Corporate Attorney/Monkey Wrench
Typical conversation in most elevators on 17th Street in Denver revolves around corporate deals, trials, briefs or the stock market. Hop onto an elevator with corporate attorney Darren Hensley and deal talk is coupled with NASCAR talk, passionate vignettes about Darren’s weekend hobby as a member of a NASCAR pit crew.
"Other lawyers will strike up a conversation about plans for the upcoming weekend. At first they’re a little surprised when I tell them I’m off to a NASCAR race in another state, but they’re also intrigued. It is a great way for people to get to know about me outside the realm of law."
Hensley’s interest in NASCAR began when he was only three, when his father was racing competitively. By the time he was old enough to help out as part of the crew, Darren’s father had already hung up his keys. In August 1994, Darren was skimming through the Business Opportunities section of the Rocky Mountain News when he read an ad by NASCAR driver Scott Gaylord.
"Scott was looking for people to help him out in a variety of ways. I figured that my law degree could prove useful, and I had always tinkered with cars, so I gave him a call. My family and I had dinner with Scott and his family and we all clicked immediately. Another reason it has clicked so well is because the team is entirely Colorado based."
Hensley started out small—with jobs like scoring, paperwork and PR. After a while, he started putting his "tinkering" skills to good use as a member of the pit crew, and today he is the jack man for the team. Driver Scott Gaylord believes that Hensley’s legal skills and mechanical skills have brought a unique aspect to the racing team.
"As a busy corporate attorney, it is sometimes difficult for Darren to get to the race shop during the week on a regular basis, but he has made practically every race for us during the last eight years, which is no easy feat considering our travel schedule. With his legal background, he brings a unique aspect to the team, not only helping us on the racecar, but also with sponsorships, contracts, public relations and other issues. Although he catches a lot of flack from the crew about his profession, he is a pretty darn good jack man for an attorney!"
As a member of the team, Darren has had unique opportunities for travel. Each year from 1996-1999, Gaylord and his racing team were asked to a NASCAR invite-only race in Japan. The invitation included an all expense paid trip for each team member and free shipping for the racecar. In all, Darren has traveled to more than 100 races around the country during his tenure with the team. Most recently, Darren traveled to Oregon, where driver Scott Gaylord set the fast time in his qualifying run, winning the pole position for the start of the race.
In July, Darren started his own law firm, Hensley & Kim, LLC, with partner John Kim. With a wife and two daughters, a budding practice and a busy hobby, how does Darren manage his many interests?
"People always ask me, ‘Why do you do it?’ and my response is always the same: Because I love racing. There is nothing like the rush of jumping off that pit wall with a jack in your hand and running in front of a race car flying into the pit stall right at you. I call myself a ‘weekend warrior’ and this is sort of my hobby, my way to get away from the stress of the job. Once I get onto the plane headed to a race, I relax and push work to the side—there have been times when I’ve flown home on a Sunday and rushed straight to the office or have flown from a race straight to a different city to close a deal—-but when I’m with the crew, that is where I focus. My daughters, Nicole, who is eight, and Brittany, who is five, are budding racing fans and my wife, Linda, is a fan. Now that the girls are getting older, they are able to make it to more of the races, and that makes it even more special.
Racing has given me the opportunity to travel four times to Japan to race, to sit at a table with Dale Earnhardt, to stand in line at McDonalds with Darrell Waltrip, to knock coffee out of Dick Trickle’s hand, to ride a bus with Sterling Marlin, to fly on a plane with Ernie Irvan, to eat breakfast with Terry Labonte, to see James Garner and Chuck Norris, and to race with the likes of Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt, Jr.
As Hensley himself remarked, "How many other people have been fortunate enough to have this opportunity?"
Certainly not enough.