Tim George Jr.: Manhattan Meets Nascar as Chef Becomes a Racer

Six years ago, Tim George Jr. was working for a Manhattan restaurant that was catering a function at a sports-car race at Lime Rock Park in Connecticut. As George recalls, the head chef harshly criticized him, in Italian, for altering a recipe. So George, then 24, took a break to watch sleek Ferraris conquer the racetrack.

“When I saw the cars speed on the track with no police officers, I said to myself, ‘This is what I need to be doing,’ ” George said Friday in a telephone interview from Brooklyn, Mich.

George, who grew up on the Upper East Side of Manhattan and in Rye, N.Y., was no stranger to sports cars. Tim George Sr. said that when his son was 15, the police caught him and a friend on a joy ride in his white Corvette.

Tim Jr. liked what he saw at Lime Rock Park in 2005 and decided to enroll in racing school. He raced sports cars (and still does), but he is focused on climbing the ranks of stock-car racing and driving in the Nascar Sprint Cup Series, which does not attract many drivers from the New York City area.

“Obviously, that’s not a big Nascar demographic,” said Tim Sr., an investment banker.

George, 30, does not fit the demographic of a Nascar driver, either. The oldest of four children, he spent much of his childhood in the Hamptons. He has worked on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, delivered wine to Sean Combs’s house and worked at the American Ballet Theater. But he joked that he was technically half-Southern because his mother, Ruth, is from Nashville.

George has been racing stock cars since only 2008, but he is driving for Richard Childress Racing, Dale Earnhardt’s former team. George is participating in five racing series — most regularly the ARCA Racing Series, essentially three levels below Sprint Cup.

“We’ve put him through some pretty tough stuff to get where he is,” said Childress, whose 18-year-old grandson, Ty Dillon, is George’s ARCA teammate. “To have someone of his caliber and past experience working with younger drivers is valuable, too.”

George seems to be heading in the right direction. He won his first ARCA race in 50 tries at Pocono Raceway in Long Pond, Pa., on June 11. The race was shortened to 59 laps from the scheduled 80 because of fog, but the victory counted just the same.

George dedicated the victory to the memory of Drew Hawkins, a friend who helped him pursue his career when he moved to Charlotte, N.C. George picked up a new sponsor, then moved on to Michigan International Speedway, where he finished third in an ARCA race Friday.

“I think I have to work twice as hard because people expect me to do well right away,” George said. “People race me a lot harder because they know the situation.”

George would not seem to be much like Childress, a 65-year-old North Carolinian, but Childress hired George because it was obvious that he was serious about racing.

“He’s very dedicated in what he wants to do,” Childress said. “With the progress he’s making, we feel like he’ll be ready next year for the truck series. He’s more and more aggressive. He’s constantly, week in and week out, working at what he does.”

Besides competing in ARCA, George is scheduled to drive in three races in the Nationwide Series, the Class AAA of stock-car racing, and a truck series race. R.C.R. also has him racing sports cars and late-model cars to get him accustomed to all the things racecars can do.

George, who has a bachelor’s degree in English from the University of Miami, is up for the variety of challenges. He said the other jobs he had provided him with resolve and resilience.

“He’s still got a lot of runway,” Tim Sr. said of his son’s age. He added: “He’s trying to accelerate and make up ground. It’s almost like boot camp.”

George, who is single, recently took up yoga and likes to cook, preferring organic food. His mother went to Le Cordon Bleu in France when he was a child and provided him with the inspiration to pursue a career as a chef. That led him to the Italian restaurant, which led him to Lime Rock Park, which led him to Childress.

George still has aspirations to own a restaurant someday, but he sounds as if that day is long off. He says he has proved that a man who spent part of his life in an apartment on 84th Street between Park and Lexington Avenues can be a good ol’ boy, too.

“R.C.R. is a family deal,” George said, “and if you don’t fit into the family mold they have, that’s it, you’re done.”

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