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Recently Technician.Academy held their Respect is Learned In the Pits contest. This contest was open to automotive technicians enrolled in a NATEF certified training program. We sat down with our winner, Kyle Clapp, to get his thought on the industry and opportunities he sees in the industry.

Kyle lives in Mayfield, Kentucky and attends West Kentucky Community and Technical College Mayfield Campus.  He started his formal automotive education in the spring of 2016, however he has automotive mechanics in the family that he has learned from and said it’s just become “a family thing”.  Racing started in his family when his grandfather used to drag race on public roads back in the ‘50s and ‘60s.  Kyle said, “there’s still people doing it now and it’s crazy… you get guys that have background in cars that are making about three to four thousand horsepower running on these very public roads and it gets dangerous!”

Each automotive class I taught this spring we encouraged the students to apply for the Respect is Learned In the Pits contest.  We felt this would be an exciting opportunity for any automotive student and looked forward to each and every application. When Kyle was asked why he wanted to sign up for this competition, he said “I’ve been a drag racer ever since I was eight years old and the first thing that comes to mind is that it’s like a dream come true! …for people that still have dreams out there, whether it’s racing or it’s any other career, if you have a dream, keep following that dream because it will come true.”  What an inspirational young man.

When we called Kyle to notify him that he had won the contest he was extremely excited! During our interview, we asked him who the first person was he shared the news with.  “Definitely my Dad, we have a real strong relationship…he told me how proud he was.”  Kyle said, “It‘s like a dream come true!”  Come to find out Kyle’s dad loves drag racing as well.  He has a 1992 Oldsmobile, bright yellow, and they named it “Outlaw Olds”.

We asked Kyle where he and his dad find their vehicles.  He said his dad’s car, the “Outlaw Olds”, they got from a junkyard. Kyle has a 1990 GMC, S-15 truck he affectionately named “Double Trouble”. When asked about the name, he said “…once you go and mess with the Outlaw Olds, you’re going to get double the trouble with my truck…” Kyle found his truck in the classifieds on the Racing Junk website which is a site for racing enthusiasts.

Technician.Academy was set to take Kyle to the regional race in St. Louis, however NHRA postponed that race due to excessive heat forecasted for the weekend.  Needless to say, this was a disappointment for Kyle as well as Technician.Academy. However, during our interview with Kyle we were excited to let him know that Megan Meyer won a Wally at the Wichita track which confirmed her regional points standing without having to race in St Louis.  This now offered Kyle the opportunity to be In the Pits at the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals race at the Lucas Oil Raceway in Indianapolis September 2nd – 4th.  Kyle’s response was, “Wow!!! I mean, me and my dad, we’ve always talked about going to the U.S. Nationals and to watch, because we’ve always watched it on TV about every year and I was just telling him and I said; I wonder what it’s like just to get in and watch there in real life…”. The excitement in his voice was priceless, he continued by saying “That’s great! I mean, it doesn’t matter if it’s in St. Louis or it’s in Indianapolis, I’m excited!”

What automotive technician wouldn’t be excited about working with the pit crew on a NHRA dragster? When asked what he is looking forward to most? He replied, “Really, what I’m looking most forward to is getting a relationship with the team. Being a part of the team and having fun is the most important thing, just to grow a bond with the team and gain a lot of knowledge for what we do on a weekend back in our home track.”

We’ve been hearing that there is a shortage of technicians in the automotive industry. So where do these technicians come from?  Technician.Academy feels one place to start is in the high schools. When Kyle was asked what his advice to high school students interested in the automotive industry would be, he had this to say, “My advice to any high school student is this; if you want to be a part of the automotive industry, that is your choice. Even though the automotive industry has its ups and downs just like in life, just follow your dream because it can happen.”

Speaking with Kyle Clapp, winner of our Respect is Learned In the Pits contest, was great.  Hearing the stories and passion that make up his automotive career was inspiring as to what we will see in the automotive technicians of tomorrow.