High school hockey player handling tires instead of pucks HOUSTON, TX.As captain of his high school hockey team, Brent Figueira, Jr., handled plenty of black, round, rubber objects. As a member of the Kumho Tires service crew at American...
High school hockey player handling tires instead of pucks
HOUSTON, TX.As captain of his high school hockey team, Brent Figueira, Jr., handled plenty of black, round, rubber objects. As a member of the Kumho Tires service crew at American Le Mans Series races, he's still handling black, round, rubber objects-they just weigh a lot more than a six- ounce hockey puck.
Figueira has been playing ice hockey since he was four years old and developed an interest in cars around the same age. "I've liked cars for as far back as I can remember," said Figueira. "I started out playing with Hot Wheels and then started getting serious about it around sixth or seventh grade, reading magazines and books."
He hopes to parlay that love of cars into a career and is following a path that will help him realize his goal. He attends Bay High in Bay Village, OH, in the mornings and then takes automotive classes in the afternoons at Lakewood High School in Lakewood, OH. After graduation this June, he plans to attend college and major in mechanical engineering.
Meanwhile, he's spending his weekends this spring and summer learning about race tires and professional motorsports while earning some money for college. As part of the Kumho crew, he mounts and balances race tires, helps move equipment and tires and lends a hand wherever he's needed.
"I'd never thought much about the motorsports side of cars," he said. "I was really just kind of into luxury and custom cars. But now I'm big into motorsports. I thought I knew a lot about cars until I saw the cars that are involved in this series. I can kind of identify with some of the stuff, but it's a whole new species of cars. It's a great learning experience. The technology behind the cars is just incredible."
As a hockey player, Figueira has gone over ice rink boards thousands of times. Yesterday he went over the boards-or in this case the pit wall- for the first time to take tire pressures on the Intersport Racing LMP1 car during a practice session at the Grand Prix of Houston.
"I could feel the pressure of the situation," said Figueira. "Everything happens so quickly. I was taking tire pressures and it seemed like the valve caps would not come off or go back on quick enough. Everybody was watching and it was a little nerve wracking the first time, but it's fun being part of the action instead of just watching."
Figueria earned the right to wear the captain's "C" on his high school hockey jersey because of his passion and the intensity with which he played the game, and he sees those same traits among competitors in the American Le Mans Series.
"The intensity here is amazing," noted Figueira. "Once race time comes, even during practice and qualifying, it's go time. I was surprised by the focus, especially down in the pits. It's just unreal. Even back at the Kumho trailer, when we're mounting tires we've got a lot to do and it's all business. You've got to do what you've got to do and stay focused."
What does the Kumho crew think of having the 18-year-old Figueira around? "He fits right in," said Jason Myers, motorsports technician for Kumho. "He's working out well and he's got a genuine interest in cars and motorsports. At the start of the season he had no idea what he was getting into. Now he's going over the wall for our P1 team that's competing against the Audi factory team. That's pretty impressive."
And what do his classmates and teachers think of what he's doing? "Well, thanks to the picture of me with the Kumho girls, they're pretty jealous," laughed Figueira. "But really, I know I'm lucky and I know they would all love to have the same experience."
Like everyone who's part of the American Le Mans Series, Figueira discovered there's some glamour associated with working at famous races like the Twelve Hours of Sebring and the Long Beach Grand Prix. He got a taste of that first-hand while standing in the pits last week at Long Beach.
A father on the other side of the fence behind the pits asked Figueira to pose for a picture with his teenage daughters. The humble hockey player in him tried to get out of it. "I'm not a driver," he said. He had no choice but to pose for the photo when one of the daughters replied, "Yeah, but you're hot."