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Taneytown native Stambaugh enjoying NASCAR career

Taneytown native Justin Stambaugh, right, sits beside driver Ty Dillon during qualifying for the Pocono 200 at the Pocono Raceway in Long Pond, Pa., last summer. Stambaugh is a mechanic and pit crew member for Dillon's team.
Taneytown native Justin Stambaugh, right, sits beside driver Ty Dillon during qualifying for the Pocono 200 at the Pocono Raceway in Long Pond, Pa., last summer. Stambaugh is a mechanic and pit crew member for Dillon's team. (Photo courtesy Richard Childress Racing , Carroll County Times)

When Justin Stambaugh began working on cars during his youth in Taneytown, he didn't know if the skills he was learning would one day help him fix up race cars or serve him in his career.

Turns out, the answer was both.

The 1999 Francis Scott Key High School graduate is employed by Richard Childress Racing as a mechanic and pit crew member for driver Ty Dillon in NASCAR's Camping World Truck Series.

Stambaugh feels lucky to be in his position.

"Something you grew up doing for fun and now you get paid for it," he said. "They say, if you enjoy what you do, you'll never work a day in your life."

Oh, it's work - he spends his weeks getting Dillon's trucks ready, with his particular expertise utilized on suspensions, and then race day helping to get Dillon in and out of the pits, gassed up with fresh tires, as fast as possible - but it's work he enjoys.

He's about as close to his Carroll County roots as he gets this weekend as NASCAR's top three series are competing in Dover, Del. Stambaugh helped Dillon to a sixth-place finish in Friday's truck race.

Dillon, who is Childress's grandson, has six top-10 finishes in six truck races and sits third in the season-long standings. He also made his Nationwide Series debut on Saturday at Dover.

He appreciates having the guy he affectionately calls Paul Bunyan because of the beard Stambaugh often wears on his team.

"I want someone who's dedicated and has the will to win just as bad as me, someone who'll do anything for you," Dillon said in a recent phone interview. "He's a great guy in general, great father, hard worker. He's definitely proud of where he comes from."

That's Taneytown, where Stambaugh grew up working in his father's shop (which has since been moved to Kingsdale, Pa.). Stambaugh was a wrestler at FSK and finished third in the county his senior year, but the sport that interested him most isn't offered in high schools.

"Me and a bunch of the guys I grew up with, we all used to drag race, then we got into dirt racing," Stambaugh said.

It didn't take him too long after graduating to figure out what he wanted to do with his life. So he moved to Mooresville, N.C., attending a NASCAR training school. He said his background in welding and fabrication served him well there as he was a top student.

"I was pretty good," he said. "Luckily I had plenty of skills from working with my dad."

He landed the job with Richard Childress Racing in 2003 and has worked in a number of positions within the company since. He has been with several teams and drivers and became a part of Dillon's crew last year as Dillon won the ARCA series.

Dillon also raced in three Truck Series events in 2011, including the finale at Homestead, Fla., that is now a painful memory for Stambaugh, who was crossing in front of Dillon's ride just as NASCAR star Kevin Harvick was zooming in for a pit stop.

It was the first time Stambaugh had been hit during a race. No apology from Harvick was forthcoming.

"Busted up a couple of ribs," Stambaugh said. "Luckily it was the last race of the season. They take forever to heal."

Dillon, 20, is considered a potential rising star in the sport and Stambaugh hopes to remain on Dillon's team as it likely ascends to the Nationwide Series and then Sprint Cup Series over the next few years. He likes the way Dillon conducts himself on and off the track.

"You don't have to worry about him giving you 100 percent. He's all in, wide-open all the time. Now and then you get a driver you maybe question," Stambaugh said. "We get along good. It's more like a family ."

Stambaugh said his 8-year-old daughter Emily is crazy about Dillon. He also said Dillon appreciates those who work hard for him behind the scenes, something Dillon mentioned without prompting recently.

"The team is everything," Dillon said. "The driver can only do so much."

While Dillon's Nationwide debut was in the No. 33 car, he's been racing the iconic No. 3 in the Truck Series. When Stambaugh was growing up and beginning to follow NASCAR, No. 3 was, of course, driven by the legendary Dale Earnhardt.

"Seeing the 3 out there and working on the 3, it's a big thing to uphold and perform," he said.

Added Dillon: "It's more fun than pressure. We always get a good response from the fans."

Stambaugh can't say enough about those fans, the way they support their favorite NASCAR drivers and support the sponsors by buying products.

His family enjoys seeing him in action.

"It's pretty neat to see your boy out there," said his father, John Stambaugh.

In fact, Justin Stambaugh said his 81-year-old grandmother, who rarely leaves home, journeyed to Charlotte, N.C., recently to see her first race.

"She said she'd never seen anything like it," Stambaugh said. "She was blown away."

As for his future, Stambaugh said it's in racing.

"I'm working toward being a crew chief," he said. "That's my goal. I'm trying to learn as much as I can."

And enjoying himself while he does it.

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