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Getting to know Mike Lingerfelt, front-tire changer for the No. 48

CONCORD, N.C. (Sept. 22, 2009)—Cars, in some form or fashion, always have been a part of Mike Lingerfelt’s life—from racing local dirt tracks as a youngster in his South Carolina hometown to owning a mechanic shop with his brother by age 16. Today, Mike turns wrenches in the Nos. 24/48 shop and changes tires at the track. Recently we caught up with Mike:

Full name: Michael Lingerfelt
Hometown:  Travelers Rest, S.C.

School: 1994 graduate of Travelers Rest High School in Travelers Rest. Attended Enoree Career Center vocational school while in high school.

Team/job duties: Mechanic in the Nos. 24/48 shop, and I also do a lot of the special projects for the mechanical side. At the track, I’m a front-tire changer for the No. 48 Chevrolet.

Time at current job: Two as a mechanic and front-tire changer for Hendrick Motorsports.

Years in racing: 15. I’ve been Cup racing since 1997 and earned championships with Bobby Labonte in 2000, Tony Stewart in 2002 and one here with Jimmie Johnson in 2008.

First racing job: Marty Ward’s sportsman team in Marietta, S.C.  I was a tire changer and mechanic and fabricator—everything but a truck driver. I raced dirt cars growing up, and I was always racing with Marty. Whenever they wanted to hire someone full time, I was the guy they called.

First job overall: I worked at my family owned garage – H&L Garage—which I own with my brother. We opened it up when I was 16. We started out working under a tree with a shed, and that evolved into a building. We started from the ground up and turned it into something that is pretty cool. It still exists, and my brother runs it. My grandfather had always had his own business, and it was just kind of a natural progression for us just to keep up with the family business. My grandfather had his own shop, my uncle had his own shop, and it was just a great opportunity for me to get in there and carry on what my family had always done. My junior and senior years of high school, I went home and worked there as part of a co-op program with the vocational school.

If I wasn’t in racing I would: Probably own a bar on the beach. Somewhere there’s blue water and white sand.

Best racing memory: Winning the pit crew championship in 1998. I was with the No. 31 of Richard Childress Racing. We had a really good group of guys that everybody kind of overlooked. We always had great pit stops, and it was very unexpected of us because we were a team that was highly overlooked. But we were constantly stomping people in the ground. It was Larry McReynold’s first pit crew championship, so that was pretty cool.

Favorite track: Bristol. You have 165,000 people in a bowl and the energy there is just incredible. It’s probably the only place I go that still gives me goose bumps.

Hobbies outside of racing:  Fishing, boating, racing dirt cars whenever I can in Travelers Rest.

When I’m not at the track you can find me: On Lake Norman.

On an off weekend you can find me: On an island pretty much every off weekend.

Pets: An old English Sheep Dog named Cruze. He’s a 115-pound puppy.
Favorite movie:  “Smokey and the Bandit.“

Favorite music: Country.

My current car is: 2008 Chevy Silverado.

Dream car: Maserati.

What you’ll find on my iPOD: Different music… mostly country; a mix of others and my buddy Matty McCree from high school. He’s a recording artist in Nashville, Tenn.

If I could meet anyone, I’d meet: Garth Brooks.

Favorite food: Mexican.
When I’m training, I always: Sweat.

If I ran NASCAR, I’d: Make them run heat races instead of qualifying to make it more exciting.

One thing people don’t know about me: I turned down seven years of scholarships to go race. The vocational school held competitions that I went and did, and each time you won a competition you got scholarships. So I had seven years total between programs at Greenville Tech and Spartanburg Tech. I turned it down to go race. My mom was very unexcited.

Before the race, I always: Take a deep breath and relax.

On becoming a tire changer: We were doing tryouts at Marty’s, and the first time I picked up the gun I was faster than everybody else. I just held onto that and kept going.

During a pit stop, I’m thinking: I’m so focused I don’t know that I think.

I knew I wanted a job in NASCAR when: I figured out I wasn’t going to be a good enough dirt car driver to make a living at it. It was 1996, and the right opportunity came along.

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