The Weekly Newspaper serving the citizens of Morenci, Mich., Fayette, Ohio, and surrounding areas.

  • Snow.2
    FIRST SNOW—Heavy, wet flakes piled deep on tree branches—and windshields—as the area received its first significant snowfall of the season. “Usually it begins with a dusting or two,” said George Isobar, Morenci’s observer for the National Weather Service, “but this time it came with a vengeance.” By the end of the day Saturday, a little over four inches of snow was on the ground. Now comes the thaw with temperatures in the 40s and 50s for three days.
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    SKEWERS, gumdrops, and marshmallows are all that’s needed to create interesting shapes and designs for Layla McDowell Saturday at Stair District Library’s “Sculptamania!” Open House. The program featuring design games and materials is one part of a larger project funded by a $7,500 Curiosity Creates grant from Disney and the American Library Association. Additional photos are on page 7.
    Morenci marching band members took to the field Friday night dressed for Halloween during the Bulldog’s first playoff game. Morenci fans had a bit of a scare until the fourth quarter when the Bulldogs scored 30 points to leave Lenawee Christian School behind. Whiteford visits Morenci this Friday for the district championship game. From the left is Clayton Borton, Morgan Merillat and James O’Brien.
    DNA PUZZLE—Mitchell Storrs and Wyatt Mohr tackle a puzzle representing the structure of DNA. There’s only one correct way for all the pieces to fit. It’s one of the new materials that can be used in both biology and chemistry classes, said teacher Loretta Cox.
  • Front.tar.wide
    A TRAFFIC control worker stands in the middle of Morenci’s Main Street Tuesday morning, waiting for the next flow of vehicles to be let through from the west. The dusty gravel surface was sealed with a layer of tar, leaving only the application of paint for new striping. The project was completed in conjunction with county road commission work west of Morenci.
  • Front.pull
    JUNIORS Jazmin Smith and Trevor Corkle struggle against a team from the sophomore class Friday during the annual tug of war at the Homecoming Games pep rally. Even the seniors struggled against the sophomores who won the competition. At the main course of the day, the Bulldog football team struggled against Whiteford in a homecoming loss.
    YOUNG soccer players surived a chilly morning Saturday in Morenci’s PTO league. From the left is Emma Cordts, Wayne Corser, Carter and Levi Seitz, Briella York and Drew Joughin. Two more weeks of soccer remain for this season.
  • Front.ropes
    BOWEN BAUMGARTNER of Morenci makes his way across a rope bridge constructed by the Tecumseh Boy Scout troop Sunday at Lake Hudson Recreation Area. The bridge was one of many challenges, displays and games set up for the annual Youth Jamboree by the Michigan DNR. Additional photos on are the back page of this week’s Observer.
  • Front.homecoming Court
    One of four senior candidates will be crowned the fall homecoming queen during half-time of this week’s Morenci-Whiteford football game. In the back row (left to right) is exchange student Kinga Vidor (her escort will be Caylob Alcock), seniors Alli VanBrandt (escorted by Sam Cool), Larissa Elliott (escorted by Clayton Borton), Samantha Wright (escorted by JJ Elarton) and Justis McCowan (escorted by Austin Gilson), and exchange student Rebecca Rosenberger (escorted by Garrett Smith). Front row freshman court member Allie Kaiser (escorted by Anthony Thomas), sophomore Marlee Blaker (escorted by Nate Elarton) and junior Cheyenne Stone (escorted by Dominick Sell).
  • Front.park.lights
    GETTING READY—Jerad Gleckler pounds nails to secure a string of holiday lights on the side of the Wakefield Park concession stand while other members of the Volunteer Club and others hold them in place. The volunteers showed up Sunday afternoon to string lights at the park. The decorating project will continue this Sunday. Denise Walsh is in charge of the effort this year.
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Jamie DiPietro: Neck deep in NASCAR

Written by David Green.


It didn’t happen in Morenci. That’s not where a love for auto racing began for Jamie (Chittenden) DiPietro.

“I was never a NASCAR fan when I lived in Morenci,” she said. “I never even went to MIS for a race.”

It wasn’t at ITT Technical Institute, either. Jamie headed to Ft. Wayne, Ind., after graduation from Morenci Area High School to study electrical engineering at ITT. But not to watch an auto race.

It all began sometime after that, while she was taking classes at Purdue’s Ft. Wayne campus, working toward a degree in supervision. A trip to Florida started it off.jamiedi

“I went to my first race in 1985 in Daytona and was hooked,” Jamie recalls.

But this was just the beginning.

She made it to a race or two every year into the early 1990s when she was working as a CAD designer in Indiana, but she was only up to her knees in NASCAR at that time. She was soon to go waist deep.

Jamie’s future husband worked in the racing business in North Carolina—the nerve center of NASCAR—and she moved there to be closer to him. About 95 percent of the racing teams are based around Charlotte, she said.

“I tried to keep working as an engineer, but there just weren’t that many electrical engineering companies in the Charlotte area,” she said. “It’s mostly tobacco and clothing manufacturing—and racing.”

Jamie found work with an architectural firm, but she started working weekends at the track with the Buckshot Jones racing team.

“I worked for Buckshot for five years,” she said. “I spent the first three years managing his merchandising program.”

Over the next two years she served as an intermediary between the Buckshot Racing Team and its owner, Buckshot’s father Billy, who was involved in several other companies. This plunged her a little deeper into NASCAR.

She was now going to the track every weekend with the Busch Racing team and working directly with crew chief Gary Cogswell and NASCAR’s Busch Series director, John Darby.

Eventually, Buckshot’s team folded due to lack of sponsorship, but now Jamie had contacts.

She handed a résumé to Darby, who was about to earn a promotion to director of the Winston Cup Series. Of course the résumé mentioned her engineering background.

The timing couldn’t have been better.

Safety inspector

“John thought that with my engineering background, I would be a good fit for the newly created position in the safety department as a field inspector,” she said.

Driver safety has been a concern of NASCAR officials for more than 50 years, Scott Bowman of the public relations department said, but as more and more safety efforts were put into place, the need for a full-time team of field inspectors became apparent.

For the 2002 season, Jamie was hired to serve as one of six full-time inspectors working the National Series—Winston Cup, Busch and Trucks. This year, the team grew to eight.

A year ago, she was promoted to the role of primary field inspector for the Winston Cup Series. Before the season ended, she became head of the safety team for all NASCAR events.

“Whenever we race in conjunction events with any other NASCAR series,” she said, “I’m the lead inspector for the entire weekend.”

The bulk of Jamie’s work takes place inside the garage where she looks over each vehicle before it’s allowed to race. Currently, she’s the only woman inside a NASCAR garage with the authority to make a Winston Cup Series team change its car before gaining access to the track.

First comes a visual inspection of safety systems.

“We look at the driver cockpit for areas of concern,” she explained. “We look at the tethers for the hood and rear deck lids. We make sure anything a driver can potentially hit with a part of his body in a crash is padded.

“Anything that can be contrived as a safety mechanism goes through our department.”

That includes IDRs, the incident data recorders that made their debut in auto racing last season. Information from the IDRs is helping NASCAR build a database to study how the chassis, seats, helmets, the new head and neck restraint system, etc., respond in crashes.

“The company that created the IDRs has trained us in how to read and disseminate data from the boxes,” Jamie said. “The information will be used to make recommendations and rule changes to make cars safer.”

Once an inspection is complete, Jamie’s staff begins collecting data.

“We write down every piece of safety equipment in a car, and we take a series of measurements in the driver’s compartment area.”

These measurements would be compared with those taken later if a car were involved in an accident.

Jamie’s department is also involved in the training of emergency personnel at each track. Medics, EMTs, fire staff, wrecker drivers, clean-up crew—training is scheduled at every track for these workers.

“We show them how every piece of safety equipment in a car works and the quickest and easiest way to disconnect it to get a driver out,” she said.

Jamie told a reporter from the Daytona Beach News-Journal that she doesn’t consider herself a ground breaker as the rare woman in the garage, although she likes the idea of serving in that role.

She’s just doing her job, she says, and maybe that will open the door for other women to follow.

She’s certainly become a familiar face wherever the Winston Cup circuit travels. As chief inspector, she’s on the job at every stop on the 38-race schedule.

It’s an enormous change from her days in Morenci and at ITT when she never gave a second thought to auto racing.

You might say that Jamie DiPietro is now about neck deep in NASCAR.

    - April 2, 2003 

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