“I always have a little bit of butterflies.”
That was the response Local 793 member Jamie Richardson gave when asked how he feels each time he gets behind the wheel of his race car before a competition.
“You’re about to be travelling at high speeds where anything can happen. It can all be over in two seconds if you make a mistake.
“The first time getting strapped in, your heart is pounding so fast and you’re nervous,” he continued. “You don’t want to get hurt and you also don’t want to damage the car.
“It’s a lot different than riding a bicycle,” he quipped.
A concrete pump operator from Amhurst Crane Rentals, the 33-year-old Richardson reached out to Local 793 for support and was happy to receive the approval, along with a 100th Anniversary sponsorship sticker for the hood of his race car.
When asked why he chose the union to sponsor him, he said it’s mutually beneficial.
“My goal is to support my union and display their logo each time I get out on the track,” he said.
Richardson grew up in Burketon, Ontario, close to Mosport International Raceway (now named Canadian Tire Motorsport Park), where he could hear the hum of the cars on the track from his house.
Naturally, he became curious about all the commotion and decided to follow a childhood friend down to the track so he could see firsthand what all the fuss was about. He remembers the incredible atmosphere and being able to feed off of the excitement of those around him.
“When you see the cars whipping at you from the cage, it gives you goosebumps,” he said.
Eventually, just spectating was no longer good enough for Richardson. He had to get behind the wheel for himself, which he did for the first time at age 25.
Richardson typically races 6-9 times a season at various competitions across the province. It wasn’t hard for him to keep up with his hobby, having married into a racing family. His father-in-law has been racing for 44 years and funded his current 2018 Chevrolet Super Late Model.
Richardson said he’s thankful to have so much support for his passion, as well as a good paying job, without which he likely wouldn’t be able to keep up with the hobby.
But the sport does not come without its challenges.
“It takes hours and hours on end to be able to get the car ready for each race and if you don’t use that time, it could bite you in the butt,” he said.
“Something like a lose clamp could ruin your whole race.”
Additionally, there’s not always an equal playing field when it comes to racing and sometimes wealthier people can circumvent time and hard work using money. Richardson resents that money plays such a big part in racing and how less dedicated but more affluent people may be able to “bump you out” of placing in competitions.
His car can reach up to 130 mph (209 km/h), making it a bit faster than your average commercial vehicle. But on the racetrack, he counts himself as the underdog and points out how the competition is often equipped with the newest and fastest stock car models on the market.
Richardson fondly remembers a day when his dedication to the sport payed off while participating in the 2018 Canadian Short Track Nationals at Jukasa Motor Speedway in Hagersville, Ontario.
“I came up to my car before the race and there was this one guy kind of hanging around it, looking at the union sticker on the hood. I got to talking to him and, sure enough, he was a heavy equipment operator from our local.”
They were happy to connect over their union membership and the man complimented his car and wished him luck in the race.
But Richardson was still skeptical about his odds of winning, given that there were 21 cars racing – many of which were newer and faster than his own. He responded to his union brother saying he’d be the happiest person in the world if he ever gets in the top 10.
The union member questioned Richardson and asked why he puts himself down like that, to which he replied “well, I’m underpowered by about 180-horsepower compared to the competition.”
In the end, Richardson surprised himself and placed sixth overall in that race, his best yet. He realized that he could attribute his achievement to the amount of care he puts into his equipment.
“Sometimes it’s all about finishing the race rather than stressing over what you do or don’t have,” he admitted.
When asked to compare his race car to the concrete pump truck he operates, he said laughingly “well, with one you lose money and the other you gain it.”
Apart from that amusing distinction, he was also able to identify some parallels between his work and hobby. He noted that quick thinking and common sense are essential in each environment.
“If you don’t respect what you are driving or operating, then you could end up with pretty bad failure,” he said.
When considering the capability of a 38-meter, 56,800-pound concrete pump truck compared with the considerable horsepower of a stock race car, it’s easy to understand what he’s talking about. There is more than enough room for error with both machines, and therefore no room for laziness when it comes to safety.
Overall, Richardson described his favourite thing about both racing and operating to be the opportunity to meet new people. It doesn’t matter if he’s on the jobsite or the racetrack, getting to interact with different people all the time is something he’s thankful for.
Although, as he mentioned, with operating there is the added benefit of being paid.
“With race car driving, you’re doing it for free and you do it because you love it, he said.”
Photos courtesy of Dan Little Jr. Photography