It's a Rockwell image - a sunny day, a placid lake, father and son quietly fishing together. Joe and Jay Policastro did the expected for 10 years before they realized neither craved the solitude of fishing. They swapped fishing poles for pole ...
It's a Rockwell image - a sunny day, a placid lake, father and son quietly fishing together. Joe and Jay Policastro did the expected for 10 years before they realized neither craved the solitude of fishing. They swapped fishing poles for pole positions and haven't looked back.
Jay remembers: "He used to take me on these fishing trips every year with some other fathers and their sons. Everyone used to talk about how great they were. One year, I finally said, 'Dad, I hate to fish!' As it turns out, he only went because he thought I liked it. We canceled that year and went to a NASCAR race instead. Neither one of us has fished since."
They quickly ditched the tranquility of fishing and charged into the high-speed world of motorsport. Joe started racing autocross, with young Jay thrilled to ride in the passenger seat. They took time off to build a successful international business, then returned to the track, initially racing historic cars, now sharing the No. 44 Orbit Racing Porsche 911 GT3 RS in Rolex Sports Car Series competition.
They're a well-matched pair, contributing complementary skills and passions.
"I'm not here to try to set world records," Joe explained. "I follow a steady course, knowing the direction without experimenting too much. Jay brings youth and excitement. Jay keeps us on the edge and I can add to that, so it's beneficial to both of us."
"My dad brings the organization to the team. I act as the teacher or liaison between the track and my dad," Jay added. "Our approach is the same for everything; it is a way of life. We figure out what needs to be done, then we support each other as needed. No ego. We decide what we want to do and get it done."
Their lives link at several levels. Jay is president of Classic Industries, the company his father built to provide contract manufacturing for Fortune 500 medical-device and pharmaceutical companies. Joe is chief executive officer, providing sage advice, but distancing himself from the daily decision-making.
"I've given Jay the responsibility to run the company," Joe said. "I don't try to second-guess him by coming in with half-answers when he knows the whole situation. I back off a lot. We've grown the company considerably under his control."
Their racing roles are reversed - Joe handles the day-to-day team interaction, Jay is counsel and coach. It's a successful pairing; Joe has already knocked two seconds off his lap time at Homestead-Miami Speedway with Jay's careful analysis and input.
Their personal lives are connected, too. Their homes in Latrobe, Pa., are joined by a race track, built so Jay's three children can race up the hill to visit their grandparents. They're close, but not obsessively so. Both Joe and Jay have learned the fine art of balancing individual and shared experience.
"We respect each other's space," Jay explained. "We have learned almost like a third sense over the years how to provide distance or not. It just always seems to work out."
"Sometimes it feels too close and sometimes it doesn't feel close enough," Joe acknowledged. "You need to know where to draw the line, and I think it's more difficult for a father than it is for a son because the father instinct is to always be the protector."
The two personify different management styles. Jay follows the work-to-deadline theory; Joe honors the scouting motto to always be prepared.
"I'm kind of laid back and calculate everything so it is done right on time," Jay said. "My dad likes to have it done two hours beforehand. He will get all his clothes lined up and perfect before he puts his [driver] suit on. I just roll them up in a ball and put on the suit.
"Airports are the best. He shows up for a flight two hours ahead; for me, 30 minutes [before flight time] is 10 too soon. I think I make him nervous when he travels with me. Just for the record, I have missed fewer flights than him."
Similarities and differences all merge on track, where only one thing counts - winning. Joe and Jay landed a big one at this year's Rolex 24 at Daytona, where they combined with Mike Fitzgerald, Robin Liddell and Johnny Mowlem for the GT victory. Orbit Racing led the class for all but 97 minutes of the 24-hour race, took the GT trophy and finished second overall.
It was a sweet moment for father and son to celebrate together. Now that it's history, they have another goal - to win with three generations of Policastros. Jay's daughters Christina, Sara and Aine Marie are tuning up on their home track under the watchful eyes of their father and grandfather.
"We built a go-kart track from his house to our house and the kids really enjoy it," Joe reported. "Our goal was that some day Jay and I and one of his daughters would drive together in something like the Daytona 24-hour. It would be a quest, something unique to do."
But racing is not required. As he advised Jay, so Joe advises his granddaughters: "Follow your instincts. Don't do it because your parents did it. If you really enjoy it and you really want to do it, then do it. If you think you're going to enjoy it, go for it."
And, hey! If they don't like racing, there's always fishing ...