FDNY Racing has the heart despite odds against them
Retired New York police and fire make up race-day crew
By Raygan Swan, NASCAR.COM
July 22, 2007
In rural Concord, N.C., a gravel road takes you to a storied engine shop where behind it is a small garage cluttered with car parts and what looks to be racing relics.
An industrial-size fan blows around hot, dusty air from the humid summer day outside.
Inside, three men dressed in tattered blue jeans and worn tennis shoes are gathered under the hood of a race truck toiling to beat the odds.
Odds that say they have no business or realistic expectations of finding success in the ever increasing competitive arena of the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series, where racing purists have become myths and grass-roots is a term overused in press releases.
Try telling that to Jim Rosenblum, owner of the No. 28 Chevrolet piloted by Brandon Knupp, who after a handful of failed and costly attempts to make races this season, is still in it to win it.
During his latest attempt at the Kentucky Speedway, the team didn't even make it to qualifying in light of back-to-back crashes in practice. The first was driver error, however the second came when the No. 21 of Jon Wood, who was returning to the track after a leave from driving due to health issues, took the air off of Knupp's truck and spun him out, Rosenblum said.
"We were able to put the truck back together the first time, but the second time sent us packing, we had to head home," said Rosenblum, 67, who in 2005 cashed in his life insurance policy to keep racing.
Most team owners in his situation would've packed it up long ago, but this New York native and Truck Series pioneer has the heart of a lion, but seemingly a head of straw.
"Yeah I'm not too bright," he laughed. "You know with drugs they have rehab, but they don't offer rehab for NASCAR so ..."
So Rosenblum, once a fairly successful Cup team owner in the 80s and 90s squeezed out by big spenders and bigger sponsors, will head back to the shop with his undying optimism still intact.
As will the three-man crew, or four if you count Knupp, who also works to prepare, or repair in this case, his truck for race day.
The backbone of Rosenblum's team, FDNY Racing, is the Rahilly brothers Dick and Bob, independent engine builders (RAHMOC Racing Engines) for smaller NASCAR series, Late Model and Modified teams.
They too were Cup owners in the late 70s and all through the 80s, who found substantial success with Neil Bonnett and the Valvoline machine, but the team hung it up after increasing cost and competition forced them out.
Dick Rahilly, crew chief and engine builder for the No. 28 truck, characterizes FDNY Racing's effort as, "true grass-root stock car racing the way it used to be; not about money, merchandising or sales.
"It's why everybody originally got into stock racing for and that is to work together with people, work hard and try to come up with some success on the racetrack," he said. "Too many times, teams, in order to get a lot of money, overstate what they are selling and can't deliver. We do this with little to no resources."
Rahilly's team, whose race-day crew is made up of retired New York City police officers and firefighters, haven't competed full time in the Truck Series for several seasons due to the lack of sponsor dollars, but the team did make the Daytona race this season, qualified 18th but failed to finish.
The situation they face is bleak to say the least. If they make the race, the team is overjoyed, while a percentage of the other teams are disappointed with finishes outside the top 10.
"Unfortunately for us, the Truck Series has stepped up so much, there are no more ill-prepared trucks, even trucks that run in the mid-pack are excellent," Rahilly said. "The competition is stiff right now. Success for us is making the race and finishing on the lead lap."
Outsiders looking in might say FDNY Racing is spinning their wheels but they are certainly making their mark in the sport.
David Ragan, now a full-time Cup driver for Roush Fenway Racing who replaced Mark Martin, got his start with FDNY Racing in 2005 in the season-opening Florida Dodge Dealers 250 at Daytona.
Rahilly said Ragan was third quickest on the speed chart during practice and NASCAR inspectors were completely bemused and went over the truck like blood hounds on a trail.
"We weren't supposed to run like that, that well," he said. "So we get a crumb or two here and there. We can claim David Ragan got his start with us and something really great came out of our tiny garage."
Rationalizing an irrational act might be a fitting description for FDNY Racing. Rahilly has discouraged Rosenblum from the Truck Series and has suggested downsizing to a smaller series.
"But you can't deny the man of his wishes," Rahilly added, "it's NASCAR or nothing.
"In Charlotte last year, the truck qualified but our driver knocked the wall down and Jim was still smiling," he said. "You can't knock the smile off this man's face, even if the truck blows up, catches on fire, if it wrecks ... we are still going to eat dinner after the race and have a good time."
You don't miss dinner, said fabricator and mechanic Vince Lopez.
"That's almost as important as being at the track," he said. "Once our driver ate without us and he got scaled."
The team is not bitter about their situation and they realize racing is survival of the fittest.
A number of teams were in their situation, Rahilly said, prior to Toyota entering the Truck Series. Several teams were struggling just to get in races and were essentially forced out by bigger budget teams. To hang on and stay on the scene, FDNY Racing runs a partial schedule. If they tried to run a full schedule, they would be out of money by the fourth race.
"Bobby Allison I believe coined the phrase 'Automobile racing is one of the easiest professional sports to get into, but one of the hardest to stay in'," Rahilly said. "We know that all too well."
Driving back to New York, Rosenblum said the team will bang out the damage on the No. 28 and prepare to qualify for the July 27th race in Indianapolis at O'Reilly Raceway Park.
You can count him down, but down count him out.
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07-22-2007, 10:34 PM #1
Check This Out! Nascar: Fdny Racing__________________
"Too many freaks and not enough circuses!"
07-23-2007, 01:41 AM #2
Thats cool, Hope they start having better luckFirefighter for Vestal 32-2
American Red Cross Volunteer
07-24-2007, 03:36 PM #3
- Join Date
- Mar 2004
- Memphis Tn,USA-now
Don't you start worryin' when they start bumpin' up against you.That's just rubbin' and rubbin',son, is racin' .
07-25-2007, 03:06 AM #4
There are only 3 sports: Mountain climbing, Bull fighting and auto racing, the rest are just "games".
(insert famous name here)
07-25-2007, 04:25 AM #5
That's pretty cool.
I too hope they have lots of success!Jason Knecht
Altoona Fire Dept.
IACOJ - Director of Cheese and Whine
EAT CHEESE OR DIE!!
07-26-2007, 04:52 PM #6
- Join Date
- Jun 2002
- Glenn Dale Md, Heart of the P.G. County Fire Belt....
Bobby Allison's Quote (above) is correct. Absolutely. But, the same can be said of Tractor Pulling also.Never use Force! Get a Bigger Hammer.
In memory of
Chief Earle W. Woods, 1912 - 1997
Asst. Chief John R. Woods Sr. 1937 - 2006
IACOJ Budget Analyst
I Refuse to be a Spectator. If I come to the Game, I'm Playing.
07-26-2007, 04:53 PM #7
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