Charley Pressley, Crew Chief

"Racing is a passion of mine," Pressley said. " I grew up in it and love it more as every day passes. It's all I ever wanted to be and it's all I ever want to do."

At the age of seven, Charley Pressley helped his father start his racing career. By the time he was in high school, Pressley would get off the school bus, change clothes and run to the shop built in his back yard to get elbow-deep in grease. That is where Charley Pressley discovered his love in life -- RACING.

"Racing is a passion of mine," Pressley said. " I grew up in it and love it more as every day passes. It's all I ever wanted to be and it's all I ever want to do."

In the beginning Pressley dabbled in it all, from helping his father race to driving his own cars from 1973-1975. But the experience he gained from getting behind the wheel helps him in his current position as crew chief of the No. 55 Schneider Electric Chevrolet.

"I already knew how to work on the cars," Pressley said. "The driving experience helps me see what changes need to be made - and once they are, what they are going to do to the car. I know what a driver has to go through week in and week out driving the car -- both from the physical and the mental aspects."

In the late 70's Pressley began life on the road as the head/chief mechanic for his father. "My dad was a late model sportsman racer," Pressley said. "He competed against the likes of the great Jack Ingram, Harry Gant and Morgan Shepard in the 70's. In 1977 --1978 my dad drove for Leo Jackson in the late model championship series, which is now the BUSCH Series. We ran 94 races in one season, finishing second to Butch Lindley, and we only lost by about 90 points."

During this time their father-son relationship became so much more. "My dad is my mentor. He is the one who got me started in racing from a driver's standpoint. In my eyes he is the best driver. He raced against both Dale Earnhardt and his father, and won. He competed against some of the greatest names and gave them a run for their money when he raced. He is an excellent driver. I always told my brother Robert that if he or I could be half as good as dad, a lot of people would be in trouble."

During the 1980's Pressley worked with various teams and drivers in the BUSCH Grand National Series. Pressley worked with Brad Teague, Charley Henderson and Tim Richmond before holding a crew chief position with Morgan Shepard.

From 1989-1992 Pressley joined team owner Leo Jackson as the car chief for the Skoal Bandit team in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series. Ironically, the crew chief for driver Harry Gant was Andy Petree, now owner of the Schneider Electric Chevy.

"Andy was a great crew chief," Pressley said. "I enjoy working with him and learned a lot from him while we were with Leo Jackson. I knew then, and still know now, that he'll be my mentor when I need him. When I get stuck, he'll help me out. I couldn't want a better person or a more knowledgeable person to go and bounce ideas off. He is one of the best crew chiefs that has ever worked in the Winston Cup Series."

In 1993 Petree left Jackson's team to work with driver Dale Earnhardt and car owner Richard Childress, where he claimed back-to-back-championships. Pressley then moved into the crew chief position for Gant and helped him gain seven top-10 finishes and a pole starting spot on the grid. But Gant left the program at the end of the year, opening the door for rookie driver Robert Pressley to step into the Skoal car. Charley stayed on as crew chief and together the brothers had one top-10 and two outside-pole-starting positions.

"There is a lot of pressure when you work with family members," Pressley said. "Sometimes you tend to try too hard. Both of us wanted to succeed so badly and wanted to make the other one the hero at the same time. We both enjoyed working together, but it just got very stressful."

In October 1996, Petree bought the No. 33 team from Jackson and claimed the crew chief title through the beginning stages of his ownership. Pressley moved to Larry Hedrick's garage and became the crew chief for Ricky Craven, where the duo claimed their first pole at Martinsville. Pressley and Craven finished the season with five top-10s and two poles under their belts. In 1997 and for the first half of 1998, Pressley continued to work at Hedrick's with driver Steve Grissom claiming six top-10 finishes.

By now a seasoned veteran crew chief, Pressley got a new opportunity in July 1998. He joined Morgan-McClure and driver Bobby Hamilton where he helped the team gain Hamilton one of his best points finishes in 10th place. The team claimed five top-10 finishes in the second half of the season alone. Although Hamilton credits Pressley for turning the program around, Pressley attributes their success together to good tools.

"The best tool in every equation is a good driver," Pressley said. "And the best thing about Bobby is that he is a smart driver. He is a driver that not only understands what the car is doing, but he also knows how to get out and fix it himself. Bobby has a great mechanical mind. I respect him so much as a driver/friend and I think he has the same respect for me as a crew chief. It enables us to take the benefit of what was there and work with it."

Hamilton went to the APR race shop for Pressley's first day on the job to show his support. "I went because I felt it was important to show the team I'm behind Charley 100%," Hamilton said. "And as I thought, they welcomed him as I did. The bottom line for this year is that I want to run even better than last season. Because Charley and I have worked together in the past, there is no learning curve. That will make a difference right off the bat. We both want to win races and we will."

Pressley added, "I can relate when Bobby talks about something in the car. It's just as simple as whether it's loose or pushing. Because I've driven, the terminology and communication between us helps me understand what he's saying. For some reason we speak the same language. We have the same southern slang terms. When he says the car won't cut in the middle, I know what he's talking about."

In 1999 Pressley left Morgan-McClure to become a consultant with Jasper Motorsports and his brother Robert. Although the consulting position faltered, Pressley finished out the season with driver Ricky Craven and the Midwest Transit team. The Midwest sponsorship fell through at the end of the season, leaving Pressley open to pursue outside interests in 2001.

Now in 2002, the solid relationship with Andy Petree has once again come into play with Pressley's racing career. Since he left the race shop in Flat Rock, N.C. in 1996, Petree has expanded his roots from the No. 33 team to a multi-car operation, adding the No. 55 team in 1999. This season Pressley joins the Schneider Electric Racing Team as crew chief for Hamilton and the No. 55 Chevy.

"I have been around a long time at a lot of these racetracks and I have a lot of experience at them. So does Bobby," Pressley said. "It is the perfect setup. I am so excited about the opportunity to work with Bobby again. Last time we hit the charts hard and I hope to do the same thing again this year.

"We are both using the same approach to this," Pressley said. "Some would call it an aggressive, but still laid back, mentality. Bobby and I are both basic fundamental people. We start at the beginning and work our way down to what needs to be done. We build a good base and work with what we have started. With Schneider Electric behind us, I see this being a very long-term relationship between Bobby, Andy and me."

-apr/ls-