Jeremy Burtner is ECR's Fab Master
Jeremy Burtner is ECR's Fab Master
Ed Carpenter Racing
March 15, 2014
Jeremy Burtner builds many items at the ECR shop.
March 15th 2014 - It’s funny how people get into the motorsports world. Some are second-generation racers, some work their way up the racing ladder, some go to racing schools and some study it in college.
For Ed Carpenter Racing fabricator Jeremy Burtner, it was none of the above.
Burtner had little interest in cars as a teenager. He didn’t really have a plan after graduating from high school. So he became an electrician for his cousin’s company in the Indianapolis area.
"I wasn’t mechanically inclined until I was in my early 20s,” said Burtner. "I really didn’t know what I wanted to do out of high school.”
But Jeremy did have some friends who were racing USAC midgets in the local area. He would help them at the races and learn as much as possible about race cars.
"I worked for my cousin as an electrician for four years,” Butrner said. "Then I got hooked up with some guys in midget racing and I realized that is what I wanted to do. I started with Ralph Potter’s midget team. I found a passion in racing that I hadn’t had before.”
Burtner, now age 43, went from making good money at the cousin’s company to a $5 an hour job building midgets and sprint cars.
"I don’t regret it one minute,” he laughs now. "I learned a lot in those early days and then I worked for John Godfrey for a few years too before beginning with selected racing teams.”
Burtner’s lifestyle changed dramically from having a steady Monday through Friday work week to the crazy world of auto racing when he would work all hours in prepping race cars. But the Indianapolis native had found something he definitely enjoyed and never looked back on his career.
"When I was building midgets and sprint cars, we built a good number of them,” he said. "So it was very important to be precise with everything. I learned that shortcuts aren’t the best way to go. To work efficiently is my motto.”.
After the midget and sprint car days, Burtner was employed at Chip Ganassi Racing and John Force Racing, two widely different racing disciplines but both highly successful.
"My fabrication skills have been honed over many different aspects of racing including midgets, sprint cars,sports cars, drag racing and Indycars,” Burtner explains. "In drag racing, I learned a lot with working with titanium and welding with those parts. And we worked with a lot of composites. SoI learned a lot in working with both metal and composites.”
Now with the ECR/Fuzzy’s Vodka team, Burtner might be the busiest guy in the off-season at the race headquarters.
"Here at ECR, I get a sheet of projects from Bret (Schmitt, ECR crew chief),” he says. " It’s updated everyday or every two days as far as the fab shop goes. Those things change about every couple of days too. I generally work off of a sheet of about 15 projects. I’ve never seen it go under 15 since I start here (back in 2012)."
Burtner works on a priority basis but projects can change in a hurry for him too.
"I work off of the priorities on the list,” said Jeremy. ”Of course, sometimes I have someone who needs a quick fix or some help immediately and I’ll help them right away. For the most part, I can look at a project and equate the time it will take. Then sometimes that will change the priority of the project.”
A ECR team trailer fire last September in Arizona forced Burtner and the ECR crew to adjust their list in the shop.
"We had more needs than we had wants on the list,” Burtner explains. "Some of that is due to the trailer fire we had last year. We had to replace some things and we began getting ready for the 2014 season too.”
While the spring and summer months are racing time for ECR, Burtner’s work load gets heavy right after the season.
"The off-season is my busy season,” he said. "I never really slow down but July is usually slowest since the team is racing. We work a lot on the pit equipment in the off-season and then I’ll work on some race car items as we get closer to the season starting up. The team should have things they need from me well before May.”
A fabricator’s job is flat out in the winter and things are organized for him before the end of the previous season.
"The ironic thing is that the off-season is the complete opposite for me,” Burtner said. "Before the racing season is over, we will sit down with Tim (Broyles, team manager), Bret and the engineering guys for ideas in the off-season. And with the team as well. Everything is usually in order for me after that.”
While his past was constructing full race cars, Burtner’s current projects are buidling and rebuilding pit equipment and variety of little things for the ECR/Fuzzy’s IndyCar.
"I work on some big projects like the timing stand and a lot of pit parts,” he said. "We had to replace the roof of the stand and bigger items. I make a lot of things that help the crew with their jobs too at the race track. I’ll build wing stands and the things that hold a lot of the traveling parts.”
In addition, Burtner can turn around the smaller items in less than a day for the team. "I build some parts for the crew and the race car,” he explains. "It’s a lot of little things that take only a couple of hours. I build a lot of wickers for wings. If you crash, you are always replacing wickers. I’ll build brackets too. It’s some simple stuff. I haven’t decided if I like the simple stuff or the harder stuff.”
Burtner also likes the challenges of designing and building parts from scratch. He figures out how to build it before he dives into the project.
"I like the challenge of doing something I’ve never done before too,” he said. "Sometimes I have to design some of the things too. Or there is a drawing to work from and I need to figure out the diminsions.
"The toughest part of a fabricator’s job is figuring out how you are going to work on the project. Once that is solved, then you can cut and manufacturer the part.”
Burtner equates his shop to someone who constructs buildings.
"A fabricator is similar to a carpenter,” said Burtner. "You have to have some forward thought into it.”
And, while the team is at the track, Jeremy Burtner is back at ECR headquarters making more parts and pieces.