The Dream Catcher
Daniel Lynch combined his dreams of racing and firefighting into a life of service
By Mike Savicki
Have you ever wondered what it might be like to leave family, friends and a guaranteed job behind to chase a dream? What decision might you make if you knew that your chances of success on the unknown path would be slim, and if you were lucky enough to get a break and land a job – and that’s a big if – you’d likely be starting at the very bottom with no guarantee of a paycheck? Would you pack your bags, or would you play it safe and stick with the sure thing?
Seven years ago, Daniel Lynch was faced with such a decision. He had spent nearly two years as a fire fighter on Long Island – the same position both his father and grandfather had served before him – yet he was feeling the pull of racing. His sure thing was a career on Long Island, yet his dream was a life racing in North Carolina.
“I had gotten all my firefighting certifications in New York and was happy in my job, but felt there was still something missing,” Daniel Lynch begins. “My passion, my life, included both building cars with my Dad and firefighting, too, and I knew I’d never be happy unless I tried to build a life that let me do both those things. I knew I could fire fight anywhere, but if I wanted to race I’d have to move south.”
So Lynch packed his bags and headed to Mooresville. That’s where he believed he could make his dream a reality. He knew next to no one in the industry.
Daniel Lynch explains, “The first thing I did was enroll in pit crew classes while I started looking for a job. I knocked on every door I could and felt like I got the break I needed when a team told me ‘we don’t really have a paid position for you right now, but if you want to volunteer with us, we can see where it goes and slowly get you into working on race cars.’ That was the chance I had hoped for.”
For the next five years, Lynch got experience working in a variety of positions from tire specialist to interior mechanic on several Sprint Cup and Nationwide teams. He learned from drivers Ken Schrader, Regan Smith, Mark Martin, Paul Menard and Sam Hornish, Jr., and gave countless extra hours every week learning everything he could.
“When I first began, I wasn’t getting paid much more than a volunteer,” he jokes, “but these were jobs, they gave me experience and they were my beginning. I knew I’d have to get into the sport on my own and do whatever came my way. It was difficult a lot of the time as I moved from team to team, but I am so fortunate things happened like they did.”
At the same time Daniel Lynch was gaining race experience, he connected as a volunteer with the South Iredell Fire Department. Fire fighting was in his blood and he still felt the call to serve.
“I could have made the decision to do one job or the other, but I know myself and I know that if I chose one without the other, it wouldn’t be fair to what I have always dreamed of doing, and I wouldn’t be the person I had always dreamed of being,” he exclaims.
His passion and his selflessness are paying dividends.
Lynch, 25, now serves as the interior mechanic on Brad Keselowski’s No. 22 Discount Tire Dodge Challenger in the Nationwide Series. Of his many shop and trackside tasks, he is responsible for driver safety, comfort and maintaining specified performance standards inside the car. And he is an emergency responder, too, with rapid intervention, HAZMAT and NIMS certifications. If Lynch is within radio distance and he’s not at Penske Racing, you’ll catch him responding to calls ranging from automobile accidents and house fires to alarms of all types.
“To me, the greatest combination I could imagine is winning a race and saving someone’s life,” he concludes. “Not everybody can say they did both those things in a lifetime, let alone a single day. That’s what I want, that’s just who I am and that’s what I told myself a long time ago I wanted to do.”
Sometimes it pays to take a chance and follow your dream.
This article was originally published in Currents Magazine in 2012.