Above: Sponsor Chad Dubea (R) joins 2014 winner Bubba Wallace Jr. (C) and Gateway owner Curtis Francois (L) in victory lane.
Chad Dubea’s colorful journey from high-voltage lineman to NASCAR victory lane is the stuff movies are made of.
Dubea and his foundation, the Fallen Linemen Organization (FLO, www.fallenlinemen.org), are sponsoring the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race at Gateway Motorsports Park for the third consecutive year.
Like many young men his age, the Lafayette, Louisiana, native followed in his father’s footsteps. The elder Dubea served as an electrical engineer for a utility company and sent his son out with crews during the summer when Chad was just 16 years old.
“My dad would tell the foremen, ‘Make sure you work him hard so he’ll want to go to college instead,’ ” said Dubea.
Dad’s plan backfired. Instead of choosing the academic path, his work outdoors with the men on the line motivated Dubea to start his own company, T&D Solutions, LLC. T&D specialized in maintenance and construction of power lines and transmission distribution systems. At its peak, T&D employed approximately 1,400 people.
A colleague who runs the International Lineman Museum and Hall of Fame in Shelby, North Carolina, called Dubea one day to see if he might be interested in co-sponsoring a NASCAR Truck Series team that was entered at Daytona. Later, Dubea visited the team’s shops and was offered sponsorship opportunities for the entire season.
In the meantime, St. Louis businessman Curtis Francois had purchased the dormant Gateway facility, which includes a 1.25-mile superspeedway, just across the Mississippi River from St. Louis in Madison, Illinois. The facility roared back to life and GMP was granted a NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race for 2014 — but was listed as “TBA” on the schedule.
“I saw TBA on the NASCAR schedule and asked what that was about,” Dubea said. “I was told the race had not been named yet.”
Dubea pursued sponsorship of the race to garner more recognition for linemen and FLO. Named the Drivin’ For Linemen 200, it was a hit with NASCAR fans and industry personnel.
Dubea is so devoted to his line of work he launched and financed a multi-million-dollar, full-length feature film, Life On The Line, starring John Travolta and Sharon Stone. The film is “in the can” as they say in Hollywood, and negotiations are under way for world-wide distribution. (Promotion of the film resulted in a trip to the Cannes Film Festival, a hectic trek in which Dubea and entourage arrived in France but their luggage didn’t.)
“There are four things we strived to accomplish through this movie,” Dubea explained. “We want to give recognition to linemen and illustrate their profession to those who don’t know what they do. We want the linemen to see themselves through the characters in the film. We want the families to see what their linemen go through. Some wives will tell you, ‘I knew it was dangerous, I just didn’t know how dangerous.’ Lastly, we wanted to bring awareness to the foundation.”
FLO was founded by Dubea following the tragic loss of one of his employees. Its mission is to memorialize fallen electrical line workers and help care for the families who have lost — or are impacted by a severe injury to — a loved one in the line of duty. FLO strives to consolidate accident and injury information to promote a safer work environment. FLO also helps all fallen and severely-injured electrical line workers, including, but not limited to, groundsmen, linemen, operators, apprentice linemen, journeymen linemen, and substation mechanics.
“This is about recognition and awareness for those who are keeping the lights on,” said Chad Dubea, who also owns Elite Fleet Services, LLC. “We don’t want the focus to be on the sponsor. We want all of the attention to focus on the race and on bringing awareness to the life-saving work and sacrifices electrical linemen make every day, especially during major storms and disasters.”
This year’s event promises to be even more exciting than previous editions: It will include the inaugural Climbin’ For Linemen competition, known in the industry as a lineman rodeo. The rodeo is sponsored by Buckingham Manufacturing (www.buckinghammfg.com), a 115-year-old company which serves the utility, arborist and telecommunications industries. The winner and a guest will receive a vacation package from Buckingham: round-trip airfare and accommodations to Mexico.
The Drivin’ For Linemen 200 also will be joined this year by the USAC Silver Crown Series and ARCA Midwest Tour.
NASCAR DRIVIN’ FOR LINEMEN 200 SCHEDULE
Friday, June 24
5-6 p.m. — NASCAR garages open to the public.
6-10 p.m. — Party at the ‘Plex at the Gateway Kartplex (kart racing, music, entertainment). NASCAR drivers have been invited to participate.
Saturday, June 25
8 a.m. — Spectator gates open.
8:30-9:25 a.m. — First NASCAR Camping World Truck Series practice.
9:30-10:20 a.m. — First USAC practice.
10:30-11:55 a.m. — Final NASCAR Camping World Truck Series practice.
12:30 p.m. — USAC qualifying.
1 p.m. — ARCA Midwest Tour practice.
1:45-2:30 p.m. — NASCAR Camping World Truck Series driver autograph session (infield area).
2:15 p.m. — ARCA Midwest Tour qualifying.
3 p.m. — USAC driver introductions.
3:30 p.m. — Vatterott College Silver Crown Showdown (USAC Silver Crown Series, 60 laps, 75 miles).
4:45 p.m. — NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Drivin’ For Linemen 200 qualifying (multi-vehicle, three rounds).
6 p.m. — Illinois Lottery Presents ARCA Midwest 50 (40 laps, 50 miles, timed event).
7 p.m. — NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Drivin’ For Linemen driver introductions.
7:30 p.m. — NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Drivin’ For Linemen 200 (160 laps, 200 miles).
Schedule is subject to change.