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'Dream Job': Rogersville man wins a day on pro-sports car pit crew

Jeff Bobo • Updated Jul 7, 2017 at 11:24 AM

ROGERSVILLE - In his regular job Stephen Margetjak is a quality technician for commercial steering systems at Rogersville's ZF TRW Automotive plant, but last month his "Dream Job" took him to a place where the rubber really hits the road.

Margetjak won his employer's "Dream Job" contest earlier this year which placed him on the pit crew assisting the tire experts in a one-race deal on the VisitFlorida Racing Team professional sports car racing team.

The Weathertech SportsCar Championship series, is the same series that competes in the "24 hours at Daytona" every January.

The series made a stop at the 2.35 mile The Raceway at Belle Isle near Detroit for the 2017 Chevrolet Sports Car Classic that was held on Saturday, June 3. It was a companion event to the Verizon IndyCar Series twin races held there June 3-4.

As a ZF TRW “Dream Job” contest winner Margetjak worked with team co-drivers Marc Goossens and Renger van der Zande during practice and qualifying sessions on Friday, June 2.

But he almost didn't even enter the “Dream Jobs” contest.

When it was announced by his company he said to himself, “It would be a dream for me to do that, but I never win big contests like that.”

Margetjak was encouraged to enter by a coworker who knows how much he loves cars. He sent in an entry that talked about how he has loved anything automotive his whole life.

For years he restored cars and trucks for my own use and to sell including a 1967 Chevy II, 1951 Chevy Styleline, Camaro Z28 and IROC-Z and 1967, 1969 and 1972 Chevy pickups just to name a few.

Margetjak was surprised to learn a few weeks after entering that he'd been chosen for the event.

He and his wife Melissa flew out of Tri-Cities to Detroit on Thursday, June 1, arriving in time for him to participate as a pit crewman during practice and qualifying for the VISIT FLORIDA Racing team the next day.

He spent most of the day job-shadowing the team's expert tire manager.

"He showed me his entire process to ensuring the race car has the tires ready for each stage of the race weekend," Margetjak said. "I basically learned his job and got to perform all of his duties and also some of the other pit crew members’ jobs.

We set up tires by removing all old nitrogen and refilling with air to purge the tires of any contaminants."

Margetjak added, "We refilled with new nitrogen and set it to a dead-on 20 pounds of pressure. I checked and documented tread depth with special gauges made for this process. Everything is logged and documented for future reference and given to the crew chief to enter in to his computer software."

During his drivers' hot laps Margetjak strapped on a helmet and went to work.

He checked and documented track temperatures every 30 minutes, rechecked tire pressures, and monitored the air temperatures and weather conditions – documenting every detail.

"We relayed that information to the crew chief and waited each time for his response," Margetjak said. "I helped with heaving the tools over the wall and changing tires during practice. In between my duties, I was gathering a world of information from the crew about so many aspects of working in the pits."

But, he didn't spend the entire day toiling in the pits. As part of his prize he and his wife were given an opportunity to turn hot laps on the track themselves.

"I was riding in a Dodge Viper ACR and she was in a Mazda MX-5," he said. "I’ve driven fast before, but this was an absolutely breath-taking experience."

Unfortunately his drivers didn't fare well on race day. Marc Goossens and Renger van der Zande fell out early after only 18 laps and finished 25th out of 28th.

"Saturday (June 3) was our day to enjoy Detroit and all the racing activities on Belle Isle, and we had the time of our lives," Margetjak said. "From all the racing and rubbing shoulders with IndyCar and IMSA teams, it could not have been more enjoyable. The food and culture at the GM Renaissance Center and surrounding downtown Detroit was definitely a great time."

He added, "This was a 'Dream Job' come true."                                                          

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