Let’s crush the myth once and for all. You cannot walk up to a NASCAR team, offer to sweep its shop floor, and work your way up to driver. Sure, that’s the way it used to be. But even Davey Allison, who swept the floor at Bobby Allison Racing for 50 cents an hour, had an “in” by being born into a racing family. Today, however, getting a job in big-time racing is a specialized science. So what do you need to know if you want to become one of those NASCAR people? Plenty.

Commitment

“If you want to work in racing, you have to commit your life—it’s not a game. You’ve got to drop what you’re doing and be here,” says Bob Hubner of Race City Resumes. His business specializes in getting people jobs on NASCAR race teams as well as supplying those teams with the help they need (see “Where Do I Send My Resume” sidebar).

The “here” Hubner speaks of is the Charlotte, North Carolina, area where the majority of NASCAR teams are located. This includes Winston Cup, Busch Grand National, and Craftsman Trucks. Sure, you can work in one of the few outlying areas where teams may be located, but that limits the availability of both jobs and employers.

In the Charlotte area, particularly Mooresville, the concentration of shops is higher, and so is the number of jobs. But those opportunities are larger than one might think. Hubner estimates that each major team can have more than 60 different positions.

As for the commitment, it is a life-altering decision. Like working a night-shift job, the hours may not be compatible with family requirements. Take little Billy to his soccer game? Nope, I’ve got to be in Talladega to test. Racing often is all-consuming.

Once you’ve settled the commitment issue, you’ll need to determine just what it is you’d like to do under the NASCAR big top. That means selecting the job you want to pursue.

There are basically three kinds of jobs in NASCAR. One job list consists of wholly racing-dedicated positions such as mechanic, car chief, fabricator, shock specialist, painter, engine assembler, and all jobs that deal directly with racing.

Another list is comprised of jobs that most businesses need, such as office help like secretaries, receptionists, travel coordinators, bookkeepers, and building help such as janitors, building-maintenance personnel, groundskeepers, and the like.

There’s also the area of jobs that are used in any manufacturing businesses such as computer/data, marketing, operations, purchasing, and engineering. If you don’t have a dedicated racing trade, such jobs could get you in the door.

The Jobs

So what are the hot jobs in NASCAR today? One of the most sought-after positions is a body hanger with surface-plate experience. That is a trade particular to NASCAR, ARCA, and Hooters ProCup cars, as local racing typically use bodies that aren’t steel. Working with fiberglass and aluminum is just not the same as crafting body panels from OEM parts and bare metal. Such a body hanger can take a bare frame and, within days, cover it with a slick body tuned to a typical track need such as an intermediate, short, or restrictor-plate track car. If he is really good, the car will pass inspection on the first try.

It’s quite a bit more complicated than it sounds. Most of the body is handmade and must fit unforgiving NASCAR templates with clearances of 1/8 inch or less.

It’s not a job that’s given out easily. A crew chief can say the motor’s not up to snuff and yank it for another at the track; he can’t do that with a body.

Why is that job the hardest to fill? Like any good driver, crew chief, or engine builder, teams tend to take good care of them so they’ll stay. And like those positions, it takes time to learn their craft.

How much time? “Between one and two years to learn how to hang a body,” says Pat Beattie. “The job is very complex and takes a long time to learn.”

Beattie should know—his Leading Edge Race Cars is one of the industry’s top shops for sheetmetal on NASCAR and ARCA cars and trucks.

“Two years is quite a bit for a shop to invest in a worker only to have him move on down the road for another team,” he says. With teams having upward of a dozen cars in house at any given part of the season, body hangers are always in dire need.

On the other end of the job scale are the non-racing jobs we detailed such as office help, janitorial, maintenance, and errand runners. If you want to work with the big boys and don’t know an English wheel from a steering wheel, there are areas such as public relations, company representative, TV/radio broadcasting and production, writers, and photographers.

Back to School

But what if you don’t have any experience and still feel the need for a hands-on NASCAR job? “If you don’t have experience, there are places and schools you can go to,” says Hubner. “Find an area and be the best you can be. Find something you want to do, and do it well.”

That could be welding, assembling engines, bodywork, and painting—things you can learn on a local racing level and refine in NASCAR land. Seek out racing publications for schools that offer the trade you desire, and sign up for a course. There are schools that offer fabrication, engine, and mechanical skills. Even going to one or two of them expands your network of racing contacts.

There’s plenty of great experience to be gained at a short track near you. Small teams often need people to help them race each weekend. It’s a good chance to learn the overall mechanics of a race car and to realize any specific areas that interest you more.

Buddy Parrott, general manager at Roush Racing, says people who want to work in racing should consider some of the many college programs that will give them the needed technical skills.

“Instead of replacing somebody with a high school kid—we can’t afford to do that,” Parrott says. “Our whole deal is elevated so much to where we’re expected to go out and win five or six races. We can’t afford to get a high school kid without any experience.

But on the other side of that, there are plenty of jobs out here in racing if they want to go to school.

“First thing, they need to get as much education as possible, whether it’s high school or college. And if they don’t want to go to college, they need to go to a school that teaches welding or fabrication. That way, they have their skills when they get here.”

Eddie Dickerson, director of chassis engineering at Hendrick Motorsports, says that those who want a job on a Winston Cup team need to know what areas they want to work in, then find out who looks at the resumes for that department.

“If you want to get into Winston Cup racing, the first thing you have to do is figure out which area you want to work in,” Dickerson says. “If fabrication is your thing—like it was for me when I was a kid racing go-karts, you need to get in touch with whoever hires fabricators. You need to pick out the areas you want to work in, then target the guy who heads that department.”