This wasn’t the direct career path Norm Boutot Jr. set out on.
Boutot lived in South Florida as a youngster, and then moved back to Fort Lauderdale when he was 19.
“I loved the ocean and I always wanted to study sharks and be a marine biologist,” Boutot said.
The marine biologist path didn’t materialize, but the motorsports door did open for Boutot.
Boutot, working to make ends meet, landed a job at Bobby Austin Race Cars in Fort Lauderdale, building drag race cars.
Now, through hard work and immense talent, he has become one of the premier fabricators in the drag racing world.
“I got involved with fabrication when I was 14 years old and I’m 50 now,” Boutot said. “I worked on race cars for all but about three years of my career. I was working at a company called Fabcar Engineering that did mostly Porsche race car work. Our shop was next door to the Joe Gibbs team, which consisted of Zippy (Mike Neff), Jason McCulloch, Dickie Venables, Brian Husen and all those guys, so we would occasionally do work for them. I remained in touch with those guys for many years after the Joe Gibbs team dissolved. That’s where I got to meet all those guys around 1997, 1998 and I stayed in touch with them. In 2006, Zippy (Neff) was at (Don) Schumacher (Racing) at the time and he asked if I would be interested in running the fab shop that they just needed to take control of that thing and get it knocked it to shape.”
After spending a decade at Fabcar, Boutot left and went to work at DSR in 2006 to run the fabrication shop.
“When I got to the DSR fab shop really the only thing they did was mount Funny Car bodies,” Boutot said. “After being there a short time Don (Schumacher) expressed his wishes of expanding the operation so we began building Funny Car front half, Funny Car back half, Funny Car complete, dragster chassis complete and we continued to mount Funny Car bodies. We also built headers, puke tanks, you name it, we pretty much built everything. We had it pretty efficient and there were four of us there.
I do recall when the Yas Marina team came about I was the Pomona (the final race of the season) and Don said we just sealed this deal and he asked if I could produce two cars in additional to my other work load. Then, he said we don’t really have a choice you have to produce to additional cars. The four of us in the fab shop had a meeting and we decided we could get it done. We were going in at 7 in the morning and leaving at 7 at night. We worked seven days a week, 12 hours a day. We were pumping out a Top Fuel car about every 3½ to four days. That winter (2009 into January 2010), I believe we built about four Top Fuel chassis and mounted six Funny Car bodies.”
Boutot’s record speaks for itself and it is amazing. He was key fabricator for the following NHRA world champions – Top Fuel Tony Schumacher (2006-09), Funny Car Matt Hagan (2011), Top Fuel Antron Brown (2012), Funny Car Jack Beckman (2012), Funny Car John Force (2013), Top Fuel Brittany Force (2017), Funny Car Robert Hight (2017) and Top Fuel Steve Torrence (2018).
“It makes me feel good,” said Boutot about playing a role in all those world championships. “Every time a championship is won with parts or chassis I’ve had a big hand in, I get goosebumps. It does mean something to me and it is just not all me. It’s definitely a group effort. I have worked with some great guys over the years. Guys like Lee Beard, Ed “The Ace” McCulloch, Dickie Venables, and Brian Husen.”
Boutot left DSR in December of 2012 and went to work for John Force Racing for five years. He departed JFR and now works for Lucas Oil Fabrication which is the remnants of the Morgan Lucas Racing team.
“They wanted to expand, and I wanted to be able to spend more time with my family being 50 years old,” Boutot said. “My dad died young (in 1993) and while I am able to play and run and jump I want to do those sorts of things.”
Presently at Lucas Oil Fabrication in Brownsburg, Ind., Boutot and his team are building chassis for Steve Torrence, and his father, Billy, Top Fuel driver Mike Salinas among others.
“We are building chassis either from scratch or front halving and back halving for probably seven or eight Top Fuel cars as well as building all the Funny Car headers for Kalitta (Motorsports), some of the Top Fuel headers for Kalitta, some of (Tim) Wilkerson’s Funny Car headers, all of (Bob) Tasca’s Funny Car headers, and Cruz Pedregon’s Funny Car headers. Since I’ve got over there (to Lucas Oil Fabrication), we have purchased quite a bit of equipment to get us up to speed on doing what Morgan (Lucas) wanted to do.”
Reflecting on his drag racing career, Boutot acknowledged he couldn’t imagine things would have gone this way for him.
“What I do know is I always try to do a great job at whatever I do,” he said. “I’m one of those kids, when you make a weld, every time when you go to the next weld you want to better that weld. You just want to aspire to succeed. When it comes to building something, I prefer to think about it for a short time and come up with four or five different ways of doing something and then pick the best one out of the bunch so the first time you do it, it will be the best and it will be efficient. My biggest trait that works well for what I do is the efficiency. I just feel like we just get things done efficiently. I want to continue to do this as long as I can and as long as I can do things with my family.”
Day Three of Season Four legends: The Series rewind delves into the private life of John Force, as he shares the challenges of growing up in the Force household to the revelations as an accomplished champion. – #LEGENDStheSERIES https://t.co/FgMXj9KI1A pic.twitter.com/2HrNjbAlxr
— Competition Plus (@competitionplus) December 28, 2018