As race team employees, we’ve all seen them. You’ll be driving through Lakeside Business Park, down Highway 3, or out Derita Road and you get behind the Ford pickup with Texas tags that has a Dale Jr. sticker in one corner of the back window, and a Tony Stewart sticker in the other; and they’re doing 17mph. They are the race fans that make the pilgrimage-like trip to Charlotte, the Mecca of the sport, for one reason: to visit race shops. For those that don’t get the opportunity to come see some shops, I thought I’d try and paint a little picture of just what exactly you’ll find inside.
Today’s NASCAR race shops have evolved from basic garages into multi-million dollar facilities with shop space, business offices, employee locker rooms, gyms, theaters, and more. The size and capabilities of a race shop will vary drastically depending on the team occupying them, and the series they compete in.
The commonly viewed area of a race shop is the main floor where assembly and car setup happens. You’ll often find racecars in various stages, from rolling chassis to complete cars. There, teams do all the prep work to get cars ready for upcoming races. These areas will also be used to tear down cars from previous weekends and get them ready for any sort of repairs and future setups.
No matter the team, most shops will have a fabrication area. Some have full blown chassis building and body hanging areas, but every team will at least have a finish fab area for installing interiors, minor repairs, crush panel installation, and other fabrication work.
Off of main shop areas you’ll find smaller rooms where crew members are hard at work assembling transmissions, rear ends, dynoing shocks, rating springs, and in some cases building engines.
To get their cars to look good, teams will have a body and paint area as well. Here, cars are prepped by the body guys and readied for fresh coats of bright sponsor colors. You’ll find guys applying body fillers, spraying primer, and sanding away like mad men.
All shops have at least a small office area, if not a very large one. Some smaller shops like those you’ll find near the Mooresville Dragway out Highway 152 will have office space that pales in comparison to the large complexes you’ll find at Penske Racing, Roush Fenway Racing, Hendrick Motorsports, and Joe Gibbs Racing. All business functions for a team are carried out here including marketing and PR, accounting, human resources, and travel. Also, the crew chiefs and engineers will have office space to use while they are in the shop during the week.
Race shops for some of the larger, more highly funded teams will also house extra goodies like chassis dynos for testing and tuning engines, and pull down rigs for testing suspensions.
To accommodate race fans, many of the larger Sprint Cup organizations have racing museums on their properties as well, such as Roush Fenway, Hendrick, and RCR.
If you do get the chance to visit Charlotte, I would definitely recommend making the rounds and visiting the shops. It hasn’t been all that long ago that I was the wide-eyed race fan doing the same. Seeing the shops gives you a chance to see the inner workings of a team, maybe ask a question or two, and possibly even meet a driver.