A Day in the Life of a NASCAR Mechanic:

TR Staff
Staff Writer

Wyatt Hatcher, of Valley City, Working for Penske
By Ellie Boese
When Wyatt Hatcher was a sophomore in high school in Valley City, he thought about the possibility of dropping out of school. Today, he finds himself a NASCAR mechanic for Penske Team Racing, based out of Mooresville North Carolina.
Hatcher says he’s been chasing the race since he was very young. “I’ve been into going fast and racing since I was a little kid,” he said, “and working in NASCAR seemed like such a far-fetched dream. It was like, there’s no way that’ll ever happen.”
And after finding the means to pursue his passion, thanks in part to teachers and staff at the Sheyenne Valley Area Career & Technology Center in Valley City, Hatcher put his nose to the grindstone to work towards his dream. He was awarded a $50,000 scholarship to attend Universal Technical Institute in California, where he studied for a year.
“It was cool and a good school, but it was just focused around normal cars,” Hatcher said. “I was like ‘I want to go fast! So I decided to go out to NASCAR technical institute in North Carolina.”
He went out there and worked hard at his education. Hatcher was at the school for hours longer than other students, going in early and staying late to learn as much as he could. Then he applied for a job at Penske Racing.
“I guess they saw something in me that they liked,” Hatcher said. “Somehow I got lucky. They hired me on there and the rest is history.  A little bit of luck and a little bit of good will, I guess. It was a lot of hard work, too. It still is.”
Hatcher was home for the holidays in  Valley City with his mother Laurie, his father Faron,  his sister Casey and the rest of their family. The offseason grants a small bit of time for coming back to visit home as the Penske team is still busy and hard at work.
“Right now we’re in the offseason and building show cars for the upcoming season,” Hatcher said. “Team Penske owns and operates the [No.] 2, 22 and 12 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Cars.”
The Monster Energy Cup Series is the top tier series in Nascar racing, followed by Xfinity Racing one step below. Penske has cars running in both, the No. 22 in the Xfinity Cup Series and No. 2 and No. 12 in the Monster Cup Series.
“What I do is build and fabricate side skirts, brake lines and splitters for the 2 and 22 Cup cars,” Hatcher said. “Then I’ll install rear ends or suspensions, kind of as a floater if they need help in a different department.”
As he continues with Penske, Hatcher recognizes his career and the work involved as something truly unique.
“Not many people are able to build a racecar and then go on TV and watch what you built in action. It’s just a lot of fun,” he said. “It’s something different. You get to experience a lot. You get to see a lot, too, when you travel. It’s a really neat experience.”
The NASCAR season begins on Feb. 17 with the Daytona 500, or “Superbowl of Racing.” One of the things Hatcher is excited about with the coming season is working with a new body style for Penske cars.
“This is the first year that we are bringing in Mustang body style. It’ll be all new body style,” he said, “and on top of that, NASCAR mandated a very large rear spoiler, splitter and radiator pan to try to help bring the cars together so nobody can just take off and lead the cars the whole race.”
Part of the excitement comes with the unknown. Hatcher and the team don’t know what will play out, but he has high hopes and looks forward to the challenge.
“We’ve had a couple of test cars out but nobody knows what’s really going to play out,” he said. “We’re excited to see what we can do, how we can make the cars faster, and work with what we’ve got.”