May 13, 2008
Brennan Palmiter may look like an ordinary teenager, but behind the youthful grin is an incredibly driven16-year-old who has his sights set on a career in racing and welding.
Most 16-year-old high school students are focused on getting their driver's licenses, planning for the next school dance, or gearing up for college entrance exams. In many ways Brennan Palmiter of Ormond Beach, Fla., is a typical 16-year-old, but instead of proms and football games, Palmiter is preoccupied with ensuring that his race car is running properly, designing a bumper that will hold up in the event of a crash, and challenging himself in his welding classes.
Palmiter is a budding race car driver for the Livingood Motorsports team who, by working on his race car, discovered his affinity for welding. His love for both racing and welding has grabbed the attention of the Fabricators & Manufacturers Association Intl. (FMA), which, along with the FMA Foundation, has partnered with Palmiter to offer scholarships to high school and college students interested in pursuing manufacturing-related careers.
As a 7-year-old racing go-karts, Palmiter was much younger than most of the other drivers and became accustomed to the underdog role. That, however, did not deter him; instead it motivated him.
"I always felt like the little runt kid in the group. I always had to work twice as hard, and I have a feeling that kind of helped me," Palmiter said.
He started racing in the novice class at a track near his home and went on to compete at go-kart dirt tracks in Florida, eventually racing in the WKA State and National Dirt Series. By 2005 he was racing TQ Late Model stock cars, and in 2006 he raced a Limited Late Model at New Smyrna Speedway and was named Late Model Rookie of the Year. He ran the full season at New Smyrna last year, finishing second in points and making his debut with the Goodyear Challenge Series.
"Everyone just kind of looks at me and thinks, "Oh, he's just a young gun, all he'll do is wreck.' I think that's another part of what has driven me to do what I've done lately."
Through his racing experience, Palmiter found that welding was not only a handy skill to have in the race shop, it was also something that excited him to the point that he wanted to learn all that he could.
"It goes hand in hand—to be a race car driver, you have to know how to weld. We go into turn No. 1 and the guys in front of me get bunched up and I bump into the back of them. What happens if my bumper collapses or my welds aren't good enough? I just went from having a winning car to being parked in the pits.
"What can I engineer to do what I want this car to do and not break in a tight situation? That has always been my theory behind learning how to weld and learning how to fabricate," Palmiter said.
That is why Palmiter attends night welding classes in addition to his high school courses. He is enrolled in an accelerated program at Seabreeze High School, Daytona Beach, Fla., putting him on pace to graduate high school in three years. He also will earn a vocational certificate in welding technology with four specialized welding certifications from Daytona Beach Community College in May 2009, the same time that he'll earn his high school diploma.
"I've just always wanted to get on out and get on to doing my own things. I love welding and I love racing. If I don't make it to NASCAR®, then I want there to be a backup plan. That's been my motivation to learn as much as I can.
"I'm not like the rest of the kids where I'm not real sure what I want to do for the rest of my life. I've got a passion."
Just because Palmiter is behind a welding helmet instead of a steering wheel doesn't mean he's not every bit as competitive with a welding gun. Palmiter said he has a habit of checking out what the guy next to him is welding and challenging himself to do the same thing, only better.
"I always feel that if I'm not pushing hard enough that I'm not doing my best. That's always been my point of view in racing as well."
Palmiter enjoys the precision involved in gas tungsten arc welding (GTAW), adding that he likes to use it in his own shop as much as possible.
"It's a lot harder, but if you can make a nice bead on a steel tube in a real tight position, you can do one on a flat easily. It's a challenge, and I love challenges."
"Anytime somebody says something is impossible for me to do, I say, "Well, watch me.' I've always been like that."
In his welding classes, Palmiter has learned that it's not always how fast or hard you go. He was making an aluminum box and was having trouble welding on the edges.
"I'm a race car driver and the pedal goes to the floor. It was all or nothing, but they [welding class instructors] finally taught me and helped me get out of that routine."
Now, Palmiter said, he can make an overflow water radiator box. Before, he used an empty plastic bottle and ran a hose in it.
Palmiter said it's imperative for a driver to be with a race team by the time he or she is between 18 and 21, which is why the thought of an early exit from high school, and thus adolescence, doesn't faze him. He's ready now, and he's biding his time until he can make his goals a reality, even if it means missing out on typical high school activities.
"I'm starting to get my career rolling. It's taken off now, and everything I've been sacrificing for is coming into play. Honestly, I don't miss anything that I thought I might have missed."
Are there doubts? You wouldn't know it from talking to him. Should a racing career not work out, Palmiter plans to make his mark in the racing world through welding.
"My name will be in racing, I can guarantee that until the day I die. And if I'm not racing, I'm going to be welding."
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