Paulie Harraka Goes Back to School with Tutor Ted Musgrave
By Mary Jo Buchanan On Sun, Sep. 16, 2012
[media-credit name=”Gary Buchanan” align=”alignright” width=”231″][/media-credit]He may have just graduated from Duke, but the young racer from New Jersey, Paulie Harraka, is now going back to school, this time under the tutelage of veteran driver Ted Musgrave.
Harraka recently parted ways with Wauters Motorsports in the Camping World Truck Series and made a run at his first Nationwide race at Richmond last weekend, all under the watchful eye of mentor and spotter Musgrave.
“Building off of the first half of the season, we felt this was the most logical next step for Paulie’s development,” Musgrave said. “Paulie’s got the talent and work ethic and now we need to get him the experience.”
Both Harraka’s and Musgrave’s goal was for the young driver to learn at Richmond and finish in the top-25. Harraka achieved that goal, running all the laps and finishing 25th in the Randy Hill Racing Ford.
“I really enjoyed working with the team,” Harraka said. “It was something that we put together at the last minute and so we set some modest goals.”
“Ted Musgrave has been spotting for me and mentoring me and guiding us as we decide what races I should do,” Harraka continued. “He felt like this was a good one for me to do.”
“I had never been to Richmond before but it was similar to many that we had been to in the past,” Harraka said. “The weekend went as we planned and as we hoped.”
While Harraka is unsure of when his next race will be, he most certainly enjoyed his time in the Nationwide car and at Richmond. In fact, he found it even more comfortable that his truck ride, especially since it was more like the K&N Pro Series cars that he has grown up racing and in which he had so much success.
“There is definitely potential that we will run more races in the Nationwide Series this year,” Harraka said. “Nothing has been decided yet.”
“But Richmond helped us build some positive momentum.”
“I definitely enjoyed being in the Nationwide car,” Harraka said. “It does drive different than the truck and I definitely enjoyed it.”
“It is closer to the K&N Pro Series cars that I’ve run in the past so I definitely enjoy the Nationwide cars even more.”
What Harraka appreciated most about running the Nationwide race, however, was the opportunity to continue going to school on the race track, with the voice of Ted Musgrave in his ear.
“This year is very, very much a learning experience for me,” Harraka said. “We knew that going into it.”
“The best thing that we’ve done is bringing Ted in,” Harraka continued. “He is serving in a lot of roles, not just coaching at the race track, but really helping guide our decisions about what’s best for me and for my development.”
“He was the one who said we needed to run the Nationwide race at Richmond and so we went and did it,” Harraka said. “We are following what he is advising.”
“Ted is leading the charge as to what races we run.”
Harraka first partnered with Musgrave when he raced for his first time at Dover. And the partnership has flourished ever since.
“Ted happened to be spotting for Ron Hornaday at the time,” Harraka said. “He mentioned that Ron was only running a few laps in practice.”
“Since it was my first time at Dover and my normal spotter wasn’t going to be there on practice day, I asked him if he would mind giving me some critical feedback,” Harraka continued. “Ted, being a great guy, was cool with that and he was really helpful to us at Dover.”
“I knew then that we wanted to get him more involved,” Harraka said. “Fortunately, he was willing to jump on board with us for the rest of the year and he’s been a huge asset.”
While Musgrave may not be physically training with the up and coming driver, he certainly is training Harraka as to how to approach his racing mentally and strategically.
“Ted’s not one to go on a two mile run with me,” Harraka said with a chuckle. “It’s definitely conversational more than anything else.”
“A lot of what he’s taught is how to think about different scenarios and different situations and how to prioritize what you worry about and what you don’t worry about,” Harraka continued. “He helps to think about how to position yourself throughout the race.”
“There are so many situations that you have to deal with and he’s been in those different scenarios at all levels,” Harraka said. “So, being able to draw from that experience, it’s just huge.”
What Harraka appreciates most in his schooling with Musgrave is his honest feedback, his consistency and his ability to help him grow and develop based on his past mistakes and successes.
“I’ve got other people that I can learn from and do lean on, but having someone who is there with you week in and week out is huge,” Harraka said. “Ted knows my strengths and my weaknesses as good as anybody.”
“He knows what I need to learn to get better,” Harraka continued. “To be able to have that continuity allows us to keep building on the things we’ve done.”
“He reminds me of what we did weeks ago so I can build on that.”
One of the biggest lessons that Harraka has been learning is that the path to racing success is often filled with twists and turns, on and off the track.
“One of my favorite quotes is that some of the best laid plans are changed often,” Harraka said. “When I got to Duke, I was engineering major, but when I graduated Duke, I was a markets and management major.”
“While I am a goal-directed person, you also have to be smart enough to be flexible and make changes when they are necessary,” Harraka continued. “And that’s what we’ve done.”
“The goal remains the same but we’ve just changed some of the action steps along the way.”
“The good thing is that we’re still moving forward,” Harraka said. “I have a fantastic group of people supporting me both on the business side.”
“And with Ted, we’re growing, learning and moving forward, just as you’d want to be.”