Troutman resident Travis Finet knew early on in life that he wanted to be a part of the world of NASCAR. Growing up in Anderson, S.C., he and his father enjoyed working on the family’s Chevrolet Corsica.
Because his dad was disabled, Travis had to do the heavy lifting. “We only had one car for the entire family, so if it broke down, we couldn’t get to school or work until we fixed it,” Finet recalled.
That experience of working with his father, a fan of NASCAR, led to an early decision about his life’s goal. “I decided I wanted to work on cars as my profession, not just as a hobby,” said Finet, 28. “Since my goal was to become a performance engineer, NASCAR was a logical choice.”
The next step then was for him to be able to attend NASCAR Tech in Mooresville, an affiliate of Universal Technical Institute. However, the tuition for the 15-month program would be $40,000, in addition to his living expenses while away from home.
With that long-term goal in mind, following graduation from West Side High School in Anderson in 2005, he began work as a fork lift operator, logging as many as 80 hours a week and saving as much as he could. Eight years later his financial goal attained, he planned his move to Mooresville.
It was then that his mother, Donnis, a middle-school teacher, and younger sister, Tiffany, a second-grade teacher, decided to move with him. “They were very supportive of the idea of me following my dream, so I was able to live with them in Troutman while attending NASCAR Tech.”
Since beginning the program in 2014, he has demonstrated exceptional competence, earning nine Student of the Course awards, a Crew Chief award in NASCAR Pit, and an Excellent Attendance award.
An active member of the NASCAR Tech community, he also received a volunteer award for dedicating more than 1,000 hours to NASCAR Tech’s Universal Motorsports Team.
The program itself proved to be grueling. “My typical school day ran from 6:30 a.m. to 12:45 (p.m.), and then I’d go work in the shop at Jennifer Jo Cobb Racing in Mooresville until late at night,” Finet said. “That didn’t leave much time for a social life, after fitting in my study time.”
On graduating from the program in May, he received the Roger Penske Outstanding Student Award from the UTI Foundation. Given to just one exceptional student who has completed 52 weeks of the auto/diesel core curriculum and is pursuing advanced training, it comes with a $12,000 cash grant.
In working toward his goal, however, he realized that a change in direction was in order. “Now that I’ve spent the past year working around the racing industry, seeing what that life is like, I’ve decided that I’d rather work as a mechanic.”
He applied successfully to the BMW STEP program, a tuition-free 10-week training course in advanced auto mechanics in Avondale, Ariz. Admission to the program required an in-person interview, as well as a demonstration of proficiency in automotive mechanics.
Upon completion of that program, he will be required to work as a BMW mechanic for a minimum of one year. “I’m open to re-locating somewhere in the U.S., although I’d prefer to remain in North or South Carolina,” Finet said.
His mother and sister will remain in North Carolina for the next year or so, but all three hope they will be able to live in close proximity once Finet determines where his job with BMW sends him.
With the realization of his long-term dream to work as a mechanic on high-tech automobiles, in sight, he can now begin work on that other dream deferred: a social life and a rewarding career.
Bruce Dunbridge is a free-lance writer. Have a story idea for Bruce? Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.