Southwestern Graduate Carves Out Significant Role With Toyota Racing
Ever since he was a young boy, area native Nathan Dallas has always had a passion for racing, motorsports and automobiles.
From a successful youth ATV racing career — which includes being a four-time Grand National Youth Champion — to now, where he works as an engineer at Toyota Racing Development in North Carolina, the 37-year old has displayed a great deal of intelligence, and just a pure knack for racing that has allowed him to thrive.
“He was always interested,” said Jesse Robbins, Busti town supervisor and Dallas’ stepfather. “He could put it together, he could take it apart, he was always very mechanically inclined. … He was always very interested. (Throughout Dallas’ youth) I had a radiator shop and I’d be soldering radiators and I’d need help holding a bracket and he’d be looking at it, you know? He’d be asking questions. … He was always just a very good learner and retained everything you taught him.”
Dallas, a Southwestern Central School graduate, was a member of the engineering program at Jamestown Community College. After that, he attended the University of North Carolina at Charlotte and was a member of the motorsports program.
“It started riding four-wheelers in the yard and then just racing,” Dallas stressed. “When I was in high school, I did well, and it just came natural and I did OK at it. … At JCC I started the engineering program there and then friends who had already made the move down this way toward UNC Charlotte had just started their motorsports program. This was like 2000, 2001 and they had just started their motorsports engineering concentration program. … I moved down this way to start school and stuff, the racing was nearby, my four-wheelers were nearby, the weather is better and all of that led into making the move down here.”
Dallas added: “I made it out of college and got one of those entry-level positions that got to where you really know a lot of people. … It’s a different mentality, a different breed of people in this industry and working. You have to be willing to give up a lot to go do it. The people around you have to understand. that, too. … It just kind of transpired all the way through. I feel very fortunate, really, to be where I’m at. Who you know, timing, all of that stuff. I don’t really know how it worked out so well for me. Things just came about at the right time and I took the opportunities.”
One of Dallas’ stops included a job with Pi Research, a company that provides support for all different types of motorsports and race teams. Dallas credited that position with allowing him to meet and connect with people involved with Toyota Racing Development, as the organization was looking to expand and utilize more resources when it came to NASCAR racing.
Dallas holds many current responsibilities as an engineer at Toyota Racing Development. Arguably the biggest responsibilities include working and collaborating with Joe Gibbs Racing and its NASCAR race teams, manufactured by Toyota, at the highest level of the sport: The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series.
Toyota and Joe Gibbs Racing enjoyed great success during the 2019 season.
Driver Kyle Busch claimed the outright driver championship after collecting five wins, including the season-ending race at Homestead-Miami Speedway. It was the third time a Toyota driver won the championship in the past five seasons.
Also, fellow Toyota and Joe Gibbs Racing drivers Martin Truex Jr. and Denny Hamlin joined Busch in the Championship 4, the final stage of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup series playoff format.
In total, Toyota drivers scored victories in over half of the points-paying events in 2019, which established a new record for Toyota.
Dallas has played an integral role in much of Toyota’s recent success.
“When I first started, it was traveling with the teams and track support sitting in a race hauler every weekend,” Dallas said. “I did that for a couple of years. And then, they were looking for someone to be shop-based, stay at home and help with the TRD Toyota Racing Development tools and stuff. Now I sit in front of a computer most of the time. The technology and just the way things have changed over the years, they still need guys to put the cars together, they still need people to do that kind of work. But then the engineering staff just keeps growing and growing to support the simulation side and that’s where I’m at now, is working with the TRD software department. … I’m kind of the guy between the users who use it and the software group that writes it and develops it. I’ve gone more from touching the cars and going to track tests, to managing people and managing the tasks, changes and improvements we need in the tools.”
Toyota’s immense growth in NASCAR has been a welcome sight for Dallas.
“We’ve done really well,” he said. ” … We keep doing better. The hard work from our bosses who keep the relationships going with the team and down to us who work with the teams, we have a different approach to it. Toyota has more of a concentrated (focus). We try to focus on a few teams and we try to do that really well. Whereas the other manufacturers, there’s just so many more cars in the field for Chevy or Ford. That helps them at times, and it hurts them at times. They have to spread their resources; they have many more people to make happy. … Right now, I’m in Joe Gibbs Racing’s shop, we work really close with them (throughout the process).”
The 2020 race season will officially kick off with the historic Daytona 500 on Feb. 16. Dallas is certainly looking forward to seeing the progress Toyota will hopefully keep making.
“The times we pay the price are when we go speedway racing and we only have so many Toyota’s to get in a draft,” Dallas explained. “Those are the times that we suffer, but the rest of the time we’ve got a good handle on the engine program. We know from the first time it’s assembled in the shop to when it gets in the car, we have our hands on it, we know it’s in good shape. Everything that Joe Gibbs Racing wants, we do the best we can to get it there. But we have our good ideas, too. We just work back and forth. … It seems to work out for us. We keep racking up wins. … The future looks pretty good for us, I would say.”