Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Nolan's NASCAR Dream Is Reality; He Made It from Bishop Kenny to Junior's Team

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Nolan's NASCAR Dream Is Reality; He Made It from Bishop Kenny to Junior's Team

Article excerpt

Byline: Don Coble

DAYTONA BEACH | By any standard, Jay Nolan has a dream job. And if he ever forgets, his father has a big decal on his pickup truck to remind him.

Nolan works with Dale Earnhardt Jr. at Hendrick Motorsports. He gets paid to work on his engines and travel with the team. He personally knows the most-popular driver in racing, and that means he gets to enjoy some the perks that comes with it.

Like any parent, Jay Nolan Sr. is proud of what his son has accomplished. He remembers how it took nearly two years for his son to simply get an interview at Hendrick. He remembers how he started doing menial chores with the race team and worked his way into one of the most-coveted positions in all of racing.

Nolan Sr. wasn't afraid to brag a little bit, especially when he drives the truck near his home in Jacksonville.

The rear window decal reads: "Dreams Do Come True. Our Son is With Hendrick Motorsports."

"My parents are a little proud of me," the son said with a giggle. "I'm an only child and they love to tell people the story. It's a little bit embarrassing at times, but it's all right."

"I don't apologize for being proud of my son,'' said Jay Nolan Sr. "That was his dream since he was 9 or 10 years old. I didn't mind telling everyone what he's accomplished."

Three months after graduating from Bishop Kenny High in 2002, the son moved to Charlotte, N.C., with the single goal of working for car owner Rick Hendrick.

He spent nearly 18 months trying to make that happen, driving to the race shop and hand-delivering the same resume once or twice every week.

"I just went there and pestered them," Nolan said. "I went there at least once a week, sometimes twice a week. I'd sit there from 30 minutes to two hours at a time. I just wanted to talk to somebody and I wasn't going to give up until they did."

By not going away, Nolan put himself in the right place at the right time. He originally was hired to wash engines after races. Nine years later, he's the engine tuner for Earnhardt's car.

"It was worth it," Nolan said.

Nolan's rise is contrary to the way things normally are done in NASCAR. Jobs with race teams are scarce, especially with the elite teams. For the most part, jobs are the result of nepotism. Outsiders rarely get a chance, especially ones who lack any real NASCAR skills.

"I did a bunch of crummy jobs when I got to Charlotte to pay my bills, but the only place in racing I applied was Hendrick Motorsports," Nolan said. "That's the only place I wanted to work. It's why I moved to Charlotte.

"When I went in there I said I'd do whatever they want, pay me whatever you want. Just give me a job."

Danny Emerick was the engine tuner for Jimmie Johnson until he came off the road a couple years ago to work in the company's engine shop. …

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