BECKLEY, W.Va. — When Sam Vernatter started helping his dad Tim in his Shady Spring auto shop at the age of 12, he never suspected that it would be the start of a career that would take him well beyond his native Shady Spring.
Nineteen years later, he found himself in Las Vegas, accepting an award for his role in helping an established organization find success on driving’s biggest stage.
“Two years ago, Mr. (Rick) Hendrick tasked us with coming up with a goal that we wanted to achieve,” Vernatter said in his acceptance speech. “Mine was to be the youngest Engine Builder of the Year. Thank you, Mr. H, for motivating me and the entire engine shop to be the best. This is something that I will cherish for the rest of my life.”
Vernatter, who now lives in Concord, N.C., has come a long way from those days helping his dad — affectionately known as Vern. The 2002 Shady Spring graduate learned it all from Vern, from building engines to actually driving the cars in which those engines are placed.
“We raced our own car at Beckley and Princeton (Motor Speedways), and even out-of-state…