Many may dream about being a race car driver. Only a few chase down those dreams and get a chance at working with a professional drag racing team.
Technician.Academy and Randy Meyer Racing selected Paducah resident and West Kentucky Community and Technical College student Juliaun Pracht as one of two winners of the Respect is Learned In The Pits contest. Pracht, 20, will work alongside the RMR Top Alcohol drag racing team Sept. 2-5 at the National Hot Rod Association U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis.
“Working on (a car) this high-end and this expensive, under such close scrutiny from the people that own it is a little nerve-wracking. But at the same time, it’s very exciting to see if I can prove myself to them,” Pracht said.
Pracht, a Graves County High School graduate, is the second WKCTC student to win the contest, according to a news release from the college. Pracht is expected to graduate with an associate degree in automotive technology in December. He said he has so far completed two years of automotive technology classes at WKCTC.
When he first moved to Kentucky in 2016, Pracht planned to join the Army and become a pilot after finishing high school. Those plans changed when he got his hands on a 1972 Ford F-100 that needed some fixing up.
“I didn’t know what I was doing back then, but I decided to tear into that engine,” Pracht said.
In the end, all he needed was a carburetor. Taking apart that machinery, however, was the spark that Pracht needed to pursue a career working with automotive, a path that is leading him to work on the tracks at Lucas Oil Raceway in Indianapolis.
Pracht’s first time seeing a nitro car, a car used for drag racing, in person was at an NHRA race in St. Louis in 2018. He and his group had arrived at the race late, and the nitro cars were already out on the track.
“The very first time I ever saw one was it flying by me at 300 mph,” Pracht said.
Pracht said he spends most of his free time working on cars, whether it’s fine-tuning his 2008 Shelby Mustang GT 500 or fixing up his neighbors’ cars. Outside of working on cars for a living at Linwood Motors in Metropolis, Illinois, race spectators can get a glimpse of Pracht zooming by at high speeds in his silver Mustang on weekends at Beacon Dragway, a 1/8 mile International Hot Rod Association-sanctioned track in Paducah.
Pracht’s dream is to be a driver. To be a driver, one has to take care of the car they’re putting out on the track.
“You spend 99% of the time working on the car and only 1% of the time driving on it,” Pracht said.
Pracht said he does enjoy working on the car; he almost has to if he wants to be able to enjoy driving it, Pracht added.
“You really start to understand what the car is going through when you’re hitting it like I do. I may be mean to it sometimes, but you kind of understand the car has its own personality,” Pracht said.
Bob Gunn, instructor at the Skilled Craft Training Center in Hickory, which is part of WKCTC’s automotive technology program, said Pracht was one of the best students in his class.
“I’d love to have more students like him because you can just tell he wants to do this,” Gunn said.
Pracht, along with the other contest winner, will be working exclusively with one of the two RMR dragsters on the Top Alcohol team, according to Technician.Academy’s contest page. The RMR team has won the Indianapolis race the last two years in a row, according to WKCTC’s news release.