Have you ever had the chance to see a Formula 1 car run? If not, it’s an experience like no other. Before coming to UPS, I had the chance to attend many different sporting events, but none stands out in my mind like the first time I watched F1 cars run. I was at a race and got to stand in the first turn on the course. Hearing that high-pitched whine and feeling the ground shake as the cars came around the track at 220 mph was an awesome experience.
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.
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.
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.