Magazine Feature / People

Student driving toward a different career

jamie dick

DU senior Jamie Dick has an emerging career as a stock car driver.

Lots of students leave DU with dreams of careers practicing law or starting companies or producing Hollywood blockbusters.

Jamie Dick wants to make a career out of turning left.

Dick, a senior real estate and construction management major from Albuquerque, N.M., says very matter-of-factly that he’d like to get to paid to race cars — a goal he’s been driving toward since he was 10 years old. And he hasn’t let off the gas needed to obtain the goal since enrolling at DU, either.

“I would like to end up with a multi-million dollar contract with a NASCAR team,” Dick says. “I’d like to race as long as I can. In a couple of years, if I’m not able to get paid, I’ll have to stop. But that’s down the road.”

Dick started his racing career on small dirt tracks around Albuquerque in go-karts and then worked his way up through more competitive racing series and bigger cars. Although Dick hasn’t won a race recently, he has been able to string together enough strong finishes to try out newer and tougher racing series.

Dick currently races in two of the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing’s (NASCAR) “minor league” series. During the 2010 racing season, Dick has driven in NASCAR’s K&N West series, which is based primarily in the Western United States and features cars that are slightly smaller than those driven by stars like Dale Earnhardt Jr. or Tony Stewart. He’ll also compete in the nationwide Camping World Truck series, which feature souped-up trucks with lots of horsepower and lots of talent behind the wheel. Dick’s goal is to compete on NASCAR’s, and perhaps all of racing’s biggest stage, the Sprint Cup.

“Ever since I showed some promise in go-karts the plan was to push me ahead,” Dick explains. “Part of the plan was not to stay in a series too long and get complacent.”

Mike Naake, crew chief and manager of Dick’s racing team, has been in stock car racing for more than 25 years and says Dick has the talent to get to racing’s upper echelons. But it’s something Dick will have to attack with utmost dedication.

“Out of a thousand, only one gets through. It’s a tough sport,” Naake says from the team shop in Roseville, Calif. “You have to be in the right place at the right time. And you need off-track skills to help you attract money.”

In addition to working as the main mechanic for Dick’s car and training the pit crew, Naake acts as a kind of coach to the 21-year-old driver. He’s tried to get Dick to become more aggressive in his driving style. Stay up on the wheel and go fast, Naake tells Dick, just don’t wreck the car. Naake has even resorted to a little tomfoolery to drive his point home.

“We’ve told him to get mad and told him that one of the guys is taking his girlfriend out for dinner that night,” Naake recalls with a laugh.

Right now, Dick is getting a little help from dad when it comes time to pay for a competitive racing team. In return, Jimmy Dick — a former race driver himself — plasters the side of Jamie’s cars with the colors of Viva Automotive Group, a chain of car dealerships he owns in El Paso, Texas.

Jamie Dick pulls over for a pit stop in a recent NASCAR race.

While they’re not the richest racing operation on the track, the team remains competitive by doing what Jimmy Dick calls good-old-fashioned Saturday night racing.

“We’re trying to do some adjustments to the car, we know we’re getting out-motored in the car — other guys just have more horsepower,” Jimmy Dick says. “We’re doing some things to the exhaust system and trying to lighten up the transmissions.”

In order to race with the big boys, Jamie Dick will have to continue challenging himself in races across the country. He chose to attend DU, in part, because Denver International Airport allows him to easily travel to big races around the nation. (And, he says, the skiing didn’t detract from his choice, either.)

It also helps that Jimmy Dick is behind his son all the way.

“For me it’s exhilarating,” Jimmy Dick says. “I used to race back in my day, and I made it to the truck series — big deal — but he’s so much further advanced, and he knows how to call for changes in the car … he knows his car.”

As Jamie Dick has risen through the racing ranks, he’s had to get used to signing autographs and wrecking cars that cost more than a couple years of tuition. But that’s part of the racing life. And when he’s out on the track, trading paint with the best of them, he feels right at home.

And who knows? With persistence, hard work and a little luck, a day could come when Jamie Dick will be looking at NASCAR’s best in his rearview mirror.

“Just to be in the same league with the big guys who get paid to race cars — it’s great because you feel like an equal,” Dick says. “You race against people who are ‘uber-talented’ and you feel like being as good as them is not out of sight.”

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