LAS VEGAS (February 28, 2001) - Conventional wisdom in football says offense sells tickets and defense wins championships. The parallel in motorsports may be that drivers bring the fans while teamwork wins races. One of the most visible...
LAS VEGAS (February 28, 2001) - Conventional wisdom in football says offense sells tickets and defense wins championships. The parallel in motorsports may be that drivers bring the fans while teamwork wins races.
One of the most visible examples of teamwork in motorsports is the pit stop. In NASCAR Winston Cup Series racing, seven people are allowed over the wall to service the car and their every move is carefully choreographed. Their performance can mean the difference between a trip to the winner's circle and a Sunday afternoon ride in the pack.
Teamwork is equally important behind the scenes - at race shops, in team offices, and in the chemistry among owner, crew chief and driver. The early days of NASCAR are filled with legendary exploits of two-man teams comprised of car builder and driver. Mechanic Ray Fox, Sr., for example, is linked to the great success of Dodge drivers Junior Johnson, Freddie Lorenzen, and Buck and Buddy Baker. They were great drivers and a great mechanic working to achieve the same goal.
Stories about Fox include the time he built a racecar for the Daytona 500 in just seven days. In another Fox legend, he built an engine overnight for a race on the old Daytona Beach course, and it led every lap shortly after he finished the job. Cars he worked on won 140 Grand National races from 1962 to 1974.
Now president of the Living Legends of Auto Racing, Inc., headquartered at Daytona Beach, Fox admits that he had a lot of help during the races when the team's cars needed to be serviced quickly in the pits.
"They practiced all the time," recalls Fox. "And some of the guys didn't even get paid for what they did. "They helped because they wanted to have something to do with racing.
"Teamwork is very important," he continues. "I've seen cars come into the pits leading the race and end up in 5th place, just because their pit stop was not as fast." He shakes his head at the thought of today's sub-15-second pit stops.
Fox says he did what he could to help the crew work faster, even making a tool in 1968 to put all five lug nuts on a wheel at the same time. "I still have the tool," says Fox. "It has magnets that hold the nuts in position while they're placed on the wheel. Once the nuts were turned a little bit, you could remove the tool and tighten them the rest of the way."
Fox says the tool was a big improvement over the standard of the time, where tire changers held nuts on a piece of wire in their mouths, pulling them out one at a time as they were needed.
"It wasn't two weeks later that we came up with the method of gluing the nuts to the wheel with 3M cement," says Fox. "Even though we had a tool that helped, we just kept thinking about how to do the job even better. The method we came up with is still used today."
Before he fielded his own team, Fox was an integral part of one of the most dominating teams in stock car racing history, Carl Kiekhaefer's Chrysler 300 team. Arriving on the scene in 1955 and building a team with the top mechanics and drivers, Kiekhaefer won 22 of the 40 races he entered the first year, and 21 of the first 25 races the following year. The team won two consecutive titles and fans began to boo the team's dominance. Kiekhaefer feared the reaction would hurt his business and dropped out of racing forever.
A modern example of teamwork is the partnership of DaimlerChrysler and the United Auto Workers union.
When Dodge decided to return to NASCAR Winston Cup racing, the UAW National Training Centers teamed up with Dodge and the Dodge Dealers to sponsor the two Intrepid R/Ts fielded by Evernham Motorsports, one of the newest teams in stock car racing.
This week in Dodge racing history: * 3/3/74 - Richard Petty drove his Dodge to victory in the Carolina 500, his fourth spring race win at Rockingham, N.C. Petty had to overcome an early flat tire but worked his way back to the lead by about the halfway point. He was never seriously challenged after that. Finishing behind Petty that day were Cale Yarborough and Bobby Allison. * 3/7/76 - Dave Marcis kept his Dodge in front of Richard Petty during a final-lap dash to win the Richmond 400 at Richmond Fairgrounds Raceway in Virginia. It was the second career Winston Cup victory for Marcis, who won the pole and battled four other drivers for the lead throughout the race.