IHRA Racecar Crew & Their Responsibilities
by Bob Szabo
IHRA DRM - 2006 Issue #13
IHRA RACECAR CREW & THEIR RESPONSIBILITIES
Many IHRA racecars are surrounded by crew-members. They are of all appearances. Tall, medium, or short; young, middle age, or senior; guy or gal. What makes up this dedicated group of racing enthusiasts who work so hard to make a successful race team?
DRIVER’S VIEW OF CREW: To the driver the crew-members are the arms and legs. They help to make that vehicle start, idle, & rev; they help to make it do a burnout, backup, & stage; and they help to make it launch & get to the finish line. The crew-members help to make the racecar powerful enough to compete and to handle so that it has a reasonable chance of staying on the racetrack. They pitch in to maintain the parachute and brakes so that the racecar can be brought to a safe halt.
CREW’S VIEW OF DRIVER: To the crew, the racecar is ready, started, and now in the sole hands of the driver. Burnout, backup, and staging coaching are provided by some crew-members in many of the classes. However, once that racecar is staged, it is in the hands of the driver. The crew can do nothing but watch a successful or aborted test run; a qualifying run or not; a win or not.
ALL POSITIONS ARE EXCITING: I have been the owner and driver of a racecar and a crew-member for others. The excitement of each can be equal. When you are part of a team, you are a participant in the event. You are one of the lucky few to be part of an exciting and fulfilling sport. You get to walk up with that car as it approaches the starting line in front of the crowd of spectators who are there to watch your car accelerate from a dead stop to as fast as it can go in a measured distance.
Some team owners and drivers think it is all about the driver & the racecar, and nothing else matters. To the crew, that racecar may be equally important. However, a crew-member’s adjustment or repair is every bit as responsible for make a racing achievement as the owner’s last parts purchase or the driving job.
DIFFICULTY OF COMBINED POSITIONS: I have also been both the driver and crew at the same time as is the case in many teams. It is difficult being both. Concentration on tuning detracts from driving and visa-versa. Having one or more crew-members to do the setup and between round maintenance is a valuable alternative. I found that it helps to turn maintenance and tuning over to the crew so that driving and competing can be concentrated on.
CLASSES / CREW: The following classes have crew-member support:
- Top Fuel surrounded by crew members all necessary for about 5 to 8 man hours of work between rounds (that is with no major problems such as a failed engine).
- Top Alcohol, Top Sportsman, and Pro Stock again surrounded by crew members for about 2 to 3 man hours of work between rounds (again that is with no major problems).
With problems, that number of crew man-hours between rounds can exceed the time before the next round time. Also keep in mind that these various man-hours need to be fit between rounds with a lot less time than that. As a result, the crew-members have to work in parallel so that round time can be met. In many of the Sportsman, Bracket, and Stock classes, power levels are more conservative. That fact together with smart car & engine builders make setups with fewer between round man-hours. As a result, fewer crew-members often accompany these classes.
- wife or husband, relative, neighbor, old school friend, friend of friend
- passer by, volunteer, or from another competitors team lending a hand
- extreme interest in drag racing
- mechanically inclined
- occasionally crew for hire, usually with some proven skill like tuning.
The crew can be the driver, owner, tuner, or maintainer. The crew can provide:
- services: food, snacks, beverages, running errands such as locating track personnel when needed; for example, arranging for safety inspections
- unpacking & packing at the race track or the shop
- racecar maintenance at the race track or the shop
- racecar repair at the race track or the shop
- racecar research & development at the race track or the shop.
The crew can be from a specialty such as:
- car builder, engine builder, trans or rear end builder.
- tuner: fuel system, clutch, chassis, overall setup.
The ideal behavior of crew:
- full support of race car activity
- anticipate needs of racecar and driver for the next round
- watchdog over driver, tuner, maintainer.
CREW CAN BRING SPECIALIZED KNOWLEDGE: A crew-member can become knowledgeable of some current or new aspects of racecars from outside sources and brings that knowledge to the team. Many car owners and builder egos inhibit this, however, I have been humbled many times by crew-members who acquired outside knowledge and brought it to our team.
TEAM PLAYERS: The crew-member needs to be a team player -- usually it is better to get along with the team than to be right all the time. All members of a team bring some baggage. It is important for a crew-member to not dominate the team with that baggage: stubbornness, temper, drug abuse, excessive drinking, poor hygiene, or poor behavior.
CREW COSTS: Most crew-members pay their own way. Out of town costs can be hundreds of dollars for an event. Crew-members are usually burdened with racecar maintenance and not able to watch the rest of the race. Yes, they often pay their way into an event to serve the driver or owner and miss much of the other spectacular IHRA racing.
CREW PERKS: Various team owners are good at crew rewards. They help with expenses or purchase services from crew-members who have service provision capabilities whether it is carpet cleaning, auto repair, home repairs, maintenance, etc. Treatment of crew-members as VIP's is important. Introductions of crew-members to fans, names on racecar or trailer, recognition for successes, thanks, and appreciation for help are all important. Introductions are often done in the Pro ranks on TV coverage. Others use the crew to ride in the racecar during towing to the staging lanes. That can be the highlight of a young adult’s life. Others use crew to warm up the racecar where racing license requirements do not interfere, and still others use crew to drive in test outings. One local team has a second bracket car. They arranged for their crew chief to get licensed in that car to show appreciation. With our team, our crew chief got licensed in our racecar, and every crew member sat in it while it was running or towed, or drove it around the pits.
Crew readies Doug Foley’s Torco Top Fueler
Checker, Chucks’s, Kragen Top Fuel FC crew working hard between rounds
Bobby Lagana’s Twilight Zone Top Fueler maintained by Sal, Don, Jay, Terry, & Al