Auto Service World
Feature   February 1, 2000   by Rob Tanner

Stoking The Competitive Fires

For Jim Patrick, transmission specialist and race driver, the competitive elements in both pursuits keep up his enjoyment level.

Jim Patrick, 33 of Delaware, Ont., is a dedicated mechanic and frustrated race car driver.

Patrick started going to races, with his father Al, when he was four years old. His first taste of racing was with dirt bikes. “I soon learned you could get hurt falling off one of those things,” said Patrick.

His first car racing experience came as a surprise. “I helped my dad prepare a car for the annual enduro at Delaware and was excited about being in the pits for him,” related Patrick.

“I didn’t know it at the time, but my dad had put my name on the entry form as the driver. I was 15!”

For the next five years, young Jim raced in the street stock class in cars he and his dad built with the help of some friends. “It was a good learning experience but I guess, as any race driver does, I wanted to go faster and move to the big time.”

At age 21, Jim and Patrick Racing entered the big leagues of the CASCAR Super Series.

“The Ford Thunderbird we built was a good car. We raced it all over. The Super Series was basically in Ontario and Quebec,” said Patrick.

“During the winter, CASCAR organized some races in Florida, around the time of the Daytona 500, so we would trailer down there and got a good winter fix of racing.

“It was all a very good time. And one year, we finished fourth in the Super Series. But the costs just kept going up and up.

“In 1997 Ford introduced the Taurus body to stock car racing. In order to remain competitive and to stay current, we built a Taurus.

“We built a very good car and it was competitive. However, we soon realized that in order to stay competitive we would need more money than what we could supply ourselves.

“Budgets today, for a first class competitive team, are close to $300,000,” said Patrick.

As a result, “We were never able to attract a sponsorship with sufficient budget to run a really competitive season.

“I love racing, so in order to remain involved in the sport, we made the decision to run the CASCAR Sportsman class, mainly at Delaware Speedway.

“We got the old Thunderbird out of the back of the garage and in 1998 began competing on a weekly basis at Delaware.

We have even made a few road trips to St-Eustache, PQ where they have a strong Sportsman program. Keeping racing fun and affordable are the goals today.”

When Jim was not off with his racing team he was developing his skills as a mechanic.

He started 14 years ago with a large Ford dealership in London, Ont., where he completed apprenticeship.

He became a very good general mechanic and started to take a real interest in the increasingly complex electronics being used in cars.

In 1994, the transmission specialist at Eastway Ford in St. Thomas retired and Jim was offered the position.

“Not many guys like working on automatic transmissions in front wheel drive cars, said Patrick.

“They are fairly complex and to take one out you sometimes have to take the entire front suspension off. It can be a real pain in the neck.”

The challenge of racing and the challenge of transmissions are not dissimilar. “I enjoy doing things well and the more challenging they are the better I like them,” said Patrick.

“In racing, the competition is the other drivers, in mechanics, the competition is doing a good job the first time and making the customer happy.”

Jim has recently helped his father restore a 1932 Victoria that he used to race at Delaware in 1955.

“It has been really fun to see how the technology has changed over the years,” said Jim, “And the time I have spent with my Dad has been great.”

Patrick Racing is gearing up for the 2000 Sportsman season at Delaware.

There’s probably a trip to Quebec on the schedule as is the ongoing search for that elusive sponsor.

“As long as we are competitive and having fun, we will continue to enjoy the sport,” said Patrick, “However, it would be really great if we were able to find the budget to go challenge the best in the CASCAR Super Series for another couple of seasons.” SSGM

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