Not many 20 year-olds can say they have already landed the job of their dreams. But Reginald “Bradley” Douthit is an exception to the rule. In July 2003, little more than a year out of high school, Bradley was hired to work on engines for NASCAR racecars.
“This is what I always wanted to do,” Bradley said. “It’s a dream, really.”
Bradley currently works in the tear down department of Roush and Yates Racing, where he disassembles engines after races, checks for problems, and then prepares them for reassembly. NASCAR drivers including Matt Kenseth, Mark Martin, Kurt Bush and Greg Biffle use his engines.
Bradley’s position is something he has hoped for since he was a child, when he would help his father repair vintage Chevrolets in their garage.
“I was kind of young then, [and] all I could do was hold tools and the flashlight,” he said. “I thought it was the greatest thing in the world to watch him work on something – kind of tear it apart and put it back together better than it was.”
When he graduated from high school, Bradley was still intent on pursuing a career in racing, even though he knew his chances of actually working with NASCAR were slim.
“It’s kind of like people trying to get into pro sports,” Bradley said. “As far as having that as a chosen profession- getting on a race team – it’s not something a lot of people do.”
He excelled academically in high school, and his parents were afraid of letting him pass up the opportunity to attend college. But despite the disbelief of family and friends, Bradley was dead set on attending the NASCAR Technical Institute (NTI), part of the Universal Technical Institute (UTI), a training school outside Charlotte in Mooresville, N.C.
“It’s a go-for-broke thing,” he said. “It’s kind of all you think about and you’re determined to do it, no matter what anyone tells you.”
Bradley moved from his hometown of Winston Salem, N.C. to Mooresville immediately after graduation. His big break came during his first semester at NTI, when he won a $16,000 UPS Racing Technical Edge Scholarship. The scholarship program is designed for minority students interested in pursuing careers in racing.
The scholarship was particularly meaningful because Bradley’s father, Reginald Douthit, had also dreamed of working for NASCAR when he was a teenager, but said that, as an African-American, it was not a career available to him.
“NASCAR was not approachable in my era, 1952,” Reginald Douthit said. “But there’s a new generation coming, and Bradley will see the end of this.”
With the help of the scholarship, a part-time job on the maintenance crew of NTI, profits from a car he and his father repaired and some help from Mom and Dad, Bradley not only paid his way through NTI but became a stand-out student. When UPS selected its top five scholarship recipients to place in internships, Bradley received a position at Robert Yates Racing, now Roush and Yates Racing.
And after graduation, the internship turned into a full-time position. Nick Ramey, Head Engine Builder at Raush and Yates Racing, said it was Bradley’s dedication and attention to detail that landed him the job.
“He cares about everything he does [and] he’s very thorough,” Ramey said. “You ask him to work late and he’s always coming to ask you if there’s anything else he can do before he leaves.”
Bradley said his regular work schedule is from 7:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., and he often works upwards of 60 hours per week. But he said the long hours are worth it.
“It’s not a job for everybody,” he said, “[but] I really like what I’m doing.”
And in an industry where a single flaw can be fatal, Ramey said he can always count on Bradley’s work.
“He’s a perfectionist,” Ramey said. “He doesn’t want anything getting out of his area that isn’t completely right.”
For Bradley, part of the reason for insisting on flawlessness is because he is emotionally involved in his work.
“When I see one of my team members win, I can say that what I did helped that driver win,” he said. “It was my engine in that.”
But being part of the action makes being a fan tricky. “Before I just watched the races,” Bradley said. “That was it. Now its nerve racking, every lap.”
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