Behind Victory & Defeat: Joe Fitzpatrick

1 year ago Racing

Title: Fabrication Shop Manager
Team: Don Schumacher Racing

I grew up in a race-loving family – the passion was real. We all went as a family to the NHRA US Nationals every year. I had always wanted to work for Don Schumacher Racing, so during the last three months of technical school, I started sending my resume to DSR every week. I didn’t hear anything back, so after I graduated, I started making routine visits to the shop.

Four months later and bummed out, I secured an interview with a shop across the street from DSR. After finishing the interview, I decided to head over to DSR in person…again. That’s when I met Mike Neff, the Crew Chief for Gary Scelzi’s Mopar® Funny Car. The team had just won the Funny Car World Championship and I congratulated him on his win. We talked for a little while and Mike informed me they weren’t hiring at the moment, but he agreed to take my number and promised he’d call if something opened up. I left DSR that day on cloud 9, but still without my dream job.

I went back to work in Northern Indiana at my Uncle Jon’s towing company. I was out on a tow when I missed the call of a lifetime. Mike Neff followed through on his promise and called to let me know that DSR had an open position in the fab shop and he wanted me to come in for an interview the next day.

I went back to my uncle’s business and told him I had to leave. He was bummed, but having driven a Funny Car himself for a long time, he always encouraged me to follow my passion.

The next day, I had my interview. I had to be there at 7 a.m. and I lived over 90 miles away. I was so excited, I was up all night. Seriously, I don’t think I slept a wink. I was on the road by 5 a.m. fighting my nerves the whole way to the shop. I arrived early, so I parked across the street and tried to calm down.

At 7 a.m., Mike met me at the door and brought me in. It was surreal to walk in the shop and look down the aisle at all the rigs and racecars. I remember being intimidated by the size of the shop and the equipment. I was a nervous wreck.

Mike took me to a welding bench and handed me several pieces of 4130 tubing and a pneumatic die grinder with a small barrel sander on it. He told me to notch the tubing and weld them together. He said he’d come back in a few minutes to check on me.

I was so nervous I was shaking, so when I started to weld, I stuck the tungsten to the metal. I continued to struggle and got about halfway through welding the first piece when Mike came back. I told him I was nervous but would get the rest done shortly. He shrugged and said, “It’s all good. You got the job.”

I started at 7 a.m. on January 2, 2006. I didn’t even ask how much they were paying. I just couldn’t wait to start building racecars for DSR! Even after all these years, I still have a lot to learn. And I hope that never changes. I never walk in thinking I know everything. That breeds complacency. If I ever feel I have nothing left to learn, then I think it will be time for me to find something else to do.

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