NEMCO Motorsports Puts Coach Behind The Wheel
In an era where most rookie drivers in the top NASCAR series are young enough to still be in school, NEMCO Motorsports opted for a different approach by entering a teacher instead of a student for four NASCAR races in 2005. Chris Cook, a driving instructor for NASCAR drivers including NEXTEL Cup champion Tony Stewart, Dave Blaney, Kenny Wallace and Tim Fedewa for more than a decade, will enter the road-course events at Mexico City (Busch Series), Watkins Glen (Nextel Cup and Busch Series) and Infineon Raceway (Nextel Cup) with the NEMCO Motorsports team.
Cook, 33, who owns the driver coaching and testing company Shift Into Gear, has more than 20 years of racing experience. He has raced everything from late-model stocks at the Nashville Fairgrounds ("Rookie of the Year" in 1992), to less traditional categories like the Alaska Ice Racing Series, Grand-Am Racing Series and the Formula Drift Series. Cook has one previous start in a NASCAR Busch Series event at Watkins Glen in 1999. He ran as high as second place until a mechanical failure ended his race.
"I haven't stopped thinking about getting back into a stock car since that day at Watkins Glen," Cook said. "It was a high point of my competitive career. Here I was, an unknown in the stock car world... If it wasn't for a five-dollar part, I might have been on the podium."
Cook earned the new opportunity through the financial backing of Western Pennsylvanian entrepreneur and racing enthusiast Chris Evans, one of Cook's students.
"There are so many talented people out there with great hearts and who never give up on their dreams," Evans explained. "Chris is one of those people with extraordinary talent. His story is an inspiration to people who think the mountain is too high to climb."
Cook and Evans met with NEMCO team owner Joe Nemechek and General Manager Randy Usher late last year.
"Chris has driven so many types of racecars," said Nemecheck, "and this is an opportunity to see what he can do against the Busch and Cup guys. Partnering with Chris and Chris Evans is an opportunity to improve our road course performance. We've had a lot of success on the road courses in the past, and they will bring a lot of experience to our program."
"We hit it off right away," said Usher, who is in charge of the day-to-day operations at NEMCO. "These guys know their stuff, and their approach was unlike any other driver / owner we had met before. At first, I was concerned because I had never heard of Chris Cook. I went to Tony Stewart earlier that day and asked about him. Tony gave him a ringing endorsement on his ability and the great things we could expect. That made us confident Chris had a legitimate chance to win for Nemco."
With a testing schedule in place, the search for primary sponsorship has begun. Cook's support from Stewart has generated interest from companies focused on the Hispanic market for the Mexico City event, as well as companies located near his birthplace of Sonoma, Calif., also home of Infineon Raceway.
"Cook's background - and his chance to run these events - would make a good documentary film," adds Pete Roe, Business and Sponsorship Manager for NEMCO Motorsports. "He fits the mantra of NEMCO; people come first and we find a way to make it work through business."
Chris and his fiancee Tabitha Meready are relocating to North Carolina from Phoenix and will continue to operate the Shift into Gear business.