BAYTOWN, Tex. (March 29, 2009) -Serhat Akbas, of Austin, Texas, was named the fifth NAPA AUTO PARTS Honorary Crew Member of the 2009 NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series at the NHRA Spring Nationals at Houston Raceway Park.
Akbas, who came to the U.S. from Turkey eight years ago to visit a friend and stayed after meeting his wife Jessica, is the lead technician at a National Tire and Battery store in Austin and was selected in a special contest by Ron Gooch, Divisional Vice President of NTB South, and Stu Kambury, Southwest Division Vice President for NAPA.
"Stu and I in a partnership with NAPA and NTB had put together some contests which were basically based on total purchases, and we awarded the top five techs that are within the NTB organization. Serhi is our No. 1 technician in one of our stores in Austin. He does a phenomenal job. He has some history in this particular industry and is just a great guy."
Although Akbas is new to NHRA drag racing, he had worked in the engine performance department of the Ferrari Formula 1 team in Milan, Italy, from 1997 to 2001.
"I'm very excited to see NHRA drag racing," said Akbas, 35. "It's so different from the place I came from. The cars are different, the technology is different. It's very nice to be here."
His visit to the NAPA pit area also gave him the chance to meet the "other" Schumacher – six-time NHRA champion Tony - after his stint in Formula 1 with seven-time champion and Ferrari pilot Michael Schumacher. "I can't get away from the Schumachers," he joked.
"I am very happy to receive this honor,” he said. “We use NAPA AUTO PARTS on our jobs, and we really like their parts. They are well produced and we have no returns."
Because of Akbas' Formula 1 racing background, and after he said he was impressed with the power of the nitro Funny Cars, DSR Sr. Vice President Mike Lewis joked with him, saying, "The NAPA car goes about 310 mph, it runs at 8000 or 8200 rpm. The Ferrari motors can spin around 19 to 21,000 rpm. In 1000 feet (length of drag strip), if we can get Ron's car up to 19,000 rpms that would take him over the sound barrier."
Akbas' non-wrenching crew-member duties included escorting the NAPA AUTO PARTS Dodge Funny Car to the staging lanes for the qualifying rounds. He also helped retrieve the car at the end of the track following driver Ron Capps' run.
He also met and chatted with the entire NAPA AUTO PARTS Dodge Funny Car crew, was a special guest in the NAPA hospitality area throughout the day, received a NAPA team jersey, experienced an up-close-and-personal view of the NAPA crew as the team worked on the car, and enjoyed a private tour of the team transporter and pit area.
NAPA AUTO PARTS Distribution Centers at each NHRA event during the season have different criteria for choosing the persons who are potential NAPA AUTO PARTS Honorary Crew Members.