We’ve got such a great group of guys over here on our Service Central team, and every one of them has a story. One of our guys, Levi Brubaker, grew up in the country and was raised hunting – that’s a totally different world from this drag racing deal we do. It’s something he really enjoys but doesn’t have a chance to do very often anymore, so I was real glad to be able to set him up with an old friend of mine as a guide, Rand French, and send him to our ranch down in New Mexico to see if he could get a deer. I’m going to have him give you a little bit of background and tell you about that trip.
I started out at Northwestern University of Ohio in 2001, and I really had never been into drag racing except for watching it on TV a little. But around 2001 or 2002, I decided to go to an NHRA drag race and came in on a Friday and went to the Army presentation. From the first event I was hooked. I thought it was pretty cool and interesting, and one of my instructors was friends with the Worshams, so he had some guidance on how to get into NHRA. He told me to start by getting a CDL and handing out resumes, and I got lucky enough that I had three phone calls – the third one turned into a job at John Force Racing. I graduated from Northwestern with an Associate Degree in High Performance Automotive, and I started at JFR in 2004.
My family really has no background in racing, we were all about farming. I grew up in the country in the small town of Eaton, Ohio, helping out around the farm. I learned my mechanical abilities from my grandfather and my dad and used to go to the tractor pulls and monster truck events. I always liked engines and thought it would be cool to be an engine builder, and my mom would always say that I wanted to be a racecar driver, but I found that I liked working on engines more than anything.
I was with JFR for a couple of years and decided I wanted to try something else. I went to work with the Ganassi team on a Grand Am car and I was a gear box mechanic, and when that deal sort of fell flat after the car lost sponsorship, I went back to JFR for a little while. I was always interested in different forms of motorsports, so I ended up working in NASCAR on the Stewart-Haas team until they eliminated a bunch of positions. I was in that group, and I needed a job. I had a friend that worked here at Don Schumacher Racing, and so I moved right back up to Indiana from where I was living in North Carolina, and I came back into drag racing. It felt like home - it’s always been my home, and I have more of a comfort level here and I like it the most out of all the forms of racing that I had the opportunity to work with.
When I came back in 2008, I worked with Gary Scelzi in his last year then I went to the FRAM car with Cory Mac driving. After that, I went over to the Yas Marina car and did an overseas deal, and I finished out the 2010 season with Cruz Pedregon Racing. Rob Wendland and I had worked together at JFR and at Cruz Pedregon’s, and I was able to start with him in 2011 on Johnny’s car, right at the very beginning when we were putting the team together.
My job on the car is building the short blocks and to pull a cylinder head between rounds, make sure the engine is put together correctly, and look over the car and make sure everything is right. Then, obviously, I put the head back on and help assemble the top end of the engine.
So, now I’ll tell you about hunting. The farming community has a lot of hunters. Usually when hunting season came in, automatically a lot of kids became sick that day. My dad has always been interested in guns as long as I can remember, so I took an interest in guns as well. He used to take me out hunting, and I always enjoyed it and found it so relaxing. There is a lot of sitting, but it is very relaxing. I like all forms of hunting, but we don’t have a lot of time to do that with as much as we work during the winter time, and because there is a distance between where I live and work in Brownsburg to Ohio, it’s hard to get off work and get to go. When I get a chance I like to, and last year, like Johnny said, I got to go to his ranch in Roswell, N.M. and he hooked me up with one of his friends who is a guide. I spent a few days there, and it was a lifetime experience and really neat, especially because it was a whole different terrain than I am used to. Back home we sat in tree stands, but in N.M., you do a lot of walking – a LOT of walking.
It was really cool. It was a really cool experience; we got to camp out and they cooked for me and everything. I was out there for three or four days and we harvested one deer; that’s your limit. You see a lot of them, but you try to be a little bit picky at the very beginning, until it gets closer to leave-time and you know you have to go home. Then you make a decision. If something comes along the first day and you can say, okay that’s a keeper, you take it, but it didn’t work out that way.
It was the last day I was there and it was just towards the end, almost to the evening time and getting close to the time when we had to stop hunting, and we just so happened to see two. We ended up waiting five hours to get a clear shot on one of them. It was afternoon when we first saw them and towards the evening when we could actually take one. It was a mature buck, around five years of age.
For me, hunting is really exciting, and you get an adrenaline rush like nothing else those last couple of minutes until you take the shot. That’s what brings you back and makes you want to hunt again every year. But if you’re going to kill it, you need to eat it, and you can have the meat processed to steaks or burgers or even jerky. Not everyone likes the taste because it can be sort of gamey, but it’s a really flavorful treat that you only get to have every once in a while. And really it just depends on how it’s prepared.
I had a great time on that trip, and it was an experience I won’t ever forget. I’m looking forward to hunting again, whenever that may be, but right now I’m just enjoying working with Johnny and the team. We have a few days before we head on over to Englishtown, and we won’t be looking for deer there – but we’ll be hunting for something else with the Service Central car.