NASCAR Hard Card: The annual credential issued to NASCAR officials, drivers, media, and team personnel.
One of the most important articles I bring with me to the race track each weekend is my NASCAR hard card. A hard card is a plastic ID card that is very similar to any school or employer ID card. It’s about the size of a credit card and has my picture, my name, what series I work in, and what team I work for on it. On the back of the card is a NASCAR disclaimer statement, and a place for the holder to sign. This very important piece of plastic grants me access to the infield, garage area, and pit road. Without it, I’m stuck on the outside of the fence looking in.
I’ve often been asked how or where somebody can get their own hard card, or if I will let them buy or borrow mine. I obviously can’t help with either request, but it shows how sought after these credentials can be.
While we are at the track, our cards must either be displayed on our person (as they say) or somewhere very close by. If you get the chance to get into the infield, you’ll notice that many choose to wear their hard card on a lanyard around their neck. When one receives their card from NASCAR, they usually provide a lanyard for you. For some however, the basic lanyard just isn’t good enough. The many wives and girlfriends, along with the many PR and business women are the usual offenders for elaborate and ornate hard card display devices. I guess they figure if they are going to wear a piece of plastic around their neck, they might as well bling it out a little. Bedazzler sold separately.
On the flip side, many crew guys choose to just leave them in their wallets, as wearing it around their neck can cause issues while they are working on the cars. For the rest, the standard lanyard works just fine.
For the young or up and coming crew guy, obtaining that first hard card almost becomes a career goal. It signals that you’ve made it to a solid place in your advancement. Why is this so? It boils down to money. Everyone that works at the track for a NASCAR team must have a NASCAR license. This license costs around $500-$600 a year. A hard card however, costs a few thousand dollars for the year, and means it’s owner can forgo standing in line at the NASCAR credential trailer to get a paper pass each weekend. Only teams with a solid footing can afford to get hard cards for their employees. So having the plastic means you will probably be at the track each weekend and you work for a solid team.
The next logical goal once someone obtains the hard card, is figuring out how to keep it. Racing is a tough, performance driven business, and hanging onto this little piece of plastic can be very difficult. When a guy is fired from a team, the hard card must usually be returned before the last paycheck is given. The reason being that hard cards are transferable, and teams can use it for someone else over the course of the season. Having to give back the card when you aren’t ready to sucks.
The license and hard card are also used by NASCAR as a way to have power over the many team personnel. As a form of punishment for some infractions, NASCAR sometimes pulls hard cards from their holders. NASCAR can also refuse to give people these credentials, if for example, a fine hasn’t been paid or suspension served. No hard card and license, no access.
So as you can see, these pieces of plastic we often wear around our necks carry an awful lot of power. Mine gets me access to places others can’t go, but it can also be used against me. And that’s the mystique of the NASCAR hard card.