As the Senior Director of Market Development at Suniva, I have the good fortune of working with many of our customers on new ways to incorporate solar photovoltaics (PV) into their business. Clean, green energy from the sun is a natural fit with many organizations’ overall sustainability strategies. I’ve seen a real uptake in the United States now that solar has become so much more affordable. That’s personally gratifying since I have a passion for implementing cleantech to sustainability.
Growing up in palm-tree lined South Florida, the closest I ever came to a car race was zooming around in kid-sized go-carts at a local amusement park. Born to Cuban-immigrant parents, I was more familiar with popular spectator events like jai alai than NASCAR racing.
If you’re like me, more than likely you endured a few family road-trip vacations in your formative years. And if your dad is like my dad, he had the route and timing planned out days in advance, accounting for refueling, food and bathroom stops. There were multiple folding maps and a few pages of handwritten notes stored somewhere within arm’s reach of the driver or front-seat passenger. Yes, this was back in the dark ages before smartphones and talking GPS map devices. There was little or no technology to help us strategically map our route and time our stops. Before there was TomTom, we navigated by MomMom.
My time at UPS started after high school, working at night on the re-load. At the same time, I started working the races at the local short track. By working for UPS at night I had the option on the weekends to go to the races. I have been working with NASCAR since the late 70’s in a number of different capacities and I’ve been a NASCAR official since I was 18.
In my current position in race control, logistics play a major role in my day-to-day responsibilities. There’s a lot of detail that goes into planning for a NASCAR race and planning ahead is essential if you want to reduce the probability of something getting overlooked. The further ahead you can plan, the more successful event you’re going to have. It’s just like at UPS, planning ahead makes you efficient in what you’re doing.
Telecommuting is the best thing since sliced bread. No more fighting traffic all the way to the office and all the way home, usually arriving at both locations tired and angry. No more distractions from the account execs who hold impromptu meetings in the hall outside your cubicle. No more having to restrain yourself from beating a misbehaving printer into submission. Do your job without going to work – what a concept! As long as you have all the equipment and supplies you need, can’t you really do your job anywhere?
NASCAR race teams take this concept to an entirely different level. They employ massive tractor-trailers to transport the team racecar and gear from track to track from February to November. Excuse me, racecars.There are two cars in each hauler – the primary car and a backup. But the cars occupy less than half of the space in the trailer. Beneath the cars one will find an astonishing array of tools, parts, uniforms – even entire replacement engines – AND a command center room, where team members gather to monitor weather forecasts, plan raceday strategy or just grab a quick bite. The hauler drivers must have honorary PhD’s in logistics because they are master planners and packers – they know exactly where to find any item in the hauler, right down to each tiny nut, bolt or screw.
In the universe of licensed drivers, I am in the extreme minority. The few. The lucky. The blessed. I’ve been driving for over 20 years and have been in only a few traffic accidents, never suffering significant injury. When I was 14, I was a backseat passenger in a car that struck a telephone pole hard enough to whip the top half of it across the street. That one left me with only a red mark on my cheek. I live in a major metropolitan area, braving a gauntlet of nearly 50 miles of freeway in my daily commute – each direction. Thankfully, I haven’t been in one of those terrible accidents we hear about on the radio several times per rush hour.
NASCAR drivers are not as lucky as I have been. I’d guess that by the time each of them hit the Sprint Cup circuit, they’ve been in at least one of those multi-car accidents that makes the nightly sports highlight reel. It’s a simple function of speed, proximity, human error and mechanical failure – eventually, one or more of these factors will cause one car to collide with another. It happens every race, and we as fans can only watch, wait and hope that when the mangled cars come to rest and the other vehicles are safely beyond, the drivers emerge from twisted metal and walk away. Read More »
Some people have the gift of thinking “out of the box.” Surveying a situation or problem, they have the ability to view it with a perspective which borders between brilliant and crazy. They always ask, “why can’t we make it bigger/better/stronger/faster?”
Humpy Wheeler knows a lot about doing it bigger and better. As President and General Manager of Charlotte Motor Speedway, now known as Lowe’s Motor Speedway, Humpy became famous for his outlandish at-track promotions. Believing that fans expected – and deserved – to be entertained from the moment they arrived at the track until the time they left, Humpy made it his mission to keep thousands of fans on the edge of their seat. Whether it was military re-enactments, stunt drivers jumping cars in school buses or the mechanical menace “Carasaurus,” he always delivered in a big way.
I wasn’t on the high school prom committee, but I knew several people who were. I heard horrific tales of hours spent planning the big dance at the end of the school year. Choosing the theme; selecting the venue; hiring caterers, valets and a photographer; decorating the ballroom…all for the entertainment of a few hundred people for a few hours. Now try and imagine planning and executing a multi-day event 38 times in 10 months. And your guest list will have approximately 42 performers, dozens of judges, hundreds of photographers and tens of THOUSANDS of attendees!
Unless you’re a die-hard NASCAR fan, you probably don’t pay attention to the pit stops during a race. Even then, you probably don’t truly notice a pit stop unless something goes wrong – the car gets stuck on the jack, a lug wrench breaks or maybe one of the crew members slips going over the wall. The racing pit crew is much like the offensive line in football – you generally don’t know their names unless they get called for holding. The simple expectation is that each pit crew member performs his job in a matter of seconds (14 or less) and that he performs it perfectly.
Back in the day, a race team was much smaller than the modern versions. There was a driver and the guys who worked on the race car in the garage, and that was pretty much it. They would all travel to the races together and those mechanics were the pit crew. These guys were not quick or agile, for the most part. When the driver came to the pit for fuel or tires, a guy would just grab whatever was nearest to him and they’d get to it. Pit stops – even in the mid-80’s – were timed in the 25- to 30-second range!
Then Ray Evernham came along, and changed the game.
My father served nearly 23 years in the U.S. Air Force so as you might imagine, I have a deep appreciation for the personal sacrifices made by the men and women in our armed forces. Long deployments away from family and friends in difficult and often dangerous conditions make them all heroes in my book.
So I was especially proud to learn that this July, UPS is helping send a little bit of home to the thousands of troops stationed abroad through a partnership with Goodyear and some of our other fellow NASCAR partners and sponsors. It’s being done in collaboration with Support Our Troops®, or SOT, a non-partisan, non-political charity established specifically to help bolster the morale and well-being of active duty troops and their families.