It has certainly been a strange week leading up to edition #21. We saw Brad Keselowski triumph in a Cup race, Mike Skinner win a rain shortened race on a Monday, and we lost a pillar of the sport in David Poole. Night racing at Richmond awaits us this weekend, but until that happens, we’ve got more of your questions and our answers. If you don’t know what this post is, until further notice, we will be answering any and all reader questions every Wednesday, right here. So if you’ve got one, click on the ”Ask the Insiders” tab at the top of the page and send one to us. On to the questions…
1. From Steve:
Another money question: I understand drivers get a combination of salary, winnings and merchandise revenue. What’s an ‘average’ salary package and what perks are included? Is the split of winnings the same or do different drivers get bigger or smaller shares of the pot? Is merchandising done on a NASCAR or team wide basis or is each driver on his own to strike a deal? And finally, drivers without steady rides who hang around looking for a ride here and there, can they make enough money from these occasional rides to make a living or do they need to have a supportive spouse kicking in the money to let them pursue their dream?
I’m not sure I could really say what an “average” salary package was. Salaries really vary by driver depending on who they are, what they’ve done, and who they are driving for. Drivers in the Cup Series will make anywhere from under a million a year to over $12 or $15 million. A usual split of the winnings is 60/40. Teams get 60, driver gets 40. In terms of perks and winnings shares, it really comes down to how good your management team is at negotiating your salary. It’s no different then other sports. I believe the merchandising deals are done on a driver-by-driver basis, but I’m not 100% on that. And finally, it really depends on where you are bouncing around. Running a couple races a season usually won’t make you enough money to live off of. Guys like this will usually fill the void by spotting, consulting, and testing for other teams. – T.C.
2. From Sean:
The last couple of years there were a few stories about Cup teams that had over-the-wall crews that did nothing else but pit stops – they didn’t have a job in the shop. Former college football players seemed to be getting this kind of employment. I’m thinking that in this economy, that kind of specialization is a luxury. Did these pit-crew-only jobs disappear this year or do some teams still have them?
The only place that many of these types of positions disappeared was the Truck Series. The new crew roster limits really forced a lot of mechanics and shop guys to get out on the road and go over the wall. In the Nationwide and Cup Series these jobs still do certainly exist. – T.C.
3. From Mike:
Have the pit crews started practicing with longer wheel studs then the mandated length to over come the pit road issues?
Yes. Practicing on short studs and showing up at the track with long studs would be very counterproductive. Some teams already had pit stop practice cars with longer studs anyway. – T.C.
4. From Newracefan:
What if anything is the garage, and the bus lot for that matter, saying about ESPN showing a distressed Katie Kenseth before we knew Matt was OK after his roof riding crash in the NW race? Are they as up in arms as many of the fans?
I didn’t see the incident in question, but I am assuming she was on his pit box or standing near it. The thing about being down on pit road is you’re wide open for the TV cameras and everyone else to see. When a driver’s wife or loved one is in a position for the camera to see them, they are opening themselves up to being shown on TV. In this incident, the director made a call and showed her reaction (it is definitely a call not everyone would have made). I don’t think she nor anyone else is too upset about it. – Journo
5. From Mark:
I’m watching the Talladega race and am wondering how NASCAR decides which cars are in which place following The Big One? I thought the #24 would be in last place, because the melee started with him, but he was listed in 35th initially, followed by cars who were caught up in the wreck after he had already crashed.
That’s a good question. I know that once the caution is displayed, the field is frozen, but in terms of wrecked race cars, I’d imagine it’s really up to a judgement call by NASCAR on where everyone shakes out. Timing and scoring is an inexact science, and I don’t completely understand it myself. – T.C.
6. From Michael:
T.C… The hood, roof, and deck lid, are they still supplied by the the car mfg’s?
Unfortunately, with the advent of the COT, most of the branding parts of a car have gone away. They are almost entirely a standard body, with very little difference between manufacturers. In the Nationwide and Truck Series though, those parts do still come from the manufacturers. - T.C.
7. From Amy:
I have noticed that the tires tend to have a mark painted on them in a bright color like red. I assumed that it’s for the carriers and changers so that they help get the tires onto the car quicker (by marking 12:00 on the tire). But my dad had a good point…wouldn’t the lugs be in a different position each time the car comes in? If that is the case wouldn’t the red mark be useless? Or does it mark something else?
You are correct about the mark’s purpose, but off on it’s function. The wheel isn’t marked at a certain spot, say 12:00. Instead, that mark corresponds to a specific stud whole on the wheel. The carriers use the mark and that stud hole to line the wheel up when hanging it. It sort of becomes their gun sight, if you will. – T.C.
8. From Dan:
Concerning the lug nuts laying in the pit box after a stop I know you all said that they can be thrown about when the car exits. My question is if the spinning back tires do throw one how is it that there is no damage to the tire surface and if there is why don’t we see more cars coming back into the pits for a change? There have been times when tires are shown with just small punctures which caused on track problems during green flag racing and a need for a tire change.
Let me give you a few reasons. First, lugs don’t really have sharp edges. Tires are pretty tough considering what they go through, and it takes a sharp object and quite a bit of force to puncture one. Second, although drivers often do burnouts leaving the stall, the car and the tires aren’t moving at 200MPH. And third, being as they are filled with “air,” tires do give quite a bit. They can mold and change shape fairly easy. – T.C.
9. From Steve:
Drivers or crew chiefs appearing on, for example, Nascar Race Day, Nascar Performance and TWIN: do they get paid, and if so, how much? Is it gratis, for the good of the sponsor or their own fans? Or is there something else going on? Thanks.
No, no one gets paid to do these interviews (though I am sure no one would object to it). They all do it for the betterment of their teams and sponsors; very few of them actually enjoy doing it though. PR people do a lot of work to convince producers to put their drivers and owners on. At the end of the day, it’s a win, win for everyone. – Journo
10. From BJ:
With all the mayhem at Talladega on Sunday I got to wondering about how the actual finish order of a race is determined. With the caveat that there is not a caution flag thrown on the final lap… When exactly is a race over? Is it when the winning car crosses the finish line? Is it when the last car on the lead lap crosses the finish line? How long do cars continue to race for position after the winner crosses the line?
With no caution flag, it’s pretty simple really. Once the car scored the lowest takes the checkered flag, it’s over. The race does not end when the leader crosses the stripe. Cars will be racing each other back to the flag from first, all the way to 43rd if they are all still running. And it doesn’t matter if they are lead lap or laps down. – T.C.
11. From Drew:
Hey Insiders– What if anything changes for the No. 6 Nationwide team with Ragan supplanted by Erik Darnell this weekend? Darnell doesn’t have much Nationwide experience, but I just saw he finished fourth in trucks last year and I know some people are pretty high on him. I guess this is mostly a Darnell question since I don’t know too much about him otherwise. And the team’s fresh off a win, so it seems like a funny time for a switch. Thanks for any info you got!
Nothing really happens except the driver change. The crew will be 100% the same for Darnell as it was for Ragan. Darnell is a good driver, and if given the right opportunities I believe he has a bright future. In terms of the switch, they aren’t pulling David out after a win. Darnell is scheduled to run certain races, and Ragan is scheduled to run certain races. Momentum won’t change that. – T.C.
12. From Marc:
I was wondering whether you think that most driver-crew chief combinations grow stale over time. From the outside, it appears that, sooner or later, a crew chief get to know his driver too well and the team does not think outside the box enough to win in the competitive NASCAR environment. Smoke and Zippy, Matt and Robbie, Jimmie and Chad seem to be exceptions and not the rule. What do you think?
Over time driver/crew chief relationships can certainly get stale. That is when management realizes a change needs to be made. In a lot of instances when we see a driver and crew chief split up, it is not necessarily because they are no longer working. Take Jeff Gordon and Ray Evernham as an example. Ray left Jeff, not because the two were no longer working, but because he was going to start his own team. Who knows how different things would have been if he had never left. In other instances sometimes talent just starts to run out. Take Todd Parrott and Dale Jarrett as an example. They were together for years, but Jarrett got older and his performance just wasn’t what it used to be (I think that case could be made for Parrott too). Eventually though all good things must come to an end. – Journo
13. From Bobby#7fan:
Nascar announced they are looking into harsher penalties for blocking at Tallagega and Daytona. What do you make of this? Do they want all of the drivers fighting to be 5th when the white flag drops? Does Nascar even care that all of these random rules are killing the sport?
I think what you are getting is a reaction to a problem that is not easily fixed. ISC is not going to rip-up Talladega or tear it down and NASCAR can’t do a whole lot, so this is what you get. I think for the next restrictor plate race or two you’ll see them strictly enforcing the rule, but I don’t think that will last. Ultimately we’ll end up right back where we are. – Journo
14. From David:
We’re all focusing on the Edwards’ wreck at Talledega. Despite the obvious danger the current COT-restricter plate set up causes, it clearly creates an advantageous level of buzz and excitement for NASCAR, both of which have been sorely lacking this year. Given this, do you think there’s any chance NASCAR will institute any changes?
If I had to put my money on what NASCAR will do, I would say nothing will change. I think what you get out of a situation like this is a lot of reaction and not a lot of thought. I would bet NASCAR is under the impression this will blow over; and in all reality it probably will. Call me cynical but we’ll move onto to something new by next week and forget about it until we go back to Daytona or Talladega. – Journo
15. From George:
Are any special waxes and paints used for the restrictor plate races that cut down on surface drag? Somehow I can see Chad Knaus rubbing some secret formula wax on his Lowe’s 48.
I don’t believe special paints are used, but I know teams will do a ton of body work and use waxes to make sure the body’s surface is as smooth as possible. Now are there secret formulas of wax? That I don’ t know. But I will say this, teams have been known to shave off the little spines of rubber off tires that are left by the manufacturing process in order to create less drag. – T.C.
16. From Darren:
Hi guys. I have wondered why some teams (like Penske) have so few sponsor decals on the front fender, while other teams have the front fenders overflowing with decals.
Those decals all correspond with contingency programs. That means teams can get money for running those decals and for certain performances while running those decals. Teams can choose not to run them if they perhaps conflict with one of their sponsors, or maybe they just don’t want the extra money. – T.C.
Just as a supplement to what TC said, Penske is actually a rare example in the sport. Roger is very stingy about the way his racecars look and he is willing to give up the contingency money to achieve that clean look. The money just isn’t worth it to him. – Journo
17. From Russell:
My daughter and I enjoyed our trip to ‘Dega this weekend. We were talking about the logistics of moving the series from track to track, not just the haulers and the “on track” equipment, but the tshirt trailers and the food vendors and the tv stuff. any insight on the amazing job of this small city moving 38 times a year would be interesting. thanks for your site.
You are good to notice this. I think it is something a lot of people overlook. We like to joke the sport is a carnival and we are all carnies. Just like a carnival the sport moves from city to city with very little down time. And at the end of the day everybody is working in tandem to put on a great show. The logistics of this is mind boggling. I actually wrote a post sometime back about the midway. The people who put that stuff together week in and week out are some of the most unbelievably hardworking people in the sport. I know at one point Sprint had a building they dubbed “the glass house” which was actually a building constructed of large glass panels. Teams of people built and then tore down this building every weekend. It was remarkable. And I can’t even begin to understand what goes into getting the television village together and operational every week. You have to think in some cases they only have a few days to get to a new location and set up. We don’t think about this often, but without these people there would be no show. – Journo
And that brings yet another “Ask The Insiders Wednesday” to a close. Thanks to everyone who sent in questions. And remember, if you’d like to be a part of next week, click on the ”Ask the Insiders” tab at the top of the page and send your question in!