When the Permatex Follow A Dream Racing team captured its first race championship at the 2005 OReilly Spring Nationals in Houston, TX, it was much more than a national win in the NHRA Top Alcohol Funny Car Series. It was a phenomenal victory in the pursuit of a dream that, on paper, stood little chance, if any, of coming true.
Thats because, Follow A Dream is different than most race teams. It operates as a non-for-profit foundation and its owner and crew chief, Jay Blake, is totally blind. Thats a heck of a combination in todays ultra competitive world of professional motorsports. But it works, and Blakes team wins. So far, Follow A Dream has earned three first place trophies in NHRA national events and is rated as one of the top funny car race teams in the world.
The driving force behind Follow A Dream is Jay Blake, a determined man with a different kind of vision. Instead of seeing adversity as a roadblock, Jay sees it as an opportunity. Why else would he embark on such a difficult challenge under circumstances that would have caused most people to pack it in?
Jay Blake started Follow A Dream racing eight years ago, just two years after a horrific accident cost him his eyesight and his career as a successful auto tech. He was severely injured when a forklift tire he was working on exploded in his face and sent him flying across the shop. In addition to his vision, he also lost his sense of taste and smell.
Once he recovered, Jay was determined to make the best of his situation, for himself and his family. He went to the Carroll Center for the Blind and learned to live life all over again. He was also able to dream again. Jay had always wanted to own his race team and decided to give it a go.
Jay was always a very good technician and had a lot of experience. He worked at several car dealerships, had a couple of stints with heavy-duty trucks, worked in welding equipment and supply business, and even managed a national muffler franchise. With his technical and managerial capabilities in place, Jay set out to learn the other skills he would need to run a successful race team such as fund raising, public relations, promotion and soliciting sponsorships. He was soon able to attract the interest of Permatex, an industry leader in automotive chemical tools, and the Permatex Follow A Dream team was on its way.
As a crew chief, Jays schedule is both demanding and rewarding. As he puts it, Its lot of responsibility and hard work, but its lots of fun too. A typical week for Jay can include ordering parts, dealing with sponsors, public relations, crafting new ideas for promoting the car, taking care of fans, booking speaking engagements and getting the car ready for the next event.
Most people presume that Jay tunes the car, but that critical task falls to Tom Howell, and may be one of the reasons why the team is doing so well. Jay explains, Weve come a long way and at our level of competition, we need someone much better than me to do the job. Besides, my hands are full managing our eight-member team and busy race schedule.
While Jay clearly enjoys the business end of the race team, his true love is and always will be to physically work on the racecar. Jay gets to the car at night after everyone has gone home, turns on some classic rock and roll, and takes the car apart so its ready for the next race. Says Jay, Theres nothing sweeter.
Figuratively speaking, Jay has never looked back from that faithful day in 1997 when, as he expresses it, he was forced to retire.
These past 10 years have been the most remarkable and most enjoyable years of my life,Jay said. Ive never felt more alive or more fulfilled. If given the choice to have my eyesight and go back to the way things were, I wouldnt trade it for what I have today. While he was building his team, Jay Blake never forgot the importance of encouraging others to overcome adversity. So, for the past seven years, Jay has toured the country as a motivational speaker at hospitals, rehab centers, corporations, and Vo-tech schools, encouraging all types of people to believe that they can rise above any calamity and achieve their lifes goals.
The Greater New York Automobile Dealers Association, sponsors of the New York Auto Show and the National Automotive Technology Competition, recently honored Jay Blake as the 2007 Outstanding Supporter of Automotive Education. Jay spoke to an audience of the nations top high school automotive students at the awards dinner for the 2007 National Automotive Technology Competition in New York.
In his keynote address, Jay offered both advice and encouragement, telling the students that they can accomplish anything they want if they have the will and determination to make it happen. Jay also stressed the importance of staying in school and continuing ones education. Using a metaphor that every technician can relate to, Jay asked the students to view their life as a tool box and suggested that they fill it with five essential tools: A positive attitude, strong basic skills and education, passion, self-determination and the ability to work as a team player.
Jay offers a heartfelt message for the future automotive technicians of America, Dreams are obtainable. You must be willing to believe in yourself and have the determination to stay the course. It may not be easy, but it is possible. So follow your dream.
|Jay Blakes 5 Essential Tools for Your Lifes Tool Box
A Positive Attitude – Everyday you have a choice to make it a good one or a bad one. Be positive.
Strong Basic Skills and Education – Learn everything you can. Polish your basic skills and most importantly, continue your education.
Passion Believe in our dreams. Your passion is the fuel that will drive you towards achieving them.
Self-determination – Believe in yourself. Seek out those who have knowledge of what you may be trying to achieve. Dont listen to those who say you cant do it.
Teamwork – Dont go it alone. Learn to work as a team member. In a group, strengths come together and weaknesses fall to the side.