DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Oct. 22, 1999) NASCAR Winston West Series teams began packing their cars and equipment this week in preparation for next month's history making championship race in Japan. The cars and equipment are being packed into...
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Oct. 22, 1999) NASCAR Winston West Series teams began packing their cars and equipment this week in preparation for next month's history making championship race in Japan.
The cars and equipment are being packed into 40-foot shipping containers for the 6,000-mile voyage overseas to the Twin Ring Motegi superspeedway for the '99 NASCAR Coca-Cola 500 on Nov. 20. The season finale for the series marks the first championship points race in NASCAR history outside of North America.
Although preparing for this event is different than getting ready for a race in the United States, teams say loading the containers is similar to loading the giant haulers that usually carry the cars and equipment to a race.
"You can almost take 80 percent of the equipment that we put in the hauler and put it in the container," said Butch Gilliland, the 1997 series champion who participated in the NASCAR exhibition events in Japan in each of the past three years. "The exception is that we have a 40-foot container, compared to a 53-foot hauler. "
He compared the equipment his Ralphs/Food 4 Less-sponsored team is shipping overseas to what they would take to a superspeedway in the U.S. such as Las Vegas.
"It's the same type of track," Gilliland said. "We don't run that many big tracks, so we tend to take more equipment to a big race just in case something isn't just right. There's just a lot of equipment to take.
"One thing to remember is that you don't have a parts truck to get parts," he pointed out. "Nuts and bolts that we're so used to having at an event, you don't have over there. So, if you don't bring it or borrow it from another team, you're out of luck."
Because of that situation, Gilliland says teams tend to work together even more than usual.
"Everybody is in the same boat. Nobody has everything," he said. "Everybody worked well together all three years that I've been there."
Bill McAnally, who owns the NAPA/Martin Senour-sponsored team that leads the NASCAR Winston West Series championship standings, expressed similar thoughts about preparing for the trip to Japan.
"For Japan we want to make sure we have everything," he said. "Some things that we normally would not bring to the track - such as sheet metal, a nose or tail -- we're taking. We're going to be able to practically assemble a car if we have to. Obviously, this race is different. At someplace like Las Vegas, if you need something like pop rivets you can always run down to your local NAPA Auto Parts store and get them. In Japan, you can't do that.
"Being in championship contention going to Japan adds another light to it, because we want to make sure we have all we need. We want to make sure we have the best of everything on the car and take no chances. So, we're loading up the race shop."
In addition, it takes more time to load the containers than the team's hauler, according to McAnally.
"You have to put a lot of effort into tying it all down, because you want it to get there in one piece," he said. "We're spending a lot of time tying everything down, making sure everything is really secure on top of getting everything in the container."
Speedvision's telecast the Coca-Cola 500 will be on a tape-delay basis into the United States, which offers a better time table for viewers due to the 13-hour difference in time. The telecast will air Saturday, Dec. 11, beginning at 3 p.m.
This will be the fourth consecutive season that NASCAR visits Japan and the second consecutive visit to Twin Ring Motegi. The drivers will be competing at Motegi on a 1.549-mile superspeedway. It is part of a 640-acre, $400 million motorsports entertainment complex located in the Yamizo mountain range approximately 60 miles northeast of Tokyo. The track opened in 1997.