By Ben White
Eric Penza, interior specialist for Front Row Motorsports and driver David Ragan, remembers the 2005 Nextel All-Star Race at Charlotte Motor Speedway in 2005 as his first NASCAR race when he was 11 years old.
His mother’s friend was married to an attorney associated with Dale Earnhardt Jr. Through that friendship, Penza was given the opportunity to enjoy the race from an incredible perspective on pit road.
“I got to hang out with Dale Earnhardt Jr. and sit on his pit box,” Penza said. “My family wasn’t in racing, and I didn’t grow up in the sport so that’s what did it. That’s what lit the light bulb for me.”
From that day forward, Penza looked for ways to work his way into NASCAR’s premier series. It began with buying and racing his own go-karts before turning wrenches on Modifieds for several top drivers in the Northeast.
Penza attended college and studied engineering for a year but discovered math just wasn’t for him. In January of 2014, a friend that worked for a NASCAR team offered a place to stay when he moved south from Massachusetts. He delivered resumes to any race team that would take one.
“Within a couple of weeks, I got my first job with a (Camping World) truck team owned by Ritchie Waters. I went to TriStar Motorsports before coming to Front Row Motorsports in 2015,” Penza said.
“Basically, I do everything within the inside of the race car. That includes helmet, HANS device, gloves, switches, cooling fans, seat, everything. It’s whatever David (Ragan) needs in the car wherever he wants it.”
QUOTE: “I played baseball, basketball and football so I like doing things that are competitive. I like being able to actually put my heart and soul into something, work hard on it, and send it out there every weekend.”
EXTRA LAPS WITH ERIC PENZA
HOMETOWN: Saugus, Mass.
FAVORITE VACATION SPOT: Manhattan and Hawaii
FAVORITE HOLIDAY: Fourth of July
FAVORITE SEASON: Fall
FAVORITE TV SHOW: Friday Night Lights
FAVORITE MOVIE: The Town
FAVORITE MUSIC: Hip Hop