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Getting to know Ron Malec, car chief for the No. 48

CONCORD, N.C. (Nov. 25, 2009) – Ron Malec grew up racing go-karts, sportsman cars and late models in the Midwest, dreaming of a career as a race car driver. But he traded in that ambition when the opportunity arose in the late 90s to be a mechanic on Jimmie Johnson’s car in the ASA Series. Malec realized he could have a future in the sport without driving, and he seized the opportunity. It’s been 11 years, and now Malec is the lone remaining original crew member along with crew chief Chad Knaus on Johnson’s No. 48 team. As the car chief, he’s helped the team climb into NASCAR’s history books.

Full name:  Ron Malec

Nickname: Captain Ron

Hometown: Franklin, Wisc.

Education:  Warren Township High School in Gurnee, Ill.

Team/job duties: Car chief. I manage the guys that work on the car at the shop and during the race weekend. I’m responsible for the preparation of the race car and getting it through technical inspection.

Time at current job:  I’ve been the car chief for seven years. Before that, I was a mechanic.

On the final laps at Homestead-Miami Speedway: You’re just thinking about everything that could go wrong – mechanical failure, engine breaking, getting into an accident, someone wrecking in front of you. Everything that’s bad that could happen in a race, you’re thinking about it.

On being a part of history: It’s probably the greatest accomplishment of my life. I can’t even put words to it yet. I don’t even fully understand what we’ve done. It’s such a relief every year at the end of the year that it’s over. But it’s over in such a great way this year, that it’s hard to understand.

On why the No. 48 team was able to get it done: We have such good team unity and strength from within. We’re all there for the same reason, and we work well together. We’re self-directed, and it just all works. The chemistry is very good.

On how this year compares to previous ones: At the end of the year it all feels about the same. It’s a great sense of accomplishment that we won the championship and won a lot of races. And the part of winning four in a row hasn’t sunk in yet because we’re still doing it. It’s not history to us because we’re still trying for next year.

On if winning three in a row ever sank in last year: No because the next season comes so quickly. It’s like it never ends.

On how the four-time champs are celebrating back in the shop: We’re taking all of our equipment apart to rebuild for next year. It never stops.

Years in racing: I’ve been racing since age 10, so 25 total. I started out racing go-karts in Dousman, Wisc., and worked my way up through the sportsman series and late models.

First racing job:  I was a mechanic in 1996 for Al Shill Sr. in Franklin, Wisc., on his super late model team.

Favorite late model story : Before I worked for Al, I used to help his son, and we were at Slinger Super Speedway (in Wisconsin) one night. Al knew I raced cars but he didn’t really know me that well, and he asked me if I wanted to try to qualify his car at Slinger. He told me, ‘Just go out there and run it; see how it runs.’ This was a brand new car, but I said, ‘Sure.’ I had never drove at Slinger before, and I had never run a late model before, but I went out and qualified 11th out of all the cars. I thought that was pretty amazing. He found out afterward I had never run a late model and his jaw hit the ground. During the race, I dropped to the back because I didn’t want to tear anything up. It was a brand new race car.

First job overall: I worked at a golf course. Parking golf carts and washing them. I was 13 years old, and we would race the golf carts.

If I wasn’t in racing I would be: a great father. Actually, I’ve always wanted to be a fireman.

Best racing memory: Getting my first job on that ASA team with Jimmie (Johnson) in 1998 and being able to work on a professional race team. It’s such a big accomplishment in my life because I really didn’t have a set path prior to that. Then I kind of set my path and started my career in professional motorsports.

Favorite driver: I liked Mark Martin when I was a kid. He was always good, and he was a good driver on the track. He wasn’t overly aggressive. He was respectful.

Favorite track: I like Atlanta (Motor Speedway). It just seems really challenging. The drivers really have to work there the whole race, and it’s exciting for the fans. There’s passing and tire wear and things of that nature.
Hobbies outside of racing: Restoring old cars.
When I’m not at the track you can find me: Working in my garage.

Offseason plans: Work on the 70 Chevrolet Chevelle I’m restoring.
 
Favorite movie:  “Fletch.”

Favorite music: I like all kinds – 80’s music probably the best because that’s when I grew up. Alternative, 80’s, some country.

Dream car: Chevy Corvette Z06.

Favorite restaurant:  Chili’s.

If I ran NASCAR: I’d open up the rules some and allow the drivers to drive the car more. Make the tires fall off quicker and make the schedule all night races.

One thing people don’t know about me:  I won two go-kart championships by the time I was 12.

Before the race, I always: Eat Swedish fish.

During a pit stop, I’m thinking: I hope we don’t’ screw up.

I knew I wanted a job in NASCAR when: The opportunity arose. I’ve followed racing my whole life. I was at the racetrack when I was six months old because my dad raced cars.

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