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Barstow native working for NASCAR team
Olguin is VP of Communications for Earnhardt Ganassi Racing
Barstow athletes recently have been catching the public eye with the likes of NFL wide receiver T.J. Houshmandzedeh, Angels third base coach Dino Ebel, Mark “the Beerman” Johnson and Toronto Blue Jays big-time pitching prospect Aaron Sanchez.
But did you know that Barstow also produced the vice president of communications for Chip Ganassi Racing Teams?
That’s right. John Olguin, a 1983 Barstow High graduate, has been in that position since he was hired in 2005. Ganassi Racing has teams in NASCAR, IndyCar and in the Grand-Am series.
The NASCAR Sprint Cup team, Earnhardt Ganassi, competed Sunday at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana.
In Olguin’s position he oversees eight other communication officers who work directly for a driver or team.
“Honestly (my position) is to help the organization define message and communication plan and strategy,” Olguin said. “It goes to individual drivers, crew chiefs and ... all the sponsors.”
In his position, Olguin doesn’t travel to every event, but said he goes to about 20 NASCAR races, six to eight IndyCar races and a few Grand-Am races. He said he tries to make it out to the Auto Club events as well as to the Long Beach Grand Prix, which he said is the second best IndyCar racing event after the Indy 500.
This year’s Earnhardt Ganassi team includes Jamie McMurray, Juan Pablo Montoya and Nationwide Series driver Kyle Larson who grabbed national headlines when his car reamed through the Daytona Speedway fence into the crowd.
Earnhardt Ganassi has struggled each of the last two years, but Olguin said this year should be much better. McMurray, who won both the Brickyard 400 and Daytona 500 in the same season, is 14th in the standings.
“Everybody’s optimistic about the new race car,” Olguin said. “They’ve got a good handle on the Generation-6 car.”
That same 2010 season, on the IndyRacing side (Target Chip Ganassi Racing), Dario Franchitti won the Indy 500. Olguin and others within the organization received rings for the team’s Indy 500 and Daytona 500 titles, and the team’s won three Indy 500s since he was hired.
“Winning those races, they’re big, big deals,” Olguin said.
The Target team also includes Scott Dixon and Charlie Kimball. It’s won four of the last five team series titles.
Prior to joining Ganassi Racing, Olguin didn’t know much about auto racing. He had never even been a race fan and had never even thought about working for a race team.
Olguin got his start working in professional sports when he interned for the Los Angeles Dodgers upon completing grad school at the University of Richmond in Virginia in 2001.
That turned into a job as the team’s archivist. The Dodgers at the time didn’t have an archive, after owner and president Walter O’Malley liked his proposal.
“I was a 23, 24-year-old trying to find a niche for myself,” Olguin said.
That position eventually moved into public relations, and Olguin moved up to the vice president of public relations. He stayed with the organization until 2005 — he took about a year hiatus to work for a public relations firm.
Olguin said that working for a baseball team and a racing team have their similarities.
“The dynamics are similar,” Olguin said. “The schedules are long and a grind. The manager is similar to the crew chief ... and the floor of the workshop is similar to a clubhouse.”
He said the biggest difference is that race teams don’t have hometown media that they push stories toward.
As a PR staff member for the Dodgers, Olguin said he had the opportunity to see Ebel, who was a year behind him at Barstow, at spring training and even played pick-up ball with him from time to time.
Olguin grew up in a family of eight siblings, and he has a brother and sister that still live in the area.
Olguin played varsity football, basketball and baseball while at Barstow. He said he recalled the Aztecs winning the San Andreas League title in basketball his senior year, but doesn’t remember ever beating rival Victor Valley in any sport while on varsity.
Not many people know of Barstow in North Carolina, where he currently resides, but when he runs into people from Southern California they’re aware of the town either as a stop to Las Vegas or for the off-road races.
“I miss the small-town feel, really honestly my family and friends,” Olguin said.