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Turn of the Tassel: Matt Merritt

Johnson High School

POSTED: May 28, 2008 5:01 a.m.

Matt Merritt

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One day, Matt Merritt could be standing on the sidelines at the Talladega Superspeedway, wind in his hair, wearing a shirt that announces him as a member of the pit crew.

But on Friday, the 18-year-old will be graduating from Johnson High School — one final formality before he spends one year at the Universal Technical Institute in North Carolina training to be not just any auto mechanic, but one of the most respected automotive technicians in the country.

Within two years, he will be industry certified to build and repair NASCAR or Nissan automobiles. It is something the son of Regina Simon and Terry Merritt has been preparing himself for since he was in the sixth grade.

“I still have the first car magazine I actually picked up and read,” Merritt said. “I just went through the store one day and saw it and it just caught my eye.”

The lure of the magazine was the beauty on the cover: a bold, red 1964 Chevy II, also known as a Nova. It was like the one Merritt’s father, a man appreciative of the finer things that hummed, once owned.

His father’s friends nurtured Merritt’s love for cars when they brought him along to the Lanier National Speedway to watch them race. One of them was a mechanic who showed Merritt a little about making the fast cars go fast.

Merritt took advantage of opportunities in high school, interning at one mechanical shop and one paint and body shop in the duration of his time at Johnson High School. It was Merritt’s dedication to the trade that resulted in his recruitment by the Universal Technical Institute, which will ultimately result in his dream job.

“(It’s) something you don’t dread going to work every day; something you can enjoy and say, ‘I’m actually going to get to go do this today,’” Merritt said.


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