2021 NAPA / ASE Technician of the Year
Lynn Austin joins an elite group of more than three dozen technicians who have received this award that was first presented in 1982. Lynn earned a degree in Automotive Service Technology at Dunwoody College of Technology in Minneapolis. During the summers he worked as the oil change boy at a local shop. When Lynn graduated; he got a job as a technician at Crown Auto. Then it was on to the local Dodge dealership where Lynn was a technician and a service manager. Lynn earned his first ASE certification in 1975 and went on to become an ASE Master Certified Technician. He holds 15 ASE certifications today. Lynn is a big believer in training and has taken about every course NAPA has ever offered. When asked about the importance of certifications, he said “Customers understand the importance of having a well-trained technician work on their car, so seeing that ASE certification gives them peace of mind." Lynn views himself as always having been a technician first and a businessperson second, so he recently turned over the shop's business operation to his son-in-law Justin Yungerberg and he's now devoting his time to working on vehicles.
Lynn has always believed in doing what's right for the customer and strives to provide exceptional service every day. His motto is, “There's never a need to sell someone something they don't need. If there's an issue I call the customer to discuss it, often on my own cell phone. Open communication is key. It builds trust and strengthens relationships." In addition to training and experience, it's the little things that make Lynn stand out as a mechanic. One of the things he's known for is putting a smiley face on the coolant recover tank to remind his customers how full it needs to be. Especially today, oil changes are further apart, so by reminding people where to check for coolants until their next oil change, it provides reassurance for the customer—and for Lynn—that the car will be looked after until he sees it again.
Even though Lynn has more than 40 years' experience in the automotive industry, he remembers being the new guy on the block and is committed to helping grow the next generation of technicians. The local high school offers a beginning automotive program, and South Central College in North Mankato offers programs in automotive service, auto body and collision. Lynn volunteers his time at both schools, participating Mankato Area Career Day as well as Career Exploration Day at South Central College talking to students interested in the automotive field. Lynn is also a member of the National Automotive Technicians Education Foundation (NATEF), an organization that works to enhance the quality of technician training programs nationwide.
Terre Haute, IN
2020 NAPA / ASE Technician of the Year
Byron’s passion for cars started as a kid helping his dad work on the family car in the driveway. Byron graduated from Lincoln Tech with honors in 1991 with a focus in auto body. Fresh out of vocational school, Byron began working at Finzel’s Mastertech. In 1996, Byron became a Master Technician and currently holds 14 ASE Certifications along with several NAPA and other industry training certificates. Byron took a break from the automotive industry from 2001 – 2015 but returned and re-certified as a Master Technician and once again joined Finzel’s. Byron currently acts as a mentor at Finzel’s Mastertech where he shares his experiences and knowledge with younger technicians looking to make a career in auto repair. He’s also committed to making sure customers feel comfortable with the recommended repairs and confident in the work done.
Byron also donates time to his community, volunteering as a motivational speaker for substance abuse and recovery. He volunteers his time to the Indiana Department of Corrections and various recovery programs. He has also participated in Finzel’s annual Car Care Event for the last 3 years and the annual motorcycle rides for St. Judes and The Blue Knights Ride for CODA (Council of Domestic Abuse).
Steve Finzel, owner of Finzel’s Mastertech said “Byron repairs vehicles with the highest integrity and uses the latest techniques and test equipment while diagnosing today’s vehicles. Byron welcomes the opportunity for training and shares his successes with other technicians through Identifix and IATN. Byron’s productive attitude and willingness to give back makes him an asset to the future of the automotive industry.”
McNeil’s Auto Care
Sandy & Riverton, Utah
2019 NAPA / ASE Technician of the Year
Jake Sorensen is the recipient of the 2019 NAPA/ASE Technician of the Year Award. Jake is an ASE Master Certified Technician, holding 14 ASE Certifications and 15 additional training qualifications. He serves as the Lead Technician at McNeil’s Auto Care in Sandy, UT.
Jake and Pete McNeil (owner of McNeil’s Auto Care) decided to embrace the idea of giving youth a path toward being a Technician. To educate that becoming a Technician is both gratifying and can be a rewarding career. They both feel the necessity for technicians is growing and with technology constantly changing, came the need for a new way of learning to adapt. So, they approached the local school districts, department of labor, Governor’s office and their NAPA Store.
Jake has volunteered his time, experience and expertise as an ASE Master Technician to build a "Technician Apprentice Program", which is approved and certified by the U.S. Department of Labor (D.O.L). He created the curriculum that includes the required hours and training (classroom, online & workshop) to be recognized by the D.O.L. Jake is an Instructor at CTEC Entrada/Canyons School District, where he teaches young men and women an introductory Automotive class. The class supports the beginning stages of their apprenticeship program and credits can be applied to the program if students decide to apply and are accepted after taking the course. Four out of the six apprentices that have been accepted into the program have become high performing technicians at McNeil’s Auto Care.
Jake’s greatest accomplishment is his wife Kelsy and two daughters. He is an avid hunter/outdoorsman, including boating, hiking, fishing. Loving the outdoors, Jake volunteers for a group, called Cast for Kids, that takes disadvantaged and disabled kids and families fishing. Jake said, “helping someone enjoy the nature in Utah, especially those that may not be able to without help, is a great feeling”. As you can see Jake Sorensen is very passionate about the overall success and future of our industry.
Dattco Sales & Service
New Britain, CT
2018 NAPA / ASE Technician of the Year
Ronnie King’s technical career began at his family’s Connecticut gas station. His local high school offered a good automotive shop program, and he continued his study in technical school. His first job gave him the opportunity to work on such a wide range of vehicles, he still thinks of himself as a problem-solver.
In 1995, he received his first ASE certifications and, a year later, his Master Truck Technician certification. Ronnie saw the value in this level of training and certification as the equivalent of professional licensing and he currently holds more than 20 ASE certifications, including IC bus Diamond Technician (Navistar), Cummins ISB overhaul and repair; and ASE Master Tech in bus, car and truck with L1 and L2.
Beyond training courses, Ronnie has raised the performance bar, winning numerous honors, including the ASE Blue Seal of Excellence Award; and the ASE Technical Committee Subject Matter Expert Award for the School Bus Diesel Engines (S2) Exam.
Looking at his personal achievements as an example, Ronnie advises others to “never stop training.” Online, hands-on, in-person, self-taught, reading trade magazines and keeping up with the latest tools are all important to the future of your company and the industry.
Ronnie takes his work seriously but he finds time to round-out his life by participating in a variety of local charity organizations including Rebuilding Together – New Britain, which helps to transform the lives of low-income homeowners, the Berlin Lions Club, and charity motorcycle rides.
2017 NAPA / ASE Technician of the Year
Jim is New Mexico's ASE Tech of the Year six years in a row and a previous National Top Five Nominee. His motto is "Do it right, or don't do it at all" and that mentality is what keeps him one step ahead. Jim opened his current location in 1986 with a reputation built on integrity, honesty and fairness. Jim makes accommodations for on-site training and other shops are invited to attend. They also offer Internships to a local high school as Senior Work Projects. Jim's Automotive is an ASE Blue Star Facility, ACDC Hybrid Certified, AAA Approved Repair Facility and a member of the NAPA Albuquerque Business Development Group. Jim has been on the Board of Directors for ASA-Central New Mexico and currently serves as President of the Association and has been instrumental in the success of many community based activities. He spends a great deal of his own time supporting various fund raising events. Jim is very passionate about our industry and works extremely hard to improve it.
Being the Technician of the Year is not just about the ASE Certifications that an individual possesses, it's about commitment and leadership to our industry and to NAPA and continued training beyond ASE. It's about hard work and going the extra mile.
A panel of former NAPA/ASE Technicians of the Year, automotive press editors and an ASE representative will select this year's winner. Entrants will be judged on:
Anyone is welcome to nominate a Technician they feel is deserving. We are accepting multiple nominations per NAPA Distribution Center. To enter, click Nominate Now and complete all six tabs of the Nomination information. It will allow you to save throughout the process and return at a later time to input additional information. Once all fields are completed, the Submit button will turn Green and you can make your nomination.