Every week we tune in to the race and watch our favorite driver do their best to beat out the other 42 racers.
How often do you stop and wonder how the car actually gets to the racetrack?
I mean, football teams take planes.
How do you get a 3,450 lb car from the FedEx 400 in Dover, DE to the Pocono 400 in Long Pond, PA in under a week?
Simple. The hauler.
This past weekend, Josh Katz, Showcar Program Manager for Stewart-Haas Racing, took me inside, outside, and on top of the #39 hauler. I was able to take pictures of some things. Other proprietary stuff had to remain top secret. Can’t leak the ingredients in the secret sauce, folks.
But I can still show you some pretty cool stuff.
“It’s a sponsorship,” said Katz. “We get the cabs for 3 years from Rush Peterbilt, turn them in after, and they resell them.”
Josh also confirmed that no one has purchased the #39 cab yet. There’s still time to buy it!
This particular cab is a little more decked out than average. Complete with custom sleeper, shower, bathroom, bunks, kitchen, and satellite TV. It’s literally meant for the long haul.
Typically, hauler drivers will arrive at the tracks on Thursday before the race and stay in the cab, not joining the race team in hotels until they arrive on Friday.
Hanging out on practice days you’d find Tony Gibson and John Klausmeier (crew chief and race engineer, respectively). They climb up and down multiple times, watching practice, comparing lap times, communicating with Ryan, and then hustling back to the garage to squeeze every last drop of speed out of the #39 Chevy.
Also, you’ll notice #27 of Menard’s Racing and the #55 Aaron’s Dream Machine hauler flanking the US Army/Quicken Loans hauler. The parking order is determined by the current point standings. Being the reigning champ, Tony Stewart’s hauler is always parked in the first position, then the rest fall in line by current standings. This week, Ryan’s neighbors will be Carl Edwards and Kasey Kahne.
The hot dog machine!
It’s a track staple. And not just amongst the #39 team. As you can see from the picture, it is clearly approved by NASCAR officials. And although I didn’t snap a picture of it, crew members from all the race teams swing by when they’re hungry and grab a hot dog.
Katz said the hot dog machine goes to all the tracks except one.
Apparently the hot dogs at Martinsville are LEGENDARY. The #39 team has a contest on who can eat the most Martinsville hot dogs, with pit crewman Shawn Warren holding the current record.
Josh: What’s the record, Shawn? 24? 25?
Shawn: Man, you’re selling me short. The record is 39.
Me: That seems to be fitting.
When the hauler is completely packed and ready to go, this hallway virtually disappears. Every inch is needed and utilized.
Immediately to the left is a kitchen area, complete with microwave, coffee maker, bowl of candy, bowl of fruit, and drawers with utensils and some average first aid stuff (think sunscreen, headache and upset stomach remedies).
Immediately to the right holds the pit crew guys’ lockers where they can store personal items. I found out that the pit crew usually doesn’t travel to the track until race day. They fly in early on race day and sometimes put an 18-20 hour day. WOW!
When the hauler returns to the race shop, they’ll pick up the freshly dry-cleaned uniforms and stock up.
The next cabinets were tall, almost six feet high. Inside holds replacement parts for the #39 car specific to that week’s race. The picture I snapped shows the parts for the race in Dover.
These giant part cabinets are outfitted with rolling casters. When the hauler pulls into the shop after Dover, identical cabinets with parts specific for Pocono are ready and waiting. One set is rolled out, the other rolled in.
It was at this point in the tour that things got very cryptic. I was able to look, but not photograph.
The next set of cabinets held the bigger, more essential parts of the car. A spare transmission. All the possible different springs the team could ever need. Like I said earlier, the ingredients for the secret sauce.
And I’m not one to spill the beans. You’ll have to take my word for it. The hauler is one big mobile racing garage. When it’s all said and done, it holds almost 3 complete race cars.
Wait a sec. 3 complete race cars? What gives?
That leads us right to the next section of the tour.
Completely hidden above the center hallway of the hauler, sits two Sprint Cup Series race cars. Every week, the #39 team brings one car to compete, and one backup car in case something happens to the first one in qualifying or practice.
(Primary Car + Backup Car + Tons of Spare Parts = Almost 3 whole cars. See. Fuzzy math.)
Josh lowered some innocuous looking hooks that turned out to be footholds and clambered up to the upper level of the hauler. He cleared some bags away and then invited me to take a look.
It was very impressive.
Granted the backup car wasn’t in the hauler that day (it was waiting just outside the track to be whisked away to Pocono Raceway for testing the instant they knew Ryan wouldn’t need it this coming weekend), the area was still awesome.
You can see in the picture it’s a huge space.
It’s also where the team stores the gas cans.
The level that is used to get up to the top of the hauler during qualifying and practice also doubles as the lift that gets the cars in and out of the massive space.
The gentleman in the picture is looking at a bank of monitors. I know the monitors can display anything from race data, to footage, to weather patterns.
Also, it can be used as a conference room, and an escape from inclement weather.
At the end of the day, a race team also has to be a professional shipping company, following all US Department of Transportation regulations and delivering their goods in a timely manner. Sounds like even a big job for a company that doesn’t have to worry about capturing checkered flags on race day.
In one season, the hauler will have traveled 68,000 miles all over this great country.
What do you think, race fans? Pretty cool stuff!
Let us know where else we can take you behind the scenes.