|Winter Haven, Fla.
|N-Tech Motorsport, Central Florida Roofing LLC, BDH Construction, Campbell Law of Lakeland, Fla.
|Race shop owner N-Tech Motorsport
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If former Oakland Raiders team owner Al Davis had been involved in motorsports instead of football, NASA Florida region’s Nick Riefner would be just the kind of guy he’d recruit for his racing team. The differences between Davis and Riefner are probably greater than their similarities, but their approach to competition is the same. “Just win, baby.”
“Winning in general is the thing I enjoy the most and look forward to the most about racing,” Riefner said. “I’m very competitive by nature and anytime that I have been able to win through accomplishment, be it car preparation or outdriving somebody, it’s just winning.”
It’s precisely that focus on winning that has taken Riefner from rookie to one of the top road racing series in North American motorsports in little more than a decade. One of the first racers to be issued a competition license by the NASA Florida region, Riefner grew up in a racing family, watching his father race on the asphalt oval at Sunshine Speedway in St. Petersburg, Fla. Those formative years spawned a career in motorsports for Riefner and his brother, who now works for Penske Racing in North Carolina. Riefner went in a different direction.
“I liked watching circle track racing, but I never caught the bug to do it,” he said. “I grew up reading about Porsche cars and Porsche drivers and their accomplishments, the type of racing that wound up having relevance to the street cars and that transfer of technologies that added to the heritage of Porsche, and I guess that’s what I enjoyed.”
Like some other NASA racers, Riefner started out drag racing, “ever since he had a driver’s license,” he said. He then discovered autocross, and competed in events in his native New York and in Florida. He soon discovered that autocross wasn’t enough.
“I realized I loved that style of driving, the lefts and the rights, car balance and making the car dance and that type of thing,” he said. “But I also realized real quickly that autocrossing wasn’t for me because I didn’t enjoy standing in the sun working for other people all day for three or four minutes of driving time.”
Riefner initially launched his career in law enforcement as a police officer in Eagle Lake, Fla., but a back injury put him on the sidelines. As serious an injury as it was, it might have been a stroke of luck. Once he got back on his feet, he said, he ended up back in cars because that was what he knew. He needed to fabricate a few things for his third-generation RX-7, which he did. Of course, friends and other racers would see what he had made and offered to pay him to make the same thing for them. As a result, he started a company that made cold-air induction systems for RX-7s.
“I made some other products and then people of course wanted me to install them,” he said. “I was pretty knowledgeable about the cars and people wanted me to do diagnostics, and before I knew it, without even really thinking about it, I was a shop operating out of the garage out of my house.”
Word of mouth spread and that shop is now N-Tech Motorsport and another business venture he entered with partner, pinkporsches.com, a racecar rental business that offers arrive-and-drive services for racers.
Back in 2007, N-Tech prepared a Nissan 350Z for a customer for competition on the GS class of what was then Grand Am’s Koni Challenge. Riefner also drove the car, but he says he learned too late how things worked in Grand Am, and that team disbanded after one year. But the relationship he had built with Nissan Motorsports pointed him in a new direction, and he very nearly had a shot with the top tier of the series in a Daytona Prototype.
“I dedicated about a year and a half of my life to getting things in order, and in the span of a month, it completely unraveled,” he said. “That was very tough, to have the carrot of having a Daytona Prototype program dangling out in front of you, and then to have it pulled away in an instant was absolutely horrible.”
Naturally, he’d love to get another shot at Grand Am in a production-based car or a prototype, as a driver or a crew chief, and there’s little reason to doubt he’ll get one, but the 44-year-old father of one has plenty to keep him busy, and much to be thankful for. His wife Debbie and 8-year-old daughter Holly always accompany him to the track, which is more than a lot of racers can say. Holly works in timing and scoring, handles the concierge duties for pinkporsches.com and his daughter helps wherever she can.
Riefner unabashedly admits he loves winning, but in many ways, he’s already won.