|Jay Pellegrini III|
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|Nissan Spec Z|
|Nissan, Nexgen BF Goodrich, Motul, Uprez|
Favorite TV Show:
|“Game of Thrones”|
|“Time to Kill”|
|Nissan ZTR GT Cup Car|
Jay Pellegrini III’s success in NASA would make most racers envious.
In just his second year in the Nissan Spec Z class, Pellegrini won the Eastern States Championships and in 2013 finished second in the National Championships held in Utah.
What makes the finishes even more remarkable, the 30-year-old Pellegrini started racing competitively just two years ago in NASA’s NOLA region.
“He seems to have a natural feel for the car,” said Pellegrini’s father, Jay Jr., who also races in the Spec Z class. “He’s aggressive when he needs to be, but is cautious. He’s just a real natural.”
Getting into racing was only natural, considering that Pellegrini grew up around cars and watched his father, who started racing at age 18. Jay Pellegrini’s first taste of racing came at age 10, when he raced a go-kart on a dirt track and promptly went off the track.
“My mom stepped in … and that ended my racing for quite some time,” he said with a laugh.
Pellegrini was determined to get back into a racecar and after working as an insurance adjuster for eight years. He finally had the opportunity and the means to pursue his dream. A family friend who worked for Nissan motorsports marketing convinced Pellegrini to look at running in the Nissan Spec Z class.
After watching some races, Pellegrini purchased a Nissan race car in California—which had previously raced in Oregon—and brought it back to their shop in Louisiana.
“We started transforming it, tweaking it and got it on the track,” he said. “It’s been a race car pretty much its entire life. I think it’s got about 12,000 miles on its chassis.”
Pellegrini is a big fan of the Nissan Spec Z class, and not just because of his early success on the track. He likes that the class emphasis is on car setup and the driver’s ability, and not just how big their checkbook is.
“It prevents the teams with unlimited budgets from taking apart the car and putting it back together, tweaking every bit of the motor and you’re constantly chasing teams that can out-budget you,” Pellegrini said. “The cars are easy to drive and fun, and for not a whole lot of money you can get into it.”
Racing is a family affair for the Pellegrinis, who campaigned three cars this year in the Nissan Spec Z class. In addition to the father and son racing, the duo was joined by business partner John Baldwin Jr. Even Pellegrini’s younger brother, Kyle, a 19-year-old petroleum engineer at Louisiana State University would suit up for an occasional race.
Being able to race with his father on the same track was not only special for Jay III, but the opportunity to learn from each other about race setup and tactics on the racecourse. The Pellegrinis and Baldwin have radio communication with each other in the cars as well as with their crews in the pits.
“For us to be able to share in this experience together really just forges our relationship as a father and son,” Pellegrini said. “Being able to work together, being able to communicate and enjoy what we both love to do. It’s an awesome feeling.”
Adds the the elder Jay, “Just to have time with the kids makes it all worthwhile. To do something you love is just the icing on the cake.”
Pellegrini was limited in his NASA races this year because he was focused on getting Nexgen Motorsport up and running in a new 25,000-square-foot facility in Madisonville, La. It is a full-service automotive performance and racing shop that includes a dyno. The facility also has an automotive vault to store classic and exotic cars, and a clubhouse for gearheads to stop by and have a drink.
The younger Pellegrini and Baldwin Jr. will focus on the new cars, while the senior Pellegrini and John Baldwin Sr. will focus on the older, carbureted cars. It’s a perfect match for the group.
“(Dad) says he’s kind of the old-school way and we’re the new-school way,” Pellegrini III said.
Pellegrini says he loves the camaraderie of Spec Z, where every team is willing to help out to keep cars on the track. Pelligrini’s car was overheating in qualifying at this year’s Eastern State Championships on Road Atlanta after the car’s radiator was struck by a piece of debris. On-track fixes weren’t working, so fellow Spec Z competitor Z1 Motorsports opened its nearby shop to let Pellegrini swap out the radiator and replace the transmission.
The swap was finished by 4 a.m., and after a short nap, Pellegrini went out on the track and brought home the victory. It’s a testament to the tightknit group.
“The good thing about NASA is that your competitors actually want you to race with them and get onto the track and help you out with your problems,” Pellegrini said. “If you need some help, anyone is there to lend you hand. If they are a competitor – if they are behind you or in front of you – they’re going to help out.”