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Lifelong racing fan manages NASCAR team
CENTRAL CITY, Ky.Terry Shirley doesn't believe he'll
ever get auto racing out of his system.
In love with fast cars since his early teen years, he currently
is the manager and crew chief for the Brewco Motorsports Timberwolf
No. 37 team in the NASCAR Busch Grand National series - the team
that got its first victory April 6 when Jeff Purvis won the
rain-shortened O'Reilly 300 at Texas Motor Speedway.
Before Shirley was old enough to get a driver's license, he
already was "souping up" engines.
"My first car was a '55 Chevy Bel Air - an older model that
needed fixing up," recalled Shirley, now 51.
While waiting to become of age to drive, he overhauled the old
car in the repair garage of his grandfather, Jake Garriott, in
Tampico, Ind. - a small community, outside Seymour, where Shirley
Soon Shirley was driving in events on a dirt track at
"I ran good. I never ran bad," he said. "But it was like with
almost anything else: There were people who could put more money
into their cars than I could. And, money built speed."
He later drove in American Speed Association races in the 1970s
and was a car owner in the 1980s, winning championships on tracks
at Louisville and Whitesville, Ky.
In the early 1990s, he was a crew chief for drivers Dave Marcis
and Wally Dallenbach in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series. Then, in
1998, he joined Brewco, three years after the Central City company
ran its first NASCAR Busch Series race.
"In my more than 30 years in racing I've built everything
imaginable," Shirley said. "The cars nowadays are easier to put
together because of more availability of equipment."
In his work both in the Brewco plant, which produces Chevy Monte
Carlo and Pontiac Grand Prix stock cars for the Busch series, and
in track pits across the nation, Shirley stays atop the internal
workings of the vehicles.
He said he must fully understand every aspect of the cars and
know exactly how to get the most out of the engines. The know-how
especially pays off when something happens in a motor during a
"We then need to know quickly what the problem is and get it
fixed," he said. "Sometimes parts and pieces break and it can be
catastrophic. We had some problems early on in motors last year and
that pretty much puts you out. It hurt us for the whole season."
He is hoping for a better season this year, and got a good boost
on April 6.
Shirley and a crew of about eight, including spotters and
mechanics, generally charter an airplane for weekly races. He's
usually out of town from early Thursday to late Saturday 43 weeks
of the year - covering 34 races, seven test dates and two or three
wind-tunnel dates. A prime Timberwolf car and a backup car are
taken to the tracks in transporters, which also are built at
"The whole thing would be kind of fun if it didn't take so much
time away from our families," he said.
Jeff Purvis, the Timberwolf driver and a member of the Dirt
Racing Hall of Fame, lives in Clarksville, Tenn., and meets the
crew at the tracks. He occasionally visits the Brewco plant to
observe process and techniques.
Jamie McMurray, a former go-cart champion and NASCAR Craftsman
Truck Racing Series competitor, currently drives for Brewco's
Williams Travel Centers No. 27 team, managed by Jason Ratcliff.
McMurray drops by the plant more often, since he lives in Central
"Both Jeff and Jamie know what we're doing and what effect
there might be on the cars," Shirley said. "They are involved but
they don't need to be at the plant every day."
On the tracks there is constant communication between Shirley
and Purvis, and between McMurray and Ratcliff, via headphones.
"We try to gauge when to decide to pit, after, say, 20 laps or
after 50 laps, for fuel, tire changes and other adjustments,"
Shirley said. "You try to get the cars as good as you can and
adjust them all race long.