Parkland graduate Kyle Bemount is going places, FAST! Bemount, who earned his associate’s degree in Industrial Technology in 2011, is making a name for himself, both in racing circles and through the efforts of his business, Bemount Performance. I recently caught up with him and we talked about his experiences at Parkland, including his role as a part-time instructor, in addition to his ventures outside of school.
T: What did you study at Parkland?
K: I originally enrolled in the Industrial Technology program at Parkland in the fall of 2008, right after I got out of the Marine Corps. I wanted to do welding and fabricating and that sort of thing. I had some hands-on experience and liked it, so I wanted to further educate myself.
T: Thank you for your service! Where did your degree in Industrial Technology lead you?
K: While I was earning that degree, I also worked pretty much full time at my stepdad’s shop, painting and fabricating. When I graduated, I used the tools I learned and kept heading in that direction. I had never really given motorsports a chance to reach out and grab me. Then, Parkland built the new facility, and I was here for a car show and thought maybe it was worth checking out. I scheduled a meeting with Jon (Ross, director of the automotive program) and he gave me all the information I needed. I liked what he had to say, so I decided to try for another degree in Automotive Motorsport technology.
T: Where did your interests outside of Parkland take you?
K: I finished the motorsport classes, and it was a year ago, almost to the day, that I made the decision to open my own business. I do have a passion for working on cars and making them go faster, and working on FRIENDS’ cars especially is what has led me to this! Last October, I moved to a shop in Champaign, at 4102 Colleen Drive off of Staley Road.
T: Did your Industrial Technology training come together with the auto training?
K: It all kind of pieced the puzzle together. You might have previous car experience or have a relationship with someone who taught you about cars, and there’s nothing wrong with that. I had it too; I was already into cars and I had a fast vehicle, but there were a lot of gaps. I would be in class with Jon going over wheels and tires or brakes and suspension or something, and I would think I knew it, but by the end of class, I’d be like, “I didn’t know ANYTHING about that!” Parkland’s instruction bridges a lot of gaps for people who haven’t been taught in a structured manner like a classroom environment. You aren’t going to get that know-how by working on one specific vehicle. Here, you’re taught that this is how they all work and the situation dictates which one you can use it on.
T: You get a good, broad understanding of why this works, and that can help you diagnose whatever rolls into your shop?
K: Exactly. You need to crawl before you can walk. A lot of times, I ran before I even walked! I went right into it and did it. I got lucky and made it work, but if someone asked me a generic question about it, I might know the answer. Now, I try to be more able to find you a basic answer.
T: Was your Marine Corps training related to mechanics at all?
K: In no way, shape or form! I was an infantry marine.
T: You were a ground pounder?
K: I did infantry and security work. I had an option to become a police officer when I got out, but I really didn’t want to do it. I wanted to do something I was really passionate about.
T: You’ve started Bemount Performance, and from that the race car came about?
K: I actually bought that car when I was still stationed in Okinawa. I had my mom go to Missouri and pick it up. I had it for months before I even saw it! I had it all through industrial tech school, all through my motorsport classes.
T: What car are we talking about here?
K: It’s a 2000 Trans Am with a WS6. It has undergone multiple surgeries to become what it is now! Every winter, it gets some new “go fast” parts. It’s a 4-way LS motor with a Garrett 5594 turbo. It’s a pretty quick car. It’s been as fast as 8.35 in the quarter mile, at 168 miles an hour.
T: Is it a pro stock drag car? What classification is it?
K: It drives on the road more than it is on the track, so it’s a street class.
T: What advice would you give someone interested in chasing the dream of opening their own business?
K: To be honest with you, it was totally terrifying. I went from having a 40-hour-a-week job that makes decent money and was very secure and we had a certain living standard, and we realized that it was all about to change. I had a good feeling about it and I had backing from a couple of friends, so I didn’t have that concern.
T: What do you think about a nontraditional student coming back to Parkland? What sort of advice would you give that person?
K: You can always come back to Parkland. I’ve wanted to come back and do the upholstery class. It’s not really a part of what I do, I consider myself a go-fast guy, but nevertheless it’s a part of the world that I know zero about and that bothers me. You’re never too good to come back and learn. Technology evolves. I’m always wanting to learn.
T: Where did you go to high school?
K: I went to Rantoul. I had a fantastic shop teacher named Bill Wiley. Mr. Wiley actually made me interested in automotive. He was hands down the best shop teacher ever. He was very straightforward, but not by the book at all. He helped me out a ton.
T: Do you to build race cars for other people?
K: I do turbo kits, exhaust work, plumbing work, brake kits, and brake lines. I do almost anything, even build motors. My business is almost 100 percent building race cars. When I was starting out, I was as nervous as I could be and I took in jobs that had nothing to do with performance, just because I had to pay bills. Now, I don’t take in a job that doesn’t at least spark my interest or is a specialty of mine in the performance world. I very much try to stay to my field. I don’t want someone bringing their hundred-thousand-dollar race car into my shop and seeing a minivan on one of my racks.
T: What you would like to add?
K: I can’t emphasize taking classes enough. I love helping people out. This past fall, we took nine students to the track for the first time and after they had run down the track, they were grinning from ear to ear. To bring nine new guys into the thing you love is big to me. I want to show students that this is the right way to do it. That’s the big payoff.
[To get started finishing your degree, contact Tony Hooker with the Parkland College Adult Re-entry Center at firstname.lastname@example.org or 217/351-2462.]