BKR’s Take on Trucks: Former racers make a difference as truck chiefs
Former racers Tommy Ellis and Robert Huffman help prepare Ford F-150s for Austin Cindric and Chase Briscoe and their ability to relate to what a driver needs is making a difference for their young drivers.
Both Ellis and Huffman raced in their careers before deciding to step out of the racecar to work on the crew side. Huffman is the Truck Chief for the No. 19 Draw-Tite Ford while Ellis handles the same duties for the No. 29 Cooper Standard Ford.
That driving experience gives them an opportunity to help make sure the trucks prepared at Brad Keselowski Racing are ready to go each week.
“I always worked on my own cars when I drove so doing what I do now isn’t that much different,” said Huffman who won five NASCAR Goody’s Dash Series championships behind the wheel. “How we work on the chassis of a truck for a short track is a lot like what we did to our cars when we raced short tracks.”
Ellis, who shares the same name as former short track and NASCAR Busch Series competitor Tommy Ellis from the 1980s, adds his experience driving can only help him and his team better prepare trucks for Briscoe.
“I feel a lot of what I did when I drove relates to what we try to do here at BKR each week,” Ellis said. “I believe races are won and lost in the garage. It’s up to the team to make sure every detail is covered with the truck before you get to the racetrack.”
Both men say lessons learned while driving helps the team, especially during a challenging stretch of six races in seven weeks in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series.
“You just have to plan ahead and over the winter I thought we did a good job of getting ahead of the season and having a lot of work done early so when we did get to this busy stretch of races we’d be ready,” said Huffman. “We’ve put in a few weeks of six and seven days in a row working on the trucks, but everyone on this team is all in and dedicated to giving our drivers the best trucks we can and we all want to see this team succeed with both trucks.”
For Ellis and the No. 29 team, after scoring back-to-back runner-up finishes as Texas and Gateway, they’re ready to get back to the track and don’t mind the hectic schedule.
“I like the fact we’re in a busy part of our schedule because it lets you work and build off of the momentum,” added Ellis. “We’re ready to get to Iowa Speedway and hopefully keep it rolling with Chase and hopefully get a win soon. It’s challenging at times with the work we have to do to stay ahead, but we have dedicated crews on both trucks willing to work hard to make things happen.”
While making sure parts on the truck don’t fail and everything has been reviewed, both Ellis and Huffman also work closely with the team to make sure they’re ready to handle the elements of long days at the track.
“It was pretty hot at Gateway and some people were having issues with the heat so we’re always preaching to the guys to stay hydrated,” said Huffman. “I grew up working for my dad’s pool business so I was used to the heat a lot of times when I drove and you have make sure you’re properly hydrated even before you get outside.”
For Ellis, he leads by example as well by exercising himself outside prior to races.
“I try to get out and bike a few days a week and get used to the heat and I start preaching to the guys to get plenty of water and be ready for the long hot days.”
With two young rookie drivers behind the wheel, having experience in preparing the trucks can only help the team according to both Huffman and Ellis.
“We work hard to make sure the trucks are ready to go each week and hopefully when they get to the track we can focus on fine tuning the truck to get it as fast as possible and contend for wins,” said Huffman.
Entering this weekend at Iowa Speedway, Briscoe has back-to-back runner-up finishes at Texas and Gateway, respectively while Cindric scored a top-five at Dover.
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