Race track smarts and preparation time learned through his passion for CASCAR racing have helped Rob Neely in his day job as an auto service technician.
Neely, 28, of Mississauga, Ontario, has spent the majority of his life around racing machinery. He gained experience in go-karts then used that to succeed in the tough league of CASCAR. And along the way he earned a class A mechanic’s licence.
At the tender age of 9, Neely started racing karts. He progressed through the ranks, competing in both Canada and the United States.
His talent level as a driver showed quickly as he finished second in the World Karting Association (WKA) championship against the likes of current NASCAR Winston Cup sensation Tony Stewart.
After karts, Neely ran a couple of seasons of Sportsman cars before entering the competitive world of CASCAR at the age of 18.
“CASCAR was still growing; it was competitive and it offered a challenge I wanted to tackle,” said Neely.
“My best year came in 1991, when I won a race, had eight top 10s and finished second in the championship.
“Since then, I’ve finished ninth in 1996, with one pole position and seven top 10s, 19th in the 1998 National Series and finished the decade with a heat win and two top fives.
“Since 1991, I have run over 100 Super Series events with nearly 20 top five finishes.
“Every year the series gets more competitive and it costs more to keep up,” said Neely.
“Finding that ever-elusive sponsor is harder work than preparing and driving the racecar. But for some reason, we never give up,” Neely added.
Neely is a technician at a Midas Muffler shop in Brampton. His formal training as a mechanic has helped him in building and preparing his racecars but conversely, he also finds that the racecar has taught him some valuable lessons that have helped him at work.
When something goes wrong at the race track there is very little time to fix it, said Neely. “You have to be able to diagnose the problem quickly and then fix it so that it is safe and won’t break again during the race.
“And because I run my race team ‘after hours’, I find I have to schedule my time efficiently. Racecars can really eat time, if you’re not organized.”
Race track smarts and preparation timing have both helped Neely in his job at Midas. “The customer really appreciates my ability to diagnose a problem in a hurry,” said Neely.
“Time is money and everybody is in a hurry today, so the time saved by utilizing my race track learning gets the customer in and out of the shop faster and happier,” he said.
“The time management skills help me schedule my work day efficiently so that I will have time to get everything done, as planned and also have time to work on my racecar,” said Neely.
“It is amazing how much you can get accomplished if you take a little time to organize your day. It sure makes life easier.
“Understanding the customer’s desire to be in and out quickly, along with fixing the problem right the first time, puts my skills to the test and is appreciated by the customer.”
And what’s in store for Neely’s racing career this year?
“As I said earlier, finding sponsorship is tough,” said Neely. “CASCAR has made great gains in terms of awareness over the past couple of years but we still need more.”
Neely has the ability to field a fast and reliable racecar. The frustration of not being able to find the financial partner necessary to run a top-notch program is a recurring theme in all types of racing.
“The incredible changes that are taking place in the aftermarket have not helped either,” said Neely.
“It was tough enough getting help when you were dealing with a person in Canada. With the changes, many companies are getting their budgets from the United States parent company. I often wonder if they really know what is going on up here.”
Regardless of the changes and resulting frustration, Neely still plans on doing a partial season in 2000.
“QEW & 427 Chrysler is back as a sponsor and I am getting some help from Midas. After that, I don’t know what is next. We’ll run as long as we can on the money we have and the prize money we can win,” lamented Neely.
“We’re not giving up, we’re still working hard to find more sponsorship. I know I can still have a good season, it just takes money.”
The 19 years Neely has been racing have been good ones. The lessons learned from racing will make him a better technician. Just don’t count him out of the winner’s circle, yet. SSGM