Today we are lucky enough to have an interview with Mace Gjerman. Mace worked on a pit crew, on and off, for years in the pits of many tracks across North America. A pit crew works on the sidelines of a racetrack maintaining and fixing the race cars.
I don’t want to keep you waiting any longer, so let’s get started! And all the answers are Mace’s own words!
Mace, when did you start working in the Racing Industry? I started in high-school, where I volunteered on club cars that my high-school raced.
How exactly did you start working in the Racing Industry? One day I rode my bike over to a local racer’s house, and said “do you need help racing?” He said yes.
What was your job? I started waxing, nutting and bolting (nutting and bolting is where you check that every nut and bolt is tight). A very basic job, but still a job. Later on, I was in the Pits.
What team(s) did you work for? I started working for an ametuer SCCA racer in 1983. At races, I would go over to the professional teams, and ask if they were willing to have another team member. One team, Oftdaht Racing accepted and told me “come up to a race in Montreal in four weeks, and you’ll have a new job.” I also worked for Huffaker Racing, another big company.
Do you have any memorable experiences from your racing career? Yeah, Oftdaht Racing and Huffaker Racing both did the 24 Hours of Daytona, and the 12 Hours of Sebring. Those were some very memorable experiences.
What tracks did you race at? Well, let me think… Well, just about every track except Lime Rock. He even raced at Infineon Raceway before it became Infineon.
How many people were on your team? Both Oftdaht Racing and Huffaker Racing had eight people per team.
What car did you team race? Well, the first person I worked for in high-school had what I think was a ’73? Mustang Boss 351. When I worked for Oftdaht Racing, Pontiac sponsored us with Trans Am’s. With Huffaker Racing, they raced Pontiac Trans Am’s and Fiero’s. They both were pretty fast cars.
Who were your team sponsors’? STP, AC Delto, and my current employer, Petersen Tractors (they sell CAT machinery). Petersen was the main sponsor.
Did your team ever get into an accident? Uh, once in a while. More driver error than anything else.
How often did your team win a race? Well, there was one year in Trans Am, when, out of fourteen races, our team (Oftdaht Racing) got seven podium finishes. One of those podium finishes we came in first place.
What did your team compete in: NASCAR, IndyCar, IMSA, SCCA, Formula One Rallies, IROC, IZOD, etc.? My first employer was in the ametuer class of SCCA. Oftdaht Racing was in Trans Am. Huffaker Racing was into IMSA (endurance racing), and Trans Am.
Where were your team(s) based out of? Well, Oftdaht Racing was based out of Minneapolis. Huffaker Racing was in Petaluma, CA until shortly after I left my racing career behind.
How often did races happen? They were pretty consistent. In a racing season, races usually happened every two-three weeks. Races were typically on weekends. They would start Friday (but we’d usually get there Thursday, and leave on Monday, and end on Sunday.
What time did you have to be at the track by? Usually, I’d have to be at the track by 5 am.
What were your hours? Usually a fourteen hour shift. I would be at the track seven days a week from 5 am to 7 pm. A racing season typically lasts four months, so I’d be at the track seven days a week for fourteen hours, for four months. And, I didn’t get a day of rest those four months.
Did you like out job? Heck, YEAH! I loved it!
Do you have any funny stories from your racing career? Yeah. I’ll share one of my personal favorites. It wasn’t funny at the time, though. So, one weekend, the Canadian Sports Car Club (CSCC)hosted an IMSA race. To cross over into Canada, all the truck drivers must have a list of everything in their truck and trailer. For us (Oftdaht Racing), that was almost one million dollars worth of equipment and cars. Pretty big deal. So, we get to one of the border crossings at about 3 am. All the employees are sleeping, so we go and wake them up. We give them our list. They look over it, and said “you came to the wrong border crossing. We’re going to have to detain you until 6 am.” We told them “we have to be at the track by 6!” They said “We can’t let you go until we call up the CSCC and ask them if you are going to the race. They open up at 4 am” Our semi driver said “Forget it. I’m going to the right border crossing.” He backs out of the border crossing, does a U-Turn, and goes back on the borderline highway and goes through a little farm road. Finally, the rest of us get through. But, the semi driver never got his permit to be in Canada. So, we’re at the track on Sunday. The mountie’s are coming through, asking for the permits. They come to us. We’re working on the cars. They ask us for the permits. We show them everything except one permit. We told them that they have to ask our semi driver. They go up and ask him. Of course, he doesn’t have that permit, because he entered illegally. They tell us to lay down our tools and back away. We do. They start putting that “Caution. Do Not Enter” yellow tape around our cars and tools. Trust me, when the owner came over to look at the cars, he was in for a nasty surprise. He almost killed that poor semi driver! Now, I’m sure that he laughs about it! It’s a pretty funny story.
Why did you stop your Racing career? Well, one reason was that the driver of the car that I was in charge of retired from racing, and offered me a job at Petersen Tractor Company. I accepted. I also had gotten married exactly 364 days before that job at Petersen Tractor Company was offered to me.
When did you stop your Racing career? You know, I never really stopped officially. I started and stopped. Today, I still own a Formula B Ford. But, when I started that job at Petersen Tractor Company, it was in the early 1990’s.
Thanks Mace for the interview. It sounds like a high stress life with a lot of traveling and driving. But it sure sounds fun. I can understand why you miss it. Perhaps you could help me ‘parent’ my baby or at least ‘supercharge’ her!