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Hammering out hot rods

Friendship, Ind., is unlikely home
to race car builder Trout

Former driver says Indiana
is hotbed for auto racing activity

By Konnie McCollum
Contributing Writer

FRIENDSHIP, Ind. (August 2006) – “Turn right at the Dairy Queen, drive almost eight miles through rolling hills and corn fields, turn left and go one and a half miles through more corn fields, and look for the NASCAR sign.”

Gary Trout

Photo by Konnie McCollum

Gary Trout recently converted his
Friendship, Ind., storage facility
into his permanent workshop.

Yes, that is correct. Out in Friendship, Ind., a small rural town in the southern part of the state, stands the only shop in Indiana that builds NASCAR autos.
Gary Trout Auto Sports, owned and operated by Gary Trout, takes plain, flat sheets of metal and turns them into those premium racing NASCAR machines. The shop also builds Indy cars, concept cars and hot rods, and every car is hand fabricated.
Trout became interested in automobile racing as a hobby about 30 years ago. At that time, he decided to race formula cars, which look like little Indy cars. He said that at first he won quite often, but as he moved up in the racing world, it became tougher, and money became a major issue. He made the decision in the 1980s to run Indy cars, and in 1984, he bought the car that led the Indianapolis 500. While he no longer drives professionally during races, he will still occasionally test drive his own creations.
Instead, he is the driving force behind his successful manufacturing venture.
Trout comes up with the idea for each of his new cars, and he decides when and where to race each of them. While his team has never won a race yet, he said the racing world is his passion, and he simply loves what he is doing.
Trout, who was born in Indianapolis and lived in Cincinnati most of his life, owns another shop in Charlotte, N.C., the town that NASCAR put on the map. “Everybody thinks you have to go to Charlotte to be successful with NASCAR,” he said. He had other plans, however. He wanted to return to his roots in Indiana, which he insists is the true birthplace of motorsports.

Gary Trout cars

Photo by Konnie McCollum

Gary Trout builds a variety of
race cars in his Friendship, Ind., shop.

The autosport shop in Friendship was originally used as a storage site for up to 30 cars at a time when his business operated out of Charlotte. It was also the stopover point in his travels with his racing crews. But after giving it careful consideration, Trout decided to move his day-to-day operations to Indiana.
He said there were many reasons for his change of address, but one of the most important was the sense of community in Friendship. “In Charlotte, we were just another shop, but here in Indiana, we are exclusive, and people around here appreciate that.”
Small businesses throughout the community love to participate in the process, and everyone is enthusiastic about his business.
Trout added that his operation is good for the area, too, because he has trained many people to work in NASCAR, and then they have gone on to work in other places in the industry. Apparently, people have traveled from Kentucky, Ohio and Indiana to work in his shop.
“It gives many workers an opportunity that they would not get anywhere else around here,” he said.
Although his operation is run on a small budget, it still takes millions of dollars to keep his manufacturing shop open and his cars racing. He said every time his team goes out to test a car, it will cost $125,000 for the engine and about $30,000 in tires. An entire weekend of testing could run well over $200,000. Each time a car is raced, a new engine is usually needed. So with those kinds of figures, the price of racing adds up fast.
Trout said the hardest part of his job is the continual search for sponsors and long-term partners. He believes that continuity, which is what he is striving for in sponsorships, is the reason behind the success of many NASCAR and Indy car teams.
Some of his sponsors include Brute and the city of El Paso, Texas. Having a city sponsor a NASCAR is quite unusual, but the partnership works well for both sides.
He is interested in adding some local sponsors, such as the factories in Madison, Ind., that are already a part of the automobile industry.
Trout said he builds specific cars for specific tracks, and the car he will race Aug. 4-6 at the Brickyard 400 in Indianapolis is ready. Chad Chaffin will drive the Gary Trout Autosport car for that race.

• To contact Gary Trout Auto Sports, call (812) 667-6448.

Back to August 2006 Articles.

 

 

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