Gentlemen, start your drills
July 23, 2010
SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. – A flurry of activity fills Jared Clark’s backyard 30 seconds at a time. The South Shore contractor removes pipe fittings, cuts a two by four at a feverish pace and tosses power drills across a custom built work bench like he is in a hurry.
Because he is.
Clark, 32, is practicing for a trip to Bristol Motor Speedway in Tennessee next month, where he will compete in the North American Championship of Irwin Tool’s Ultimate Tradesman Challenge. The competition will be held prior to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Irwin Tools Night Race.
The challenge requires competitors to complete six construction-related actions – removing two pipe fittings, marking three lines on a two by four, clamping the board in place, cutting the board, drilling two holes at the marked positions and placing the board into a metal channel. The fastest time wins, but the board must fit in the channel properly to stop the clock, making precision a necessity.
The winner will take home the race’s pace car, a custom 2010 Ford Mustang GT, and could win up to $1 million if they take home the World Championship in March.
The possibilities for Clark all started on a whim.
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The 11-year South Lake Tahoe resident noticed an Irwin Tool tent outside of Meeks Lumber and Hardware on June 16, but didn’t think much of it at first.
After realizing the tool company was holding a competition showcasing some of the contracting skills he used on a daily basis, Clark entered and posted a time of 36.94 seconds.
The time was the best all day, but Clark didn’t realize what that meant.
“I thought, great, I got a bag of tools,” Clark said.
But a trip to Bristol to be one of 24 competitors at the North American Championship and a VIP package including events with NASCAR drivers were also included as prizes.
Clark isn’t much of NASCAR fan (he listed Ricky Bobby, the character played by comedian Will Ferrell in the movie “Talladega Nights,” as his favorite driver in a biography for the challenge), but said he’s excited about the VIP treatment and heading to the next level of competition.
He’s also a bit apprehensive.
The challenge is an obscure event to most, but Clark discovered the Ultimate Tradesman Challenge has a cult following after researching the competition online.
“People really take this seriously, they come from around the world to do it,” Clark said.
Many competitors compete year after year and practice regularly, Clark said.
The Kansas native has followed suit.
Irwin doesn’t release the exact specifications of the challenge or the work bench used, but Clark built what appears to be a very accurate mock-up of the bench in the backyard of his Sierra Tract home last week.
He said he tries to practice every day.
The contractor won’t go on record about how fast he has gotten at the challenge, for fear of revealing the level of competition to his opponents, but said he has been able to shave several seconds off the time he posted at Meeks.
Clark’s 36.94 second score is the seventh best from the 33 local competitions held around the U.S. and Canada since March.
There are four more local competitions, in Missouri, Illinois and Ontario, before the North American Finals.
The best time posted as of Thursday was 29.13 seconds by General Contractor Peter Harding, according to the Irwin Tools website.
Clark is hopeful about his chances.
“With practice, I think I can get there,” Clark said.