With each day, it seems the numbers of economic casualties in NASCAR keep piling up. In my opinion, it’s not so much reflective of the state of the sport, but reflective of America’s economy. Every day, it seems there’s a new story out about a team folding or being bought out, another driver looking for a ride or a team losing its sponsorship.
According to Jayski’s, approximately 666 NASCAR team workers have been given pink slips. It’s real easy with a number that big to forget that each number represents a life, and some of those lives are responsible for the care and feeding of others.
One such person is Patrick Reynolds, most recently an employee with Germain Racing on Mike Wallace’s #7 Geico Toyota. Today- he shares his story with us in his own words. You’ll learn more about his own personal journey into NASCAR, a story like so many others- where a person’s passion for racing led them down a winding and adventurous path. You’ll learn the inner workings of a NASCAR Nationwide Series team and all the different parts people you almost never see play an important role in ensuring a driver is put in the best possible position to win.
Above all else- you’ll learn the story of a family man with a winning attitude. Rather than face this setback with bitterness, Reynolds is using this as an opportunity to explore new opportunities.
Without any further adieu, here’s the Patrick Reynolds story, in his own words:
“I am 39 years old and a native of Connecticut. I saw my first race a local short track in 1976 and have been in love with the sport ever since. In my teens I was a volunteer crew member on friends’ weekend grassroots stock car efforts. As I neared my 20′s I was foolish enough to spend all of my own money to race myself for a few years. When I ran out of money, I went back to working on my buddies’ cars. All the while I held a real job during the week and one eye on heading south.”
“In 2001 I packed my belongings into a Ryder truck and moved to North Carolina. After knocking on a lot of doors I finally got a break and landed a job with a Busch Series team and have been making a living at this ever since.”
“I started with Germain Racing in Feb. 2008. I was assigned mechanical assembly and chassis setup work with the Mike Wallace driven Geico number 7. Assembly meaning taking a car and bolting all the pieces on it that can go on it. At this stage when the car is brought to the assembly shop, it is a chassis and body that is painted and all the welding and fabrication work is completed on it. The group I was with would install the interior, engine, drive train, suspension, fuel cell, plumbing, and electrical components.When the cars were fully assembled, myself and one other were assigned to the setup plate for chassis work and final scaling. The rest of our group were road crew on the Nationwide car, who then went on to preparing whatever they needed for track and pit equipment, and guys who floated between different car and truck assemblies.”
“At the time I was hired, Germain was fielding 2 full time Truck Series teams, the full time Nationwide team, a part time Truck Series team, and a part time ARCA team. Todd Bodine, Justin Marks, and Mike Wallace were the full time drivers and Chrissie Wallace and Sean Caisse were development drivers rotated in the 3rd truck and ARCA efforts. At its peak Germain had 80+ employees. “
“We all knew the situation coming into this year with Mike. Nationwide was the new title sponsor of the series, replacing Busch beer and had exclusivity in naming rights. Geico was grand fathered in to the series through the 2009 season, then had to move. They were free to move to the Truck Series or the Cup Series. They decided on their own, during the season, to make a move a year earlier than NASCAR required them to. Naturally, rumors began to circulate. So when the deal was finalized, the number 7 group was called to a meeting to inform us of the future. I believe this happened in July. We were told of Geico’s desire to move to the Cup Series in 2009 with Max Papis as the driver. The first year, 18 races were scheduled, and the desire was to grow it from there. A four year contract is currently in place. “
“As for the actual Nationwide team, Mike would be brought back in 2009 if he could bring a sponsor. In reality anyone could have the ride if that person brought a sponsor. If no sponsor was secured, we were told the Nationwide personnel could be absorbed into the new Cup program or the Truck programs. And possibly the team could at least start the season out of pocket to try to attract funding. I felt at the time my job was fairly secure. We were told things were OK.”
“As the season passed from summer into fall, shop rumors began circulating again about lack of future backing for the trucks and ARCA car. As we reached autumn, it was apparent at one time that the 18 Cup races with Geico was all we had signed for 2009. Late in the season Michael Annett was being given a tour of the shop. He was a development driver for Bill Davis Racing and was victorious in ARCA competition with them. Shortly thereafter we were told he was in our fold for 2009 and sponsorship for most of the 2009 Nationwide series races. Hype Energy drink and Pilot Travel Centers would be the sponsors.”
“We all thought “great”, but there was a nagging feeling that all the programs that were running and had no financial support, would still be a problem to Germain Racing as a whole.”
“Annett began bringing his seats to the shop for fitting, and he drove a second entry for the team at Homestead in the final race. That is when the rumors began to heat up in the shop. I, being a shop guy didn’t travel to the racetrack, but stayed in Mooresville prepping cars for the upcoming events. Everyone had the feeling and was talking about some layoffs when team management and crew chiefs returned from Florida.
We tested with Michael Annett two days after the final race at a very chilly Caraway Speedway in Asheboro. That was my last full day of work. The following morning there had been no personnel reduction but everyone had a feeling it was coming. Jokes were made and chuckles shared, but there was real concern below the surface for at least some people.”
“We were removing the engine from our test car from the day before when I got a tap on the shoulder by our crew chief saying I needed to go to the break room for a meeting. And that was it. I looked at one of my friends who I was working with at that moment and we knew what was happening.”
“I was done. “
“The management of Germain continued to gather the names of the people who were being let go that day, but nothing really needed to be said. We all knew. The door shut to the room, we were informed of our fate, and it was an extremely somber mood. From the men that told us, to all of us that received it. We all went back out in the shop to gather our tools and belongings and the depressed mood had already spread to those outside still working. “
“We loaded our boxes with the help of friends and the forklift into the back of the pickup trucks that so many of us own. Sometimes I think for just this occasion. I made the handshake rounds. I’ll admit I had a lump in my throat at times, and some other guys did too that day. Both laid off workers and ones still on the job. After about an hour of difficult good-byes, I was on my way home. On my way out I was told if more sponsorship was found, there is a possibility to come back. So far that hasn’t happened.I had a lot of different emotions that day. One was disappointment. This was the most fun I had on a race team professionally since I worked as a volunteer in Connecticut. Often in life when you take your passion, that you do for free and the love of the sport, and turn it into your job the fun meter can drop. It does in this business. And since I had moved to the area, this group of people was the most enjoyable to be around and make a living with.”
“I was never mad. I understand the economics of this sport and never harbored any bad feelings toward anyone at Germain. I would go back there if the opportunity ever arose to work with that group again. “
“A real low point was when I had to tell my wife. I take pride in being a good husband and father and providing for my family. This was not a good way to provide. Fortunately she has a good job herself, so the house can continue running with a tightened budget, but my male pride was damaged this day. She understood and is great about it. And she knows I will do what it takes to earn a paycheck to support the family.”
“There is where I become reflective. As a younger, single man I could roll with the punches a little better. But now there a three other people in my house that depend on me for support. And every November in this business, layoffs and personnel changes come about, but usually to a lesser extent than 2008. I wonder, how many more times do I have to put myself, my wife, and my children through another end-of-season job roulette game?”
“I love this sport and there is no other way I want to make a living and build a career, but I also have to think of my family as I approach the future. I am not sure what my next step is. I know what I want it to be. To be back part of a race team with good people that I can help grow and improve. Put down some roots and find a nice home to keep working and learning.”
“You ask how the “7″ team will handle their mechanical needs? I speculate that the people still working there will take care of it. I am not sure how many or who is still employed there. Everybody there was pretty good so I can guess they made the necessary assignments to fit their schedule.”
“This is the second time I have been at a meeting and been told things were OK for the future and things suddenly changed. In Oct. 2006 I was told by a team owner that “No one. And I mean no one has to worry about their job here next year.” In November the shop was closed and inventory was getting ready to be auctioned off. So far I am two-for-two in the good news meetings department.”
“Now writing and broadcaster is something I always paid attention to and wondered if I had the chops to do it. I am trying to take this setback and make it an opportunity. The option seems to have been handed to me right now. What better time to stick my toe in the pool and see how the water is and if I have any talent in this area.”
Readers- if you know anyone in the Mooresville, North Carolina area looking for a good mechanic, I’ve got your man right here.Perhaps someone looking to offer an opportunity for a fledgling writer or reporter has something for Reynlds. If something doesn’t break real soon for Patrick, I intend to give him opportunity to “sharpen his pen” and see if we can’t arrange an opportunity to learn more about the inner workings of a NASCAR team.
Good luck Patrick Reynolds. Thanks for sharing your story.