Robert Rask was looking for a fresh start in the recession and found it in the form of launching a windshield repair business.
With a road crowded with construction equipment and projects along the Interstate 15 corridor, it wasn't long until he'd built a solid customer base at IntegraGlass, 367 N. State Street in Orem, in search of a technician to fix windshield rock chips and cracks.
"We love it, it's fun," said Rask of his business, which his wife Melissa also helps to operate. "With road construction and gravel trucks running up and down I-15, at some point, you're going to get hit."
While Rask learned a new skill set to start the business, he became a quick study in the art of windshield repair a practice that led him to recently compete at the "Olympics" of auto glass repair, where he competed against other technicians across the United States to earn the title of best repairman in the country.
Rask, 39, competed against 10 others in the Walt Gorman Memorial Windshield Repair Competition in Louisville, Ky. Over a two-day period, he fixed a crack in a vehicle's windshield and was judged on a 50-point scale for the process he used. His combination of repairing the windshield coupled with his score on his customer service skills landed him a bronze medal and $500 prize in the competition.
"Robert demonstrated a safe and technically sound repair, which is so instrumental to educate both the customer and attendees who were watching and other technicians who can learn from his techniques," said Ally Curran, event coordinator of the competition.
Rask wasn't the only Utahn who earned honors at the competition.
Travis Crebs, a technician at Technaglass in West Jordan, won a silver medal and $1,000 prize in the competition's auto glass replacement category.
Crebs had to install a windshield on a car using the industry's Auto Glass Safety Council's Standard rules that stipulate how a windshield should be properly installed, Curran said.
Crebs, 37, removed and reinstalled the back windshield of a vehicle with a technique that set him apart from his competitors, Curran said.
"The entire competition is about education and having technicians learn from one another as well as educate the common consumer," she said. "Travis's work was a prime example of how [using the industry's standard] will ensure a safe and top-quality installation."
Chris Smith of Technaglass in Draper also competed in the windshield repair contest and placed second.
Rask admitted that his awards might not be something appreciated and understood outside his niche industry.
But he's still enjoying the clout of being a medalist at the industry event and hopes he can use his title to attract new customers.
Rask's business has been running for about a year, and in that time span, he estimates he has inspected 45,000 vehicles for rock chips. Of those, about 18 percent have had a rock chip and another 18 percent have had a cracked window, said Rask.
"I didn't know exactly what to expect. I was pleased with the way it turned out," Rask said of the competition. "I feel that next year when they hold the competition in Tampa, I can do better."