NASCAR — Former Army chopper crew chief Chris Clayton is living the dream — ESPN

8 Май 2015 | Author: | Комментарии к записи NASCAR — Former Army chopper crew chief Chris Clayton is living the dream — ESPN отключены

Flying mechanic livin’ the

Courtesy Chris Clayton Clayton, third from on his new job at Hendrick Motorsports: Every day I up I’m so grateful. This work. This is the dream.

Morin’s home office is with accolades. There are and trophies. There are commemorative and rings. Many rings. Sprint Cup Series championship

Three Brickyard 400 championship and the 2013 Daytona 500 championship

As pit crew coach for Jimmie ‘s No. 48 team, Morin has it all at the highest level of motorsport. If it can be won in the Cup Series, he has won it.

But the bling’s luster in comparison to an item over on an shelf, resting all alone.

It is an Flag, triangularly folded, glass-paned and wood-framed. It points

That flag means to me than any of those rings, said Sunday morning, on the pit wall at Phoenix International amid the bustle of prerace pit arrangements. I had a lot of family members We buried my grandfather at Arlington

When you see that service, it home what the flag is.

Morin was given the flag by Chris Clayton, an Army Chinook crew chief who fall 2009 and summer served six tours in Afghanistan. The flew inside of Clayton’s during the final tour of his career.

It was a simple thank-you with profound residual

Chris Clayton Chris work as an Army CH-47 crew chief helped him for his current role at Hendrick

When he brought that in … I’ve never been humbled, Morin said. We pit cars, man. We don’t this country. For him to bring me flag. I’m never at a for words.

There are no words.

Sometimes the scope of a man’s seems far too broad for rational to consider attainable. Then a walks into the man’s and his dream’s breadth is compressed plausible reality.

And then, noteworthy passion and work from the dreamer, the believer is to extend a hand. And the dream

There is no Tom Brady without Belichick’s belief.

There is no Johnson without Jeff ‘s endorsement.

For Sgt. Morin was that believer.

And Morin’s encouragement, Clayton’s is very much a budding

I don’t have words to say how I am to him, said Clayton, 26. him, man … For all I know, I might reenlisted, and given up on the dream.

describes his crew chief job as, basically, a flying mechanic. the aircraft, brief pilots on procedures and keep detailed and mission logbooks.

But overseas, most service members, his changed a bit. The CH-47 is aviation. Overseas, he explained, the chief mans a door gun and the pilot in flying the aircraft.

He was of a special-operations unit. His deployments three months at a time.

they say go, you go, he explained. It’s a world over there [in the It’s bizarre thinking it. That was a crazy time.

are a lot of things I’ve done I’m so grateful I got to experience and do. And are some that are forgettable.

always proud of … anytime go over there, I didn’t think about my safety, But you thought about your you fly with, and your family home that you’re We need to defend our home our enemies abroad.

The common theme out of all six tours was to protect my family and my brothers.

I want to relive it again. But trade nothing for my military It was a lot of hard times, but definitely a experience that I grew and learned from.

And without it I I wouldn’t be the man I am today.

The man he is today is attributable to a chance meeting.

Chris Clayton Chris presented the American flag in the — shown here the Army aircraft he used to in — to Greg Morin, who Clayton an opportunity to realize his dream at Hendrick Motorsports.

It was 21, 2012, and Clayton was stateside his fifth and sixth tours. He and his were sent by the Army to a retreat at the Great Wolf in Concord, N.C. just the corner from the sprawling campus.

A lifelong racing whose fondest memories his father live at the racetrack in his Clayton, a Hendrick man from grabbed his wife and went to HMS. His grandfather and father had racers, motorcycles mainly. As a his father worked three to keep food on the table.

racing wasn’t an option.

the only time we could together was Saturday afternoons, said. He’d let me pick we’d spend father-son And every time I said go to the races.

I have very memories of the racetrack, because of it meant to my dad and I. The family time. The guy

Upon arrival at Hendrick campus, Clayton noticed a face almost immediately.

In the they train you to know competition, to study who you’re to go against, Clayton explained. So I knew a lot of the guys by facial — and Greg especially, he was the coach for my favorite driver.

Nervous but cognizant of the opportunity, took a chance at the urging of his

I got 30 seconds, here, to make an he recalled. So I said, ‘Hi, hi, Greg Morin, right?’ And he at me funny, like, ‘Yes, how do you I said, ‘I’m a crew in the military and I have a year and I need to know what I to do to be on your team.’

Morin that song and dance

But in Clayton he saw an uncharacteristic desire.

It was a gut It was the look in his eyes, Morin It was a look that said, WILL do this.’ And it wouldn’t mattered if we said no. Somebody said yes.

Morin was but cautious. He didn’t want to Clayton’s head with expectations. He handed Clayton a card.

He gave me a generic of answer, Clayton said. So I him what I’d been to be a member of his team. He saw that I was way serious than what is involved.

Clayton had been diligently and studying meticulously. deployed, NASCAR was his release. He and his used NASCAR race to mark weeks deployed.

Laberge/NASCAR/Getty Images Chris was invited to work with the No. 24 at Martinsville, then landed in Lane after Jeff scored the win.

When deployed every day is Groundhog he said. So we’d land off a and if the green flag was about to we’d bolt back to the after finishing up our paperwork the ride.

He introduced fellow members to racing. They a weekly driver pool. gets a driver. Throw 10 into the pot. Next you know they’re all buying Clayton’s dream.

With a year remaining on his contract, Clayton faced a Re-enlist or never look He struggled mightily with the until a friend approached a question: If you could do anything in the what would it be?

He knew the Clayton said. Anybody knows me for any length of time auto racing is my passion. He ‘Well, then go do it.’

And he He immediately began educating on the intricacies of pit crewing, and trained accordingly. His superiors knew of dream, and would joke him about his training regimen, in a right sort of way.

dialed up YouTube to study pit and the choreography and skill set of each role. Some were similar to his military skill He used Johnson’s Gatorade and ESPN features as motivation.

And he the Internet for a blocking dummy.

As I the Army trains you to know who you — well, how do you do that for a pit position? Clayton said. I do it on my wife’s Honda Civic.

So he a race car. On eBay.

a static piece. It doesn’t It’s basically a body and that once lived Ray Evernham’s Winston Cup fleet. Clayton bought it, for $300, it had the previous several years the gate at a golf resort in Beach.

But it provided the platform to dream to reality.

He hauled it to Savannah, Ga. and started practicing. He had a Morin had mentioned to Clayton his body type was that of a changer. So he bought a lug gun and off he went. He set up a camera to tape himself for study.

His wife timed him on a until she got bored and gave him the eye.

He would venture up to Hendrick unannounced from Savannah, to watch pit practice and make He listened keenly to coaching to the crewmen, minute yet vital such as gun angle and the like.

returned from his second-to-last and saw Morin, and told him he’d fly an Flag for Hendrick overseas. It was for Morin to remember him by. And it was a visual from Clayton of how much belief in the dream drove

When he brought that in I’ve never been humbled. We pit race cars, We don’t protect this For him to bring me that flag. never at a loss for words. are no words.

” — Greg on the gift

he received from Clayton

Following his final he was ready. And on Martin Luther Day 2013, he got a tryout. From Chris Berkee, Hendrick’s development coach, saw potential in as a tire changer.

He’s ‘When are you out of the military?’ Clayton I told him, ‘In May be available to work.’ And at this I’m trying to figure ‘Does this mean I got the job?’

Yes. It does.

You to pay attention to that passion and — it is impossible to ignore, said. That’s what him the tryout. The tryout earned him the

Clayton started at Hendrick on May 10. Since then he has continued to his skill.

Think about it, continued. Physically conditioned: Mentally strong: please he hung out the back of a helicopter up operators under tremendous

Heart, faith, optimism: it, son.

Twice Clayton has on a pit crew for HMS, first as a tire changer at a CRA Super Model race at Winchester in Salem, Ind. and then as gas man in the All 400 in Nashville, Tenn.

It was a life goal accomplished, and it was a feeling, Clayton said. nice to get a different kind of rush than what used to.

That’s not all. was invited to Martinsville Speedway to with Jeff Gordon’s No. 24 pit Gordon won the race. Clayton to Victory Lane.

Who gets to do he howled. I’ve followed Gordon my whole life! I I did my seventh-grade project on this What a tremendous blessing for me.

his budding pit crew career, thinks often of his military

There are days you feel you want to be there, to go with and you’re not there anymore, he Your job in the military is done. surreal.

You’re living out dream but you also feel the of wanting to help them.

in detailing his passion for racing, a time he heard Hendrick pit Andy Papathanassiou tell a group that you never had play pit crew as a kid.

I that, and I’m like, was one of those odd ones who did play changer,’ he laughed. Every day I up I’m so grateful. This work. This is the dream.

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