If there is one thing that is for certain once the season ends, it’s that you won’t find half as much information about the sport to consume. The media/blog/social media coverage of the sport slows way down, which one would expect. Just as an example, over the last few weeks our NASCAR-Media list on Twitter has been home to more tweets about football and partying in Las Vegas then it has about anything regarding racing. But just because the media slows down, doesn’t mean the teams do. While the fans count the days until Daytona, the teams are hard at work.
It will certainly be a bit of a busy off season for Nationwide and Cup teams, as they are dealing with new car configurations. The Cup teams must replace all the noises on their race cars to the new splitter-less piece. This means extra time for body and paint guys, and extra time for engineers working in wind tunnels and with simulations. For the NNS teams, they now must focus 100% of their attention towards turning their entire fleets over to their version of the COT. The new car will be used at all NNS races in 2011.
Besides building and improving on their race vehicles, teams will also take this time to clean and prepare pit boxes, tool boxes, and transporters for next season. Anything that is broken will be prepared, and new and improved systems of organization will be implemented.
Changes to the race cars aren’t the only challenges for teams to work on this off season. With the elimination of the catch can, pit crews in both the NNS and Cup Series will spend their down time learning how to make these new style pit stops as fast as possible. A little time to rest up and maybe heal will precede countless hours in the gym and in the practice areas.
The little bit of team business you have probably heard about over the last week or so involves employee layoffs. Three teams of note who’ve had sizeable layoffs this season are Richard Petty Motorsports, Roush Fenway Racing, and Penske Racing. And while those teams may have made the biggest cuts, other teams have laid employees off as well. This is both a symptom of the economy and of the reality of racing. Teams have always used the off season to make changes to their staffs because of cost cutting, or making room for new hires. One way in which teams can improve is to bring in better or more qualified people, and sometimes that means others will need to be let go. That goes for both the business and competition sides of the sport.
On the flip side, displaced crew members have the next two months to work the phones and use their connections to try and land with a new team for next season. Some will be successful, and others will find homes in other industries.
For teams and drivers that haven’t secured plans for the 2011 season by now, the next two months will be used to try and put deals together. There are always plenty of drivers looking for a ride, and many teams, especially those at the lower levels, are looking to track down sponsors and funding for the future. For many, frustrating days and sleepless nights are ahead.
With very few off weeks during the season, the time between Homestead and Daytona also affords many race team employees the opportunity to finally take vacations. Whether for the holidays to see friends and family, or to just unwind, now is the time for people to get away. In no time, we’ll be back to the grind again.
As the winter days seem to slowly pass, know that the teams are hard at work during this “off season.” There is a lot to do, and the clock is ticking.