Working in a sport that has anywhere from 25 to 36 events a year (depending on the series) that races from Fontana, California to Loudon, New Hampshire equates to some serious travel. The way in which we get to the races varies by team, but for most it involves at least some level of air travel. And for many teams, air travel means flying their people on private aircraft.
Most of the big race teams anymore have invested in at least one, if not multiple airplanes to shuttle their people from track to track. Hendrick Motorsports, Roush Fenway Racing, Richard Childress Racing, Joe Gibbs Racing, Michael Waltrip Racing, Haas Racing, Bill Davis Racing, Chip Ganassi Racing, Penske Racing, and Dale Earnhardt Inc. are included in the list of organizations that have their own aircraft. Teams employ a variety of different types of planes depending on their needs; everything from small turboprop planes, to commercial sized jets.
All essential personnel for a team will have a spot on the plane, including crew chiefs and mechanics, to pit crews and business people. And, with rising fuel costs, many of these teams have started opening up their planes to other teams as well. Selling any unused seats to other organizations can help offset the costs of operating these aircraft.
The fleet of race team owned planes you’ll find parked at private and commercial airports on race weekends all over the country allows the teams to control costs and their own schedules. They are not subject to varying commercial rates and schedules and can be ready whenever a team needs them.
An option for those teams that do not have their own planes, but still want the convenience are some of the logistics services available. There are companies that allow teams to purchase a usage share in a plane, and others that act almost as commercial flights, allowing teams to purchase individual seats. They still allow teams to get their personnel in for race time, and back out when the race is over without dealing with the hassles of commercial travel.
Besides the teams, drivers have also invested in their own planes. With ever changing schedules, sponsor appearances, and races, private aircraft afford drivers serious comfort and convenience when traveling.
In my career I have traveled almost every way possible to races. Everything from driving a 15 passenger van, to flying privately. While the team planes may not be glamorous like the private aircraft you often see on TV, they are often nicer then commercial and they help minimize time away from home and families. As much as I enjoy travel and the races, when its all done, I want to get home. These planes mean we don’t have to fight through security hassles and wait for commercial flights. The time saved is worth more then anything else.