Editor’s note: “Where Are They Now” is a Muscatine Journal series written by former Muscatine Journal editor Gil Dietz, who welcomes comments and suggestions. You can contact him at 563-263-5499 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
CORNELIUS, N.C. — If the NASCAR cars driven by Jamie McMurray and Juan Pablo Montoya have successful racing seasons this year, then part of the credit should go to Nathan Horn, formerly of Durant.
Horn, 31, is the vehicle dynamics group leader for the NASCAR team of Earnhardt Ganassi Racing. Dale Earnhardt’s widow, Teresa Earnhardt, Chip Gasassi and Felix Sabates own the team based in Concord, N.C.
This is Horn’s first season with the team. He previously held an engineering position with Red Bull Racing USA for about six years.
Horn is the son of Sandy and Dale Marolf of Durant.
“Six other persons report to me,” Horn said. “Our job is to direct development and validation of vehicle dynamics simulations as well as any physical testing related to vehicle dynamics. This involves several branches of mechanical engineering and on-track testing.”
Earnhardt Ganassi Racing fields the No. 1 Bass Pro Shops/McDonalds Chevrolet Impala driven by McMurray and the No. 42 Target Corp. Chevrolet driven by Montoya in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.
“Simulations written by my group are used by both teams,” he said. “I spend the vast majority of my time working with the crew chiefs, race engineers and other engineers from the design group, aerodynamics group and the research and development group. It takes a lot of people working together to have the best-performing cars.
“The NASCAR season begins Feb. 18 with testing and practice sessions in Daytona, Fla. The first big race is the Daytona 500 on Feb. 26. That race is followed by Phoenix, Ariz., on March 4, and proceeds through a total of 36 events ending Nov. 18 in Homestead, Fla.,” Horn said.
“I will be at some of the races, but not all. When I travel I generally am in one of the pit boxes. Each driver has his own pit crew responsible for changing tires, adding fuel and physically making the adjustments on the car. The people ‘on top’ in the box are generally the ones making the decisions about when to pit, how much air pressure should be in the tires, what chassis adjustments should be made and other decisions like that,” he said.
Horn said one of the most memorable moments of his professional career was when he was in the pit box for the Red Bull Racing Sprint Cup Series win at Phoenix on Nov. 11, 2011.
“Most of my activities away from work are exercise related,” he said. “This past year I did three half-marathons, my first 100-mile bike race, my first full marathon, and my first triathlon. I plan to continue those things in 2012. I also enjoy remodeling houses, woodworking, fishing and hunting.
With a fast-paced schedule like that, Horn finds that he does run into problem: “There are not enough hours in the day.”