After 20 Years, Busy Welder Still Bonded To Race Cars


March 24, 1991|By Stanley C. Dillon

Thirty-nine-year-old John Clagett of Hampstead is a busy man.

During the day he has his own business, JC Welding in Baltimore, where he specializes in contract and race-car welding.

At night, he works as a senior manufacturer technician for Teledyne Energy Systems in Timonium. In his spare time, he serves as crew chief for Michael Goldsmith, a Hampstead driver who drives in the GT-Pinto class in the Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) Middle Atlantic Road Racing Series (MARRS).

"J. C.", as he is known in sport-car circles, first became involved in racing about 20 years ago when he made some parts for a friend to keep his car going. He hasn't stopped since.

As he became more involved, he began building a tube-frame chassis that is used today by most competitors.

His welding experience helped him make a strong, safe chassis. In addition to this work, Clagett assembles the complete package, taking a motor and rear end from custom builders and turning it into a complete racer.

Clagett has had drivers bring him new Nissans to rebuild for racing. When he is done, the only original equipment is the windshield wiper.

Clagett also makes roll cages, springs, control arms and other suspensionparts.

Drivers from Pennsylvania to Virginia use his cars. He knows chassis set-up as well as anyone, and it's not unusual for area competitors to seek his advice and assistance.

For three years, Clagett served full time as a crew chief for Jon Govatos of Washington and his Nissan GTP team. They traveled the SCCA National Circuit over the East Coast in a Nissan he built.

During this time, Clagett served as a consultant for other Nissan teams. Several of the cars he built have been Northeast District champions.

Unfortunately, Govatos'team folded for lack of money.

Despite the long hours on the road, Clagett said he enjoyed it.

"I was responsible for the entire racing effort; all the driver had to do was to show up and drive," saidClagett "I would do it again. I found it enjoyable. I miss it."

Clagett tried driving, but did not enjoy it.

"I lacked the financesand interest," he said. "It wasn't any fun unless you could buy everything you needed. Besides, it is very satisfying building cars and seeing that the work you do does a good job."

Since he came off thecircuit two years ago, Clagett has been crew chief on Goldsmith's Pinto GT. The two have put together a team that showed improvement every week. Last fall, Goldsmith won his first race. It was a satisfying day for the team.

Now that they have that first win, Clagett wantsto help Goldsmith win the championship.

"Everything began to fallinto place at the end of last season," Clagett said. "We were running real good. It will be nice to begin the season where we left off. Everything should fall in place."

Clagett's wife, Cass, also is involved in racing.

"She's the crew mom, she feeds everyone," said Clagett, who has three children -- Cassie, Megan and Adam -- who spend the weekend at the races with their parents.

Weekends are busy at JC Welding when Clagett is not racing. In addition to maintaining Goldsmith's Pinto, Clagett is working on other cars. He is also buildinga research and development car for Goldsmith and himself.

"We found a car (Ford Pinto) off the street for $200 that needed a good home," said Clagett. "We plan to try new stuff on the car.

"We want totry new suspensions and spring rates to try to make the car corner better. Whatever works, we will use on the race car."

Clagett is making the car as light as he can. Since there is a weight minimum, he will distribute the added weight for better handling and traction. They expect to have the car available for testing later this year.

For now, the Goldsmith racing team is ready to start their nine-race season in April at Summit Point Raceway near Charlestown, W.Va. In addition to the races at Summit Point, they will travel to Watkins Glen in New York, Pocono International Raceway in Pennsylvania and the Charlotte Motor Speedway in North Carolina.

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