Driven by his competitive spirit and the desire to be on a winning team, Dennis Terry is not only one of the top Landscape Architects in the industry, but was also a successful NASCAR pit crew team member for 18 years.
Dennis grew up on a farm in Mooresboro, a small town one hour west of Charlotte, North Carolina. Active in several sports throughout high school, he honed his athleticism and competitive spirit right through graduation into his college years. He dipped his toes into just about everything – football, track, volleyball, softball, golf, and more. He attended North Carolina State University where he studied Landscape Architecture and Horticulture. After college, Dennis moved to Charlotte where he began his career in Landscape Architecture.
Despite his achievements in the design field, Dennis felt drawn to a new challenge. His college roommate had worked on a NASCAR pit crew, and Dennis was intrigued. NASCAR was never a hobby of his – he never wanted to be a driver, nor was he really even a fan. But his profession as an LA didn’t require a whole lot of physicality, and he felt a compulsion to fill that void. When he got involved in the sport as a Front Tire Changer in 1998, he never expected his weekend job to develop into a successful 18-year career, but that’s exactly what happened.
“Once I got into the sport and figured out how to do my job well, I was captivated by the enormous challenge that every race and every pit stop provided. It was always special to me to be a deciding factor in whether or not a team wins or loses.” Dennis likens his crew to being in the military, a “band of brothers” of sorts. The dynamic group of type-A personalities learned a lot about performance-based leadership, having a team mentality, and how to work under extremely stressful conditions and come out victorious.
When Dennis’s pit crew career began, the “goal post” of a successfully timed stop was 18 seconds. By the time he retired, it was at 10-11 seconds. As much as speed is a necessary factor in the sport, Dennis highlights the importance of taking your time and staying focused. “This sport is 70% mental and 30% physical. Most performance failures are due to people trying to physically speed up. Mentally, you can see and think things through faster than you can physically act on them… knowing the limits of your physical performance is THE key to success.”
The correlation between being a Landscape Architect and a NASCAR pit crew Front Tire Changer is closer than one may think. Both careers require the avoidance of self-inflicted problems. With design and permitting, there are a million unforeseen factors that can derail a project. The same goes for the pit crew process – the easy things must be done diligently and correctly, because unanticipated failures will inevitably happen. When they do, one must be prepared with a back-up plan and respond accordingly and quickly without worsening the problem.
“I’ve always understood the value of teaming with the best, both in racing and in engineering. Get the best people on your team, the smartest, most hard-working, and most talented. Then get out of their way and let them do what they do best.”
Now retired from NASCAR, but still dominating the Landscape Architecture game, Dennis can be found back on the family farm in Mooresboro where he grew up, next to his parents. He bought it in 2008, but permanently moved in last year with his wife of 17 years, Micki, and their daughter, Demi. Demi, 12, adores animals and is now the proud owner of 3 dogs, a horse, a cat, and 60 chickens. His affection for his family is evident as Dennis describes their new life on the farm, and I think it’s safe to say that out of all the teams he has been on, Dennis is most proud of being a member of Team Terry.