December 21, 2014 (Last Sunday before Christmas)
Mike “Shrek” Morneau of Oxford was home for Christmas giving me the chance to interview him about the 2014 season and recommendations for persons wishing to have a career in motorsports.
As you may know Morneau was part of the Tony Stewart #14 team until they took over the pit crew duties for #4 Kevin Harvick when he made it into the Chase in September. Morneau credits the success to his team mates rear tire changer Daniel Smith, from North Carolina, Jackman Mike Castro of West Virginia, front tire changer Ira-Jo Hussey, a New Hampshire native , gasman Justin White, Tennessee, and front tire carrier Todd Drakulich of Arizona.
With the exception of White all them were part of Tony Stewart’s 2011 championship winning team and have been together for eight years. Only the #18 Kyle Busch team comes close to that experience level.
In addition to the Sprint Cup Championship the Harvick crew won the $100,000 Mechanix Wear 2014 Most Valuable Pit Crew Award
“It was quite unbelievable,” said Morneau. “One championship was cool. To win a second was unbelievable. Some guys never win one in their career and I have two both with Stewart-Haas Racing”.
A couple of highlights along the championship pathway was turning a 10.98 second four tire stop with no fuel. The team also had a four tire with fuel stop of 11.20 seconds which boggles the mind just how quick these pitcrews have become. Morneau attributes the speed of those stops to better equipment and hours of practice during the week.
Morneau’s pathway to success in the premier motorsport in the United States began in high school when was part of Mitch Green’s automotive program at Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School. Green encouraged the young man to get out of his comfort zone and pursue a career in NASCAR.
A serious snowmobile accident his senior year almost derailed his plans for his career. Undeterred Morneau enrolled in the UTI NASCAR Tech Institute in Mooresville, North Carolina where he took the automotive technology program. While there he got involved in Pit Crew U’s 5 Off 5 On Race Team Performance coaching program class #23.
His success at 5 Off 5 On netted him a job with Haas CNC’s Jason Leffler’s #00 Nationwide car in 2004. Over the years at Haas he pitted for such names as Johnny Sauter, Mike Bliss, and Jeff Green before settling in with the #14 Tony Stewart team when Stewart-Haas was formed in 2009.
Something his parents taught him as a youngster influenced Morneau as he stuck with Stewart-Haas Racing for the past ten years. ” They (Stewart-Haas) gave me my first opportunity right out of school,” said the Oxford native. “You take a piece of the pie one at a time, eventually you get the whole pie. Two championships prove that point.”
What advice did he offer to someone considering a career in motorsports? He suggested:
1) Follow your dreams
2) Keep your nose to the grindstone no matter if times are good or bad.
3) Pay close attention to what is going on around you.
4) Dedicate yourself fully to the task at hand.
5) Listen, listen, listen
6) May need to move as I did some 1000 miles from home to North Carolina.
7) Networking is huge. Getting others to know you and your work is important. I got in when NASCAR was growing and people knew what I could do.
Morneau is the son of Lisa Annance, owner of Polly’s Variety in Oxford and Michael Morneau of Poland, Maine. He is married to Cheryl Brown and they have two children Griffin and Hudson. They make their home in Kannapolis, North Carolina.
Welding skills important for a variety of motorsports careers.
One of the job skills that is almost universally agreed upon by those involved in motorsports is welding. The ability to weld or understand the welding process makes for a better fabricator, mechanic, engineer, and even those involved in public relations. Knowing the process may give a person a leg up when talking to potential sponsors or industry representatives.
I talked to Keith Dumond the veteran welding instructor at caribou Tech center about welding and how it makes for a more skilled candidate interested in motorsports. Dumond, a 1995 graduate of Van Buren High School, went on to further his skills in the welding program taught by Randy Thibodeau at Eastern Maine Tech Center (EMTC) in Bangor in the fall of 1995. The school is now Eastern Maine Community College (EMCC).
After graduating from EMTC in 1997, Dumond has had a variety of jobs including Raynor Inc., Bakers Machine Shop, Cianbro, and K-Pel. Jobs included retrofits or builds for such plants as J.M. Huber, McCains, Naturally Foods, Westbrook Power Plant, Veasey natural gas power plant as well as an assortment of other projects.
Dumond grew up around racing when he, at the age of 8, accompanied his Uncle Joey Dumond to Spud Speedway to mostly polish and remove dust from the Hobby Stock car. From 1991 to 1997 he worked with another Uncle, Ken Dumond, on a variety of race cars including Mini-stocks and Pro Stock. During that time they brought home three championships.
He has also assisted his twin brother Kurt with several snowmobile racing projects including drag sleds and trail sleds.
In 2011-13, Dumond worked in conjunction with the University of Maine at Orono Mechanical Engineering department assisting with their Formula SAE race car. According to the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) website,
“The concept behind Formula SAE is that a fictional manufacturing company has contracted a design team to develop a small Formula-style race car. The prototype race car is to be evaluated for its potential as a production item. The target marketing group for the race car is the non-professional weekend autocross racer. Each student team designs, builds and tests a prototype based on a series of rules whose purpose is both to ensure onsite event operations and promote clever problem solving.
Formula SAE promotes careers and excellence in engineering as it encompasses all aspects of the automotive industry including research, design, manufacturing, testing, developing, marketing, management and finances. Formula SAE takes students out of the classroom and allows them to apply textbook theories to real work experiences.”
There are two main events in the US, California and Michigan. The Michigan event is the oldest and largest attracting over 100 teams to the three-day event. The Maine FSAE team was able to compete once in 2013.
Dumond and his students along with my FFA/Ag Mechanics students with the help of machinist and former UMO graduate,Richard McNeal, were able to make a wide variety of components which contributed to the project success. Parts were drawn by UMO Mechanical Engineering students utilizing Solidworks. Some of those parts were then fabricated by McNeal and welded by students after hours of careful preparation. The group was able to visit the UMO campus and interact with the FSAE team members as well as see the parts they had a hand in fabricating actually on the race car.
Dumond recommends, ” Persons interested in motorsports welding learn at a minimum the MIG process and I suggest TIG welding is an extra that can move a person into a job that incorporates the higher level TIG skills. Regardless as mentioned earlier, familiarity with the variety of welding processes will make a person’s resume more well-rounded.”
Dumond can be contacted at Caribou Tech Center at 207.493.4270 or at email@example.com.
Sometimes ya gotta make executive decisions
I have the stories of four young men who were part of the University of Maine Formula SAE Team 2011-13. Their insight into the value of that motorsports program in their current careers is one you will not want to miss. The four men, Luke Saindon now doing R & D at Mide Technology, Nick Quatrano working for Ford, Travis Elliott at Roush Industries, and Heman Norris at the University of Maine Composites Center, cannot be told in this episode. To do so would take too much space. I will feature them in Episode #35. Their stories, I believe, will give you a glance at what projects such as Formula SAE can mean to employers as well as team members when they apply for real world jobs.
So stay tuned for their stories and to those guys I apologize for not being able to fit them in to this week’s blog. I want the space to show the readers what you guys have accomplished in the short time since graduation. I believe your stories will light a fire under some young person which may inspire them to reach for their dream.
I want to end this episode with Isaiah 9:6 in the New Living Translation. I encourage you to look beyond the consumerism, the hustle, and bustle of this time of year and look for the real reason for this season. May you truly enjoy this Christmas and may your New Year be blessed.
“For a child is born to us, a son is given to us. The government will rest on his shoulders. And he will be called: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”
Let’s Go Racing…after Christmas
Soli Deo Gloria