.

Competition is also fierce among peers. “The probability of getting in [as one of the NASCAR mechanics] right away is pretty slim,” he says. “The teams usually call the school for the top five people and there were roughly 1,600 kids in my program.” But one shouldn’t allow that to get in the way of a dream. Cunningham didn’t. His advice to overcome this obstacle? “Never give up,” he says. He knows how hard it is to start out and not know anyone. However, “if you keep going back to the same places and ask for the same people, they get to know you.” By making yourself a known presence you’re sure to get somewhere, he says.

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