HARRISBURG, N.C. — The love of cars and tires is in Liz Prestella’s blood and on her skin.
The skin is simple enough: a stark, dark tattoo of a single wrench on her right leg. The blood? That comes from hours spent with her grandfather, Al, and dad, Alton, watching NASCAR races. Of time spent in the garage, wrenching on her car, making her own repairs and doing her own maintenance.
It’s the blood that helps explain Prestella’s rise into NASCAR, a journey that started as an intern with Jennifer Jo Cobb and a journey in which the current chapter has Prestella as a tire specialist for the No. 37 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series team at JTG Daugherty Racing.
“I love every aspect on working on the cars,” Prestella tells NASCAR.com while, appropriately, leaning on a stack of tires. “As a tire specialist, you have the same system every week. Things don’t change. Every week it’s the same routine. It’s not like there’s random craziness that could happen. I prefer the organized chaos, not the all-over chaos.”
It’s been quite a climb for Prestella, a native of Southern California. Her time with Cobb included interior and decal work. Prestella’s slight frame made her the only person on the team who could fit into Cobb’s seat, so she fitted that out weekly.
Stops with Derrike Cope, Jay Robinson and Tommy Baldwin were next prior to her joining JTG as the company expanded to a two-car organization with driver Chris Buescher.
Her job as a tire specialist is exact. Measurements are in millimeters. It requires strict organization and insane attention to detail. Failure to measure properly, or put tires in the right sets, or tires in the right spot would mean failure on the race track on Sundays.
“Everything we do is very exact,” Prestella says. “It has to be very meticulous and planned out and organized. If you’re unorganized, you’ll have crew chiefs yelling, you’ll have drivers yelling. You have to be very articulate and meticulous about where the tires are at, otherwise you could have a catastrophic failure.”
Has that terminology, a “catastrophic failure,” ever happened on Prestella’s crew?
“No,” she says with a slight smile. “I am very on top of my guys. If they see me coming or pointing at something, they know they messed up.”
The attention-to-detail trait is both innate and learned. It’s stuff that Prestella simply has in her, but it also has been honed over the years as her car knowledge expanded.
When Prestella first got her driver’s license, she told her dad she planned to take auto tech at school. And she did. The two of them have since tinkered on their own cars together, so she has a tremendous understanding of all parts of the car.
Her career goals, though, are intertwined with team success as opposed to individual success. Her career path doesn’t have a final destination — there is no certain position Prestella targets.
“My ultimate goals are to get wins and championships,” Prestella said. “I’m perfectly fine doing tires, or whatever is needed. I am willing to do anything on the cars. I can do all of it. I just want to be able to be out there winning.”
Getting there would come with some spotlight. Prestella is part of a growing number of women in the NASCAR garage. The titles and wins would validate her work, certainly, but they also would help her spread a message that is even more impactful.
“I hope that I am helping make young girls see that its possible for them to work in racing and work on cars, and not be limited just because they’re female,” she said.