Elite Racing Spotlight: Charlie Garrett the Power Behind the Team
At the age of 69 most people are retired and have accomplished most of their goals, but not renowned engine builder Charlie Garrett. After 45 years of working in racing, Garrett is now more determined than ever to build the best motors in sprint car racing.
Growing up on a farm in Pennsylvania, Garrett did not have an interest in auto racing until he got his driver's license at sixteen. It was at that time that he realized that he wanted to go fast, no matter what it took. Early in his career Garrett honed his skills in drag racing and was always interested in the challenge of building motors and trying to make more horsepower.
"We had a variety of NHRA eliminator cars," Garrett explained. "Then from 1983 to 1996, I ran NHRA Pro-Stock which is a very competitive category. The car I drove ran as fast as 202 miles per hour on a quarter mile. That is probably one of the toughest categories to build engines for. They are normally aspirated and do not use super chargers, so you are building it a lot like a sprint car engine. You are depending on Mother Nature to put the air into it."
After building his engine shop in Hanover, Pennsylvania in 1965, it seemed inevitable that his focus would switch from drag racing to sprint cars, since the area has always been known as a hotbed of sprint car racing.
"We have a half-dozen tracks within about fifteen miles of my shop," explained Garrett. "There are a lot of people who live in this area just because of sprint car racing. They obviously knew of my background in drag racing and the technology developed in drag racing was always ahead of sprint car racing, so they came to me. A lot of sprint car guys just started coming to my shop and asked me to do their motors. Eventually my drag race work turned into all sprint car work because there are so many people in this area that do that type of racing."
It would be another driver's misfortune that would lead Garrett to meet Jason Meyers for the first time. At the time Meyers was filling in for Craig Dollansky who was injured.
"I am not sure about the exact year, but I think it was about 2003 when I first met Jason," Garrett recalled. "I was doing all of Craig's motors at the time and D.J. Lindsey, who is now Jason's crew chief, brought him to the shop. I met Jason that way and have been doing his motors ever since.
From first working with Jason his talent and skill as a driver were apparent, but what Garrett remembered most was the finesse and respect that he showed at the track.
"Jason is easy on equipment," Garrett explained. "He really respects motors, so if he thinks he has a problem, he will bring it in rather than blowing it up. We have probably built twelve engines for Jason and have never blown any of them up. I am only a one man shop, so if something happens to a motor they know who they can blame."
After forty-five years of motor building experience, Garrett is still determined to be the best out there. From the time he joined forces with Elite Racing, he looked at it as an opportunity that he could not pass up.
"I do not mind working fifty or sixty hours a week to make this team (Elite Racing) successful," stated Garrett. "I was a farm boy. I was born and raised on a farm and I know D.J. (Lindsey) was as well. If one thing is for sure farm boys are not afraid of work or challenges. When I take on a challenge, I get it done. They came to me and wanted me to be their engine builder. When I make that commitment I make sure I can get the job done. I do not make a commitment unless I know I can back it up. I have a very strong desire to keep that commitment to the team. I told Chris (Luck) and D.J. (Lindsey), I do not want to be the weak link of this team and I will hold my part of the deal up. "
When asked about his goals for 2010, there were three items that Garrett would like to accomplish with Elite Racing. The first two are becoming Knoxville National titleholders, and taking the 2010 World of Outlaws title, but the one that is most near and dear to his heart is a victory close to home.
"There are not many people who do not know Williams Grove and what it means to sprint car racing," Garrett began. "To win at Williams Grove is very difficult. There is a lot of competition in this area. I keep kidding Jason, because he is one of the few drivers that I have worked with that has not won at Williams Grove. To win at the Grove with Jason would mean a lot, for sure. Everyone who is in sprint car racing, that is one track they want to have on their resume. It would probably mean just as much to me as it would for him. That track takes a lot of horsepower, so it is definitely a track you need a good motor for. There are a few things we have not accomplished together yet and that is one of them. I think he is close."
At the end of the day Garrett is a humble man who knows how lucky he has been to have made a living in the auto racing industry. He also does not take his position with Elite Racing for granted. He knows how lucky he is to be a part of a world-class team.
"I think I work for the best group I could ask for and consider myself very fortunate to have the opportunity to build motors for Elite Racing," Garrett expressed. "I would never trade it. It is easy to say you want to win, but going out there and putting the effort into doing it is different. I am not about money. I am about working for the right people. I have worked with a lot of people over the years with this business and I have never worked with a better driver in Jason (Meyers), a better crew chief than D.J. (Lindsey) and a better ownership group than Chris (Luck) and Guy (Stockbridge). Every person on the team is what I call good people and we are all serious about doing this and doing it right. If you are not going to do it that way, then why do it? I consider myself a very lucky person to be involved with this team."
-source: elite racing