Here is another way for someone to get their foot in the door of a NASCAR team ... go west, young man.
That's what happened to Scott Meesters, who said goodbye to Miami when Hurricane Andrew hit in 1992 and moved to Hanford, Calif., to be with family. That's when and where opportunity came in the form of a hero card on a bulletin board of the junior college he was attending. "Looking for help on my Winston West team," said the card, signed by driver Bill McAnally. Meesters didn't have to be asked twice.
"I always wanted to be involved in racing when I was little," said Meesters, who got the bug from a father who loved the technical aspect of cars. "My parents were both big fans of open wheel racing. I grew up wanting to be one of the guys who worked on race cars, but figured if I didn't know the right people I'd never get there."
Meesters responded to McAnally's plea, and the rest is history. Taking automotive classes at the time, he immediately went to work on the engines of McAnally's cars. Suddenly he was traveling all over the West.
In 1999 he was one of three full-time employees on the team that won the championship with Sean Woodside doing the driving. At the end of that season, he gambled on a new team, Orleans Racing, that would be based out of Las Vegas.
"I lived out of the Orleans Casino for two months," he recalled. He was part of two more championship teams with Brendan Gaughan driving in 2000 and 2001. They also raced part time in the NASCAR Craftsman truck series. Late in 2001, he received the call that would bring him to the big time. Mike Hawkins asked if he would like to work for Ray Evernham in the then Cup series.
Suddenly Meesters was back on the East Coast, living in North Carolina. He got up to speed working on Evernham's No. 9 car, assisting Hawkins. Then he became the engine tuner for the No. 19 car driven by Casey Atwood.
He was in the big time. His first race? The Thanksgiving weekend makeup race at New Hampshire that ended the 2001 season. He's been talking turkey in the garage area ever since.
Meesters travels with the team, working on the engines all weekend at the track. He says safety and communication are a huge part of his job.
"There are a lot of things I have to do that, if I did them wrong, could put the driver in jeopardy out there, just like anyone else who works on the car," he said. "Meanwhile, I have to maintain communication with the crew chief so that he knows what changes have been made to the engine. We must communicate well enough so that he knows what options he has available to him. The engine is just one part of the whole package for him."
He's come a long way since responding to that hero card at the community college. Now he works with the people who are heroes to so many fans, the drivers and crew chiefs.
"The most rewarding thing about my job is the satisfaction of the car running well without engine issues and the team doing well in a race," Meesters said. "You have to be able to withstand negative comments from driver and team with a smile on your face if the car isn't running well, so when it does it's a great feeling."