Monday, August 11, 2008

NASCAR Crewman - Part 1

Cranberry, Pa. native Travis Geisler, second from left, speaks to other Penske crewmen while at the NASCAR race in Phoenix earlier this year.


By Mike Jones
Staff writer

You could say Travis Geisler’s life began at the race track. While in the womb, his father raced at local short tracks with his mother watching from the pits. As an accomplished driver from Butler County, it was only natural for his father, Lynn, to pass his interest onto sons Travis and Ben. They worked on the cars and made friends in the pits at tracks such as Pennsylvania Motor Speedway in Imperial, Pa. Weekend racing builds a strong bond that is hard for outsiders to understand.

“It’s competitive and it becomes pretty satisfying,” said Lynn Geisler, who has won twice at PPMS this season. “Then it becomes your circle of friends. It becomes a part of your life.”

Going to those races each weekend triggered something in Travis Geisler, who grew up in Cranberry, Pa. and now lives in North Carolina. It became a lifestyle for him that one day would turn into a career. While attending high school at Sewickley Academy in Pittsburgh, he dabbled in go-carts and later ran a limited schedule at area dirt tracks. He graduated high school and went to Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn., to study mechanical engineering. If he was going to make a career in racing, Geisler wanted to know what made the car go.

“I had always been really involved in the setup stuff and wanted to have a better understanding of what I was doing,” Geisler said. “I really wanted to have knowledge about the physics of the sport.”

Even while in college, Geisler returned home some weekends to race in a NASCAR weekly series at Motordrome and Jennerstown speedways. He graduated from college in 2003, but more importantly, moved on to compete in tougher racing circuits by running in NASCAR All-Pro, ARCA and ASA – the minor leagues of racing. But he got experience by racing at major speedways at Nashville, Kentucky, Pikes Peak and Gateway. Geisler got a break in 2004 when he ran 13 Busch Series races, but with mixed results. By then he decided to move from the driver’s seat to working on the car.

The following year he worked as an engineering consultant for a Busch team. It was that job that catapulted him to a major team in 2006 when Yates Racing hired him to work on the No. 88 Sprint Cup car driven at the time by Dale Jarrett. With a full year in NASCAR’s top series, Geisler transferred to Penske Racing South in 2007. It was a perfect fit with a team that is on the cutting edge of racing technology. It also didn’t hurt that Geisler’s new driver, Ryan Newman, graduated from college with an engineering degree.

“People became aware of him from his driving efforts,” Lynn Geisler said of his son. “He was also active on the car. Having an engineering degree, work ethic and experience around motorsports, it became a no-brainer.”

And racing has been a “no-brainer” for both Geisler boys. The other son, Ben, went to University of Pennsylvania and earned an engineering degree. He’s now third in command of Dirt Motorsports, which runs the World of Outlaws sprint car series.

“It’s a real accomplishment for both of my kids,” Lynn Geisler said. “It’s kind of a deal where you watch them growing up and motorsports was so consuming that you wonder how they would turn out.”

(Click here for Part 2)

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