Real ResultsJanuary 10, 2014
Joe Bisson: Waltrip Racing
Joe Bisson has had a passion for racing for as long as he can remember. He started driving as a kid when he realized he wanted to make his life’s passion his life’s work.
“I thought if I couldn’t drive racecars, I really want to work on them,” he said. “That’s what brought me to the program at PHCC.”
Bisson currently works as an engineer for Michael Waltrip Racing for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. He organizes the engineering, takes care of business on the racetrack, and works with the head engineer and crew chief. Bisson recently worked as a shop support engineer for the No. 55 team where he took care of everything at the shop. He’ll start traveling with the team as he starts his new position.
“It worked out really well,” he said. “After one year, I’m getting to step up to this position that goes to the racetrack.”
Bisson said starting out, he didn’t realize he could even be an engineer, and instead focused his sights on being a mechanic. Once he finished PHCC’s two-year Motorsports Technology program and heard about the four-year engineering program at Old Dominion University, he jumped at the opportunity.
“I really enjoyed the partnership PHCC has with ODU,” he said. “It’s a real advantage to be able to do the mechanical side of things and the engineering part. Now, I work on cars very rarely, but having that experience is invaluable.”
Looking back on his education at PHCC, he said the hands-on teaching and technical courses were great, but his instructors also taught him a lot more about the business.
“Talmage (Thomas), Denver (Smith) and Lou (LaRosa) all taught relative subjects that I use now, but they also taught us how to conduct ourselves in the business – there’s a lot of non-written protocols of the industry,” Bisson said.
“A lot of people can teach you how to turn a wrench, but the PHCC instructors all had experience working in the industry. That stands out more to me than anything.”
Bisson said it takes hard work and perseverance in the racing industry, but there are a few things that can make someone standout to prospective employers.
“I did a lot of internships while I was still in school,” he said. “I volunteered for three different race teams, and I don’t think I got paid more than a couple hundred bucks throughout the whole deal. You have to get your foot in the door to meet people in the industry.”
Bisson graduated from PHCC in 2012 and finished his engineering technology degree from ODU in 2012. He started working for Michael Waltrip Racing in January 2013.
Drew Ramsey: NASCAR Tech Official
Drew Ramsey had a few bumps in the road on his way to a career with NASCAR, but he said with hard work and perseverance, anything is possible.
“I was born racing,” Ramsey said. “While the other kids were hanging out at the mall, I was getting dirty behind the wheel of a go-kart.”
Ramsey had an uncle and cousin who raced, and while it started out as fun, it became a competition. In 2008-2009, he became a crewmember with Taylor Brothers Motorsports out of Madison, Va. He worked with tires, racecar preparation and shop repairs, along with other jobs on the racetrack.
He began his college education at Central Virginia Community College in the paramedic program, but soon transferred to the University of Northwestern Ohio in the high performance engine program. When he realized it would be one year before he would work on a racecar, a family friend referred him to Patrick Henry Community College.
Ramsey said he felt PHCC was the place where he could learn more about the technical aspect of racecars and expand his knowledge. As he settled into the program, disaster struck when he was in a serious car accident on his way to class.
Although his injuries kept him bedridden and in a wheelchair for some time, PHCC instructors like Talmage Thomas prepared lesson plans so he could continue his studies from home. With a lot of support from his classmates and instructors, Ramsey said he returned to class even with his wheelchair and crutches.
“I couldn’t have asked for a better place to be; to have that kind of thing happen and to be fortunate enough to come back,” he said.
Ramsey graduated from PHCC in May 2011. After filling out an application to NASCAR at the suggestion of a friend, he landed an interview and got a position with the K&N Pro Series.
“Working with the NASCAR family is a dream come true,” he said. “It’s not easy, but never give up. Always work harder than the next guy.”
Alex Baker: Head Official for Sprint Cup Series
PHCC’s program in Motorsports Technology was the right fit for Alex Baker, who works for the NASCAR as a technical inspector and official for the engine department.
Baker said it’s tough coming out of school without any true job experience in the industry, but being prepared with the right education is the first step to success.
“The hands-on applications were the most helpful aspects of the program – first on the chassis side of things with Talmage (Thomas) and Denver (Smith), and then on the engine side with Lou (LaRosa),” he said.
“With me being in engines, Lou’s classes really helped me. There are things I notice every day – simple tasks like reading a micrometer – that you need to know. These instructors give you all the basic skills you need to have a career in the industry.”
Baker said it also helps to take it a step further and have an engineering background.
“It gave me that extra perspective where I could talk their language and translate to mechanics and everyone else,” he said.
Baker’s main job during the racing season as an official is to inspect engines on the racetrack. He said he deals a lot with fuel injection systems.
“NASCAR has treated me well, and it would be great to move up; maybe to an engineering position or a supervisor,” he said. “I really like fuel injection, so I would like to learn as much as I can about it.”
In the off-season, he works at the NASCAR Research and Development Center in Concord, N.C. He said they look to prepare for the next season by reorganizing and updating technology, and they decide whether to approve submitted parts for the upcoming race season.
Baker has worked for NASCAR for a year and a half and said the biggest advice he can offer motorsports students is to always be on time “because your boss won’t put up with it.”
“Some people don’t realize how many hours we work; it’s not uncommon to work 60-70 hours a week during the season,” he said. “Lou always said he never wore a watch because it didn’t matter if you have work to do. He taught great lessons for a foundation to have a great career in racing.”
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