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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Mark Ruhmann has a job as crew chief for one of the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series’ most successful drivers for as long as he wants it. This year, the team’s accomplishments helped Ruhmann earn national recognition.
Ruhmann, 45, of Rural Hall, N.C. is crew chief for driver Tim Brown and team at Bowman Gray Stadium in Winston-Salem, N.C. A 20-year member of the team, Ruhmann received his contract from Brown in 2009, his first year as crew chief. Brown won a record ninth Modified division track championship at Bowman Gray this year.
Brown’s success helped Ruhmann win the national UNOH Ultimate Mechanic Challenge for 2012. Brown registered Ruhmann in the special award program, sponsored by the University of Northwestern Ohio, earlier this year. Based on Brown’s performance, Ruhmann won the UNOH track champion mechanic award, but that was just the first step. Among all track award winners, Ruhmann had the highest point total in the nation based on Brown’s 14-highest finishes at Bowman Gray.
Ruhmann was part of the Brown team for all of its Bowman Gray championships including his first year as crew chief in 2009. That’s when Brown made Ruhmann a team member for life. Brown feels the confidence instilled in him by Ruhmann and it as worth guaranteeing.
“Tim wrote up a contract on a ‘happy-gram’ memo pad that said I’m lifetime crew chief for him and the No. 83 team as long as he’s driving. I still have that piece of paper,” Ruhmann said with a smile.
Brown recalls the document well.
“We were always kidding Mark that he’s a member of our team for life, so I wrote it out on the note pad and gave it to him,” Brown said. “He’s been a key ingredient in all of our championships.”
Ruhmann joined the fledgling NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Modified team founded by brothers Tim and Ben Brown for their first full season of racing at Bowman Gray in 1992. Ruhmann was, and is, a professional automobile mechanic, but had no racing experience. The Browns, cousins to Ruhmann’s wife Tanya, asked for her husband’s help.
Twenty years later Ruhmann is part of one of the longest-running, most successful teams in NASCAR weekly racing.
The team continues to rewrite the record book at historic Bowman Gray Stadium. Brown became the Stadium’s all-time leading Modified track championship winner when he captured his ninth title this year eclipsing Ralph Brinkley’s 26-year-old record of eight titles. Brown is also closing in on Junior Miller’s all-time record of 71 Modified feature wins. With eight victories in 2012, Brown raised his career total to 66 moving past Brinkley’s mark of 64. In addition to his eight triumphs this season, Brown also scored 13 top-five and 18 top-10 finishes in 24 starts and placed second to Deac McCaskill in the North Carolina state standings.
Along with the 2012 and 2009 championships Brown’s other track titles came in 2008, 2004-05, 2002, 1996-98.
Their longevity is a big reason why Brown and Ruhmann are a powerhouse combination. Because Ruhmann joined the team without prior racing experience, he and Brown developed the same knowledge and thought processes surrounding their cars. Ruhmann had nothing to “unlearn” in order to adapt to what works for the team.
“When Mark came to us he was car-smart but not race-car-smart,” Brown said. “He learned every inch of our cars from the ground up. He knows how I think, he knows racing, and he knows race cars. He’s a perfect fit.”
Joining the team as a crew member first, Ruhmann was able to glean knowledge from his predecessors that included Phil Moran, now crew chief for 2003 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour champion Todd Szegedy, and Dennis Pruchnik, crew chief for tour driver Richie Pallai Jr.
“I didn’t have any racing experience so I had to be a short study,” Ruhmann recalled of his first year. “Then I had to get in the same mindset as the driver. I was at a disadvantage versus multi-generational teams that have been together so long. But I stayed with Tim and Ben year after year and worked with some great crew chiefs and mechanics.”
Brown is employed as suspension manager at Michael Waltrip Racing, so he knows race cars at every level of competition and believes Ruhmann ranks among the best at any level.
“Mark is family,” Brown said. “I look at him as a brother. As a crew chief, he’s smart and meticulous around the race car and in the race shop.”
Ruhmann is lead technician in the production department at the CarMax reconditioning facility in Greensboro, N.C.
He will be honored for his national UNOH Ultimate Mechanic award at the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Awards event scheduled for Friday, Dec. 7 at the Charlotte (N.C.) Convention Center’s Crown Ballroom at the NASCAR Hall of Fame.
Tim Brown is surrounded by his team in Victory Lane after his second win of the season on May 19 at Bowman Gray Stadium in Winston-Salem, N.C. Courtesy Bowman Gray Racing