The Sprint Cup schedule has a handful of weekends without races, like this one. The racing media often use the term “week off.” For the guys in the shop, nothing could be further from the truth. There is more than enough work to go around and plenty of hustle just to make sure teams don’t fall behind, or at the very least, can keep their heads above water.
In addition to the team members who attend races every weekend, funded Cup programs have more employees that stay back at the shop in Charlotte. When a race fan turns on his or her television and sees all of the colored uniforms swarming over a car in practice or on pit road, what fans are seeing is only a fraction of the people who are involved in getting that car prepared.
On a “week off,” a team’s road crew might be given a few extra days off, allowing them to enjoy a long weekend. Being away from home a large number of weekends a year, they deserve any time they can get with their families. But time off is not guaranteed. Testing must go on and a week without a scheduled race is a reasonable time to plan one. Cup teams can’t test at NASCAR-sanctioned tracks, but that still leaves many speedways around the country. Teams take advantage of this.
To the “guys back at the shop” that we hear drivers thank so often, this is really just another week. Bristol cars and equipment must be unloaded from transporters and then serviced. With an eye on the Richmond race on Sept. 12, these same items could possibly be used there. Brake hoses and ductwork are built into the car’s nose, so they make realistic candidates for the next short track, which also is hard on braking systems.
A typical day off in the shop.
Atlanta on Sept. 6 is the next target for the teams and the cars most likely to head there would be the ones that just raced in Michigan. They have similar layouts, but certainly not the same setup.
After cars return home from the races, each one has its finished setup documented. This includes the condition the car came off the speedway. All of the chassis adjustments remain the same and the car is weighed, post-race dirt and all.
The driveline is removed, including engine, transmission, driveshaft, rear gear and radiator. Every item goes to its department or company for service and teardown. The chassis is cleaned and rolled to body/paint and fabrication for any sheet metal repairs that are needed.
After another cleaning, the suspension is serviced, followed by installation of a new driveline for its new destination and setup for that track.
Also, two cars are prepared for each contest – a primary and a backup. Teams keep an eye on a third car in the shop to be shipped emergency in case one is crashed in practice or qualifying.
You may hear a reporter say Cup has the week off – just don’t repeat that in front of any of the guys at the shop.
(Patrick Reynolds is a professional racing mechanic who has worked for several NASCAR teams.)