Manchester native Troy Welty is one of the locals who has welcomed me warmly into the NASCAR Sprint Cup series garage, so I was eager to find out what was new with him.
The 2006 Daytona 500 was Welty's first race for Richard Childress Racing on the No. 07 Jack Daniels Racing car piloted by Clint Bowyer.
Welty had gained experience locally as a mechanic for the Apple Chevrolet sprint car, moving on to the Beef Packers World of Outlaws car.
Then Welty tried his luck in NASCAR, where he was hired two days after applying at RCR, only the second stop in his job search.
So I was surprised to find out that Welty landed a new job working for Stewart-Haas Racing, officially starting Dec. 1.
"I met Tony in 2001 or 2002," Welty said. "I was working in California on a pavement sprint car and he came out to drive it. I also knew him through the dirt and Outlaw deal, and with me going to the Cup side, I got to hang out with him and get to really know him. We became pretty good friends. We have a lot in common.
"I'd fly with him, even though I worked for RCR. He would say, 'hey, I'm going to Eldora this weekend. Do you want to fly along?' And I was like, 'heck, yeah, I want to fly along to Eldora!' I went to Knoxville a couple of times with him, too.
"With all the changes that were going to happen at RCR with changing drivers, I didn't know if I was going to be with Clint or Casey (Mears)," Welty added.
"I'm one of what we call the underneath guys," he said. "We take care of everything underneath the car from the gear to the transmission to the axles, brakes, anything underneath the car, at the shop and on the road. I still do the windshield on Sundays as the eighth man on the pit crew.
"I'm very excited for this year. Nothing against RCR or any of their teams. They're great people. But when you work for somebody that you admire and that you idolize -- I really have a lot of confidence and faith in Tony Stewart from how he's treated me -- with respect -- to how he races, just everything. It's been awesome and I'm as excited as anybody can be about a job.
"Now that I'm with Tony, somebody that I respect that much, it's kind of a joy ride. I guess you'd say that I'm on a high."
Ellen Siska writes about NASCAR for The York Dispatch. She can be reached at email@example.com. Read her blog, "Pitting Outside the Box," at the Blogzone at yorkdispatch.com.