By Ellen Thompson/Havre Daily Newsfirstname.lastname@example.org
Watch closely and you just might see 21-year-old Havre native Nick McIntosh in a background shot of "3: The Dale Earnhardt Story," which premiers Saturday at 7 p.m. MST. If you miss that, what you will see are the cars that McIntosh built.
McIntosh was hired by the Fast Track High Performance Driving School in North Carolina when it was commissioned to rebuild or modify 62 cars for the ESPN movie.
The movie begins with Earnhardt's father, Ralph, who also raced, and then follows Earnhardt's career up until his death during the last lap of the 2001 Daytona 500. The oldest model McIntosh worked on for the movie was a 1936 Chevrolet.
"Nick built about half the old ones," school owner Andy Hillenburg said in a phone interview Thursday.
"We're very lucky to have him," Hillenburg said. "He got his chance when we hired him for the movie. He stood out in his work and his work ethic so much. We refused to let him go. We put him immediately to the race team - to the ARCA race team."
ARCA - Automobile Racing Club of America - is to NASCAR what the Arena Football League is to the NFL. For McIntosh, it's a good place to start.
He said he worked 15 hours a day, seven days a week for two months on the cars for the movie. Some of the older ones were pulled out of junkyards and required extensive work.
The cars were finished in May. McIntosh stayed on as a front tire changer and mechanic at the school. He's on the pit crew for Hillenburg's car, No. 11.
"It was a dream I had of wanting to get into racing," McIntosh said. "I just had an opportunity to follow my dream and I went with it."
He said his first time changing the front tires in a race went smoothly, but the second time he had trouble and only had time to change one of the two.
As the youngest member of the crew he's on, he said he gets a lot of support from his crew chief. The pit crews from different teams form a close community during the racing season as they travel between the 22 ARCA races.
The pit is the place for McIntosh. He said he's never really thought seriously about racing. In high school, he raced motorcross and mud raced in his truck, but beyond that he said he never thought of it.
His father, Steve McIntosh, said Nick always liked working in the shop on the farm north of Havre, but he was surprised one day when Nick said he couldn't go to school and needed to go to Great Falls for the day. There was a recruiter there from Universal Technical Institute in Phoenix, Ariz.
After graduating from Havre High School in 2001, McIntosh went to school in Phoenix and received an associate degree and then was hired at Fast Track.
"You've got to take jobs like that to follow your dream," he said.
McIntosh's mother, Wanda, said racing has become a family interest. "Once he was out there and we went to a race, then we were hooked," she said.
His parents had a chance to accompany McIntosh in the pit and watch him go over the wall during races.
McIntosh had a chance to see something from behind the scenes as well. He said being there for the filming of the movie was fun, and different from what he expected.
"It looks a lot easier when you see it on TV," he said. "There's a lot going on."