Germain Racing’s 2008 Nationwide Series entry with Mike Wallace behind the wheel was author Patrick Reynolds’ latest employment before layoffs hit the NASCAR industry.
I have lost my job before. It is devastating but part of the business I made my living in. I feel firsthand the pain that many are going through. Careers in professional NASCAR competition are not immune.
I was a NASCAR team mechanic in recent years. My last year in competition was 2008 with Germain Racing. The entire industry near my Charlotte area home suffered through massive layoffs and downsizing, not unlike many sectors of American business. The Germain team was affected by sponsorship hardships and forced to let many good people go.
As I tried to rebound and land with another team, the ugly truth kept staring me square in the face. No teams were hiring and all teams were laying off. Estimates were over 1,000 of my fellow racing brothers were walking the streets trying to find employment.
The morning after I read the Internet announcement of Tommy Baldwin’s team opening in early 2009 there was a line of guys and a steady stream of vehicles in and out of his shop parking lot. I know this because I was one of them. Tommy was polite, friendly and gracious but there was a literal pile of resumes of those who had been there before me.
My passion for auto racing has been burning for over 30 years and it wasn’t about to die out now, in spite of the economic situations that our country and favorite sport had fallen into.
Turning wrenches on racecars is something I love but I knew that in the future, a shop’s physical demands would convince my body to require a different avenue for my livelihood. I envisioned doing something with the media arm of motorsports. In a way a quarterback would head to a broadcast booth following retirement.
I put out feelers with television, radio, print and electronic media. Doors in freelance writing began to open up. The Internet with its growing NASCAR coverage was giving me an opportunity to hone my writing skills and develop a resume. I was able to take my personal garage experience and share it with the race fans, an angle that few in the media could offer.
It appeared that a future would be available as a reporter. I have worked hard in the past year to gain a foothold and try to establish a quality reputation. Then like a ton of bricks, the news hit. The massive layoffs that were a part of the race team workforce now became part of the media. NASCAR Scene, a trade paper started in the 1970s was laying off some well-known writers and staff members.
People I had read for years were now out of a job. Steve Waid is someone whom I have never met but certainly felt I knew. A personal connection was formed from reading his work since 1985. Now 25 years later after I first acknowledged his byline, we are gunning for the same job openings.
At the risk of sounding self-centered and narcissistic, Scene’s folding hurt my plans as I tried to rebuild my own career. Talented writers with years of experience are now looking for a home.
The past year of my own life has been a professional struggle but I have found an alternate avenue I truly enjoy in the sport. The competition for opportunities has just been increased.
My self-pity wallowing has not lasted long. The talented folks from NASCAR Scene are people just like me. They have families, bills and responsibilities. And once I settled into the situation from a non-selfish point of view my heart went out to them.
I know all too well the feeling of telling your spouse that you lost your job. The household finances need to be examined under a microscope. The ego is beyond bruised. I wish I had no point of reference. But I do.
The former NASCAR Scene staff members face a challenge shared by many United States citizens. I have found a large percentage of the NASCAR workforce to be of strong ethics and quality character. I wish every one of the ex-Scene staffers the very best. My own advice is to keep focused, stay positive and face this situation with the chin up.
Auto racing is a tough business, often with no conscience or regard for a person’s well being. Times like these require us to remember why we fell in love with it to begin with.
(Patrick Reynolds is a former NASCAR mechanic who co-hosts the One and Done Radio Show on Tuesdays at 11 am ET. Check it out at www.wsicweb.com.)
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