Passion, Know-How Fuels David Harbin's Drag Racing Delight
If it's a Friday night in the summer, you can pretty much bank on David Harbin holding court on the pit-lane drag strip at Atlanta Motor Speedway during the O'Reilly Auto Parts Friday Night Drags and Show-N-Shine.
A dedicated "car guy" through and through, Harbin, owner of Harbin's Mechanical Services in McDonough, fields two high-powered entries each week - a black Chevrolet Nova and a fire-engine-red Chevrolet Corvette - in the Friday Night Drags' Pro Division.
It's a passion rooted in a combination of both octane and fellowship that makes Harbin a well-known personality around the track with a humble approach to doing what he loves best.
He may be the owner of two of the fastest cars on this side of Atlanta, but you'd never know it on Friday nights.
"You can catch him on the starting line washing down everybody's windshield," said his wife, Pam Harbin. "He just loves the camaraderie of it and the atmosphere - and probably the smell of the fuel too."
Coming to Friday Night Drags nearly every week since its inception over a decade ago and involved in the racing side of things since 2009, the soft-spoken Milner native, while a friend to anyone who crosses his path, still runs a tight organization that enjoys the fruits of their labor.
"Well, obviously, with the competition, we want to win," he said. "But we want to win fair, and we want to win square, and we want to be safe. So I guess that's the bottom line."
Together with his two drivers - David Clevenger in the Corvette and Kevin Mayo in the Nova - and his crew, the team works diligently in his shop during the week to have the vehicles ready to take on the competition come race time.
"We have a Monday night session with one car, and we have a Tuesday night session with the other car," he said. "We go through them, and whatever's got to be done, we get them ready, put them back in the trailers and get them ready for Friday. Then, we just get excited about hurrying up and getting here for Friday."
Driving for Harbin since the start, Kevin Mayo, a Milner native himself who has taken the Nova to Victory Lane twice already this season, was quick to praise Harbin's dedication to his passion.
"There's really no challenge (in being successful at the drag strip)," he said. "Because whatever's wrong with the car, David will fix it. No matter what needs to happen, he'll make it happen, no matter what it takes.
"We usually get down to his shop around 4 p.m. on Mondays and stay until one of them is finished, and then we go back Tuesday and do the other one. Pull it out of the trailer, put it on the lift, clean it, check everything, check every nut and bolt, go through the valve train - just make sure nothing's moved. Even if we just make one pass, we check everything.
"He brings out the best of the best, and if it's not, he'll make it that way."
Currently, Clevenger and Mayo are just four points apart at the top of the Friday Night Drags Pro Division standings, and that's just the way Harbin likes it.
"Those cars are close enough that they're driver-error from winning," he said. "They're about 1,000 horsepower each and fairly light, and you'll find that (one) will sometimes win two or three times and sometimes the other will win.
"The really great thing is when they both end up in the finals and it's both of them racing together."
But it's more than the wins and losses that keeps Harbin coming back week after week. His enthusiasm for racing transcends the glory of a successful night at the drag strip, because all he wants is to share his passion with anyone who will listen.
"I want to support it," he said. "Three weeks ago, we were at a different track, and just like now, I keep (Friday Night Drags) tickets in my pocket for the race, and I try to invite people. I pay for them, because that's my passion. I want them to come and join us and have a good time."
One other reason Harbin's a die-hard Friday Night Drags supporter? It just so happens to be the place where he first met Pam.
"The fun part of it is this is where my wife and I met for the first time three years ago," he said. "This was our first date. We had been talking back and forth and texting and emailing. She and I decided to meet here for the first time on May 1 three years ago.
"She came in, helped us with the race that night, and we've been seeing each other ever since. We got married on April 7 this year, and she's a great help. She's there for me every week, no matter what."
Fans interested in checking out Harbin and his crew compete in O'Reilly Auto Parts Friday Night Drags can do so on each of the next four Friday nights before the season wraps up with the championship night on Aug. 18.
For more information about the program or to purchase tickets, fans can contact the AMS ticket office at (770) 946-4211, (877) 9-AMS-TIX or visit www.atlantamotorspeedway.com.