Readers often tell me how much they'd like to work on a race team. My usual response is something like, "No, you wouldn't."
Believe me, it's a lot easier to take your seat in the grandstands, sip on a cold drink, and just dream about what it would be like to work in racing. You don't have to be around the sport very long before you're shaken into reality and realize what incredible demands crewmen face.
Nowhere is that more obvious than the sacrifices many racers make nationwide each week to take part in local competition, or a regional touring series. These folks don't have major sponsorship packages, glistening race shops, or large crews. But they do have that deep-down passion for racing that drives them to keep working when most of us would clock out and go home. They bleed motor oil.
Stock Car Racing Associate Editor Larry Cothren recently spent a week with Bobby Gill Racing, a team that competes in the Hooters ProCup Series. We just wanted to give a sampling of what a typical team does to prepare their race cars. Like hundreds of other race shops, if you show up here, you better come ready to work.
You can hear the intensity every time you talk with Steve "Duze" Dluzniewski, Gill's crew chief. Here's a guy who packed up and moved to the Charlotte area to hunt full-time work in racing. He hung around because he has the work ethic needed, and the drive to do what it takes to win. "If people would spend less time talking about it and more time working on the car, they would be better off," he said at the shop. "They're too busy waiting on the good luck fairy and looking for the bag of money. That ain't it."
If you think you want to walk in these shoes, I hope you can fit into Duze's weary pair of Converse Chuck Taylors. I hope you don't mind being a jack-of-all trades, putting in time when you should be a home with the family, or consuming yourself with a business that offers more chances for failure than financial gain.
Talk is cheap on this team. There's plenty of work to be done. "We just do what we have to do," Duze says. "Talk don't get it done. There's a lot of talkers, a lot of actors, in racing."
Yes, in the world of low-budget racing, the actors get weeded out quickly.
Doug Strother, a volunteer mechanic with Bobby Gill Racing, says, "I'm doing this because I like it, not because of fame or fortune or anything like that, or I would have been out of it a long time ago."
My PicksThe Results Of Our Annual Stock CarRacing Readers' Choice Awards are in and I'm sure your reaction will bring either a hearty "Amen!" or something like "Are you freakin' crazy?!" But hey, don't kill the messenger. These are YOUR votes, after all.
However, since I figured I could use some extra fan mail, I want to share my picks. Here's how I cast my vote.
1.Best Active Driver: Jeff Gordon. No one can maintain the same consistency.
2. Biggest Surprise in 2002: Jimmie Johnson. Ho-hum Busch Series career left me with plenty of doubts at the start of the season.
3. Biggest Disappointment in 2002: Kevin Harvick. By mid-summer things had started to turn around. But why did it take that long?
4. Most Aggressive Driver: Kevin Harvick. He'll hang it out, even under the watchful eye of Big Brother NASCAR.
5. Best Car Owner: Jack Roush. He's great at spotting talent and building winners.
6. Best Crew Chief: Robbie Loomis. Petty Enterprises suffered when he left, and he's kept Jeff Gordon on track.
7. Best Pit Crew: DeWalt Ford of Matt Kenseth. This is a toss-up between any one of a dozen teams.
8. Best All-Time Driver: Dale Earnhardt. He would have won an eighth championship, or more.
9. Best Paint Scheme: M&Ms Pontiac of Ken Schrader. You can't go wrong with a green M&M.
10. Best Racetrack: Bristol. Hands-down the only track guaranteed to leave you satisfied every time.