It doesn't get much bigger...
It doesn't get much bigger than being a crewman for a NASCAR Nextel Cup team. Photo by Bob Lesieur
Every profession has its pinnacle, its top of the heap, cream of the crop, so to speak. Actors have their Broadway and Hollywood, country entertainers have Nashville, stock brokers have Wall Street, and racers have NASCAR. Let's face it, if you want to work where it will matter the most and make a more-than-decent living, you have to work in the upper echelon of racing. For stock cars, that is within NASCAR's top three series.
In any discipline, some desire to climb the ladder and work their way to the top, while others are content staying at home to work in familiar surroundings. But if you are the type who would like to try working in big-league racing, there is a place you can go for valuable assistance.
Racing employment agent Bob...
Racing employment agent Bob Hubner sits at his desk in the heart of stock car racing country at Charlotte's Lowe's Motor Speedway. He has helped hundreds of qualified persons realize their dreams of working in major-league racing. Photo by Larry Cothren
Bob Hubner of Race City Resumes is a racer himself, having been a part of professional stock car racing since 1993. He started helping racers with placement in race teams while still working in the engine departments of top NASCAR teams.
When he was laid off due to a team dissolving in 1999, he decided it would be a good time to expand his services. So he started a business to help existing race personnel, as well as newcomers, connect with race teams who were in need of qualified personnel. It has all worked out better than he could have imagined.
We spoke with Bob about what he does and how an interested person can somehow connect with a professional race team. The following are the results of our discussion.
"All kinds of different jobs are needed in professional racing. From the very visible crew chiefs and drivers to the support persons who not only wrench on the cars, but also the truck drivers, media specialists, accountants, secretaries, painters, you name it," says Bob.
There is a host of engineers...
There is a host of engineers who work behind the scenes and also travel with the teams to record data and provide critical information to the teams. The role of engineer is changing as NASCAR transitions to the Car of Tomorrow (COT). Photo by Bob Lesieur
It takes a lot of personnel to operate these large racing businesses, and some larger teams employ hundreds of workers. Finding employment with one of these teams is all about what you are interested in and have experience doing. Even if your experience level is low for some positions, employers have been known to take on ambitious applicants and train them. Dedication seems to be a big plus. You've got to really want to be in this circus.
The fact is that most jobs in racing involve a lot of hard work, long hours, and a high level of dedication to the team. It can be very difficult for a family man or woman who must be on the road 40-plus weeks of the year.
And don't be fooled-if you don't have the proper experience, you may not be wanted. Few teams have the time to train people for skilled jobs. They are interested in hiring those who have done the job before and are at, or very near, the top of the game in whatever it is the job calls for.
The most visible job in NASCAR...
The most visible job in NASCAR is the pit crew, but it does not represent the majority of jobs available. Long before a car gets to the racetrack, it must be built, painted, set up, tested, marketed, shown for sponsors, and driven across the country in some cases. It takes a large, varied assortment of workers to get all of that done. Photo by Kevin Thorne/Penny Holder
The positions available in the race shop are many and varied. They can be associated with welding, race car mechanics, being the car chief in charge of setting up the car, mechanical and aero engineering, paint and body, or being the manager of each department. All positions require you to be familiar with race cars and the processes involved with them. You have to want to build a career in racing, knowing the ups and downs.
The first thing every applicant needs is a good, strong resume. This document is the first thing a prospective employer will look at. It needs to tell your story in a concise but complete way and be no longer than one page.
This is the item that will either catch a team's eye or not. Bob does a great job of screening the resume before a team ever sees it. That way, both Bob and the employer can gauge how the person will fit in with the position. If you have not developed a resume, Bob can help with that, too.
Welding is an essential skill...
Welding is an essential skill for a prospective crewman, both in the shop and at the track. Photo by Bob Lesieur
Once your resume has been reviewed by Bob, it goes into his database for reference when teams call to announce an opening. Depending on your job classification and experience level, Bob will immediately mentally place you in a particular category. If there are openings he knows about, the process can move quickly. If no positions are open, there will be a waiting period.
Bob has clients who are presently in, or have worked in, professional racing. These are people who, for whatever reason, may need to make a change or have been forced to seek other employment due to a team closing down. These highly qualified workers know that Bob has a great relationship with the team owners and managers and can facilitate a smooth transition.
Members of Yates/Newman/Haas...
Members of Yates/Newman/Haas Racing push the M&M's Ford to the starting grid. Photo by Bob Lesieur
RCR has also represented high-profile persons who need to have a middle man negotiate contracts and terms of employment as well as provide confidential services when surveying the overall employment situation. Sometimes it is just time to make a change with no one at fault. Some teams are better suited for some peoples' personalities than others. A good match up can go a long way toward a team's success, so moves are often encouraging for both parties.
Bob tells us that most of the time teams need well-qualified persons to fill a position. But that doesn't mean a person who is deadly serious about working in this sport cannot start at the bottom "sweeping floors" to begin learning the various skills needed to work his or her way up.
Tony Gibson, who is seen here...
Tony Gibson, who is seen here talking to Dale Jr., is from South Daytona, Florida. He has gone from crew chief for his brother, Mark, in ARCA racing to car chief and temporary crew chief for Dale Earnhardt Jr. while working for DEI. Photo by Bob Lesieur
If you talk to some of the better-known personalities who have been crew chiefs for championship drivers and winning teams, they probably started as a helper around the shop and learned their trade a step at a time. But there are many more positions available, at all levels in professional racing. If it is the glamour and spotlights you are looking for, there could be some of that too. For the majority, it is the love for the sport of racing that attracts them to work at the top level. Be prepared to work strange hours and weekends in the shop and at the races.
The rewards come in the satisfaction of knowing you can make a difference in how the team performs and, admittedly, in earning a higher level of income in most cases. Most of these people think the tradeoff is worth it.
It is probably best if you live close to this racing mecca. If you are highly skilled, you might be hired before moving, but most of the people I know who went to work for professional stock car teams moved to be within driving distance of the shop. It only makes sense. And, before you pack that station wagon and trek off to Race City USA (the nickname for Mooresville, North Carolina), make darn sure this is what you want.
Nextel Cup driver J.J. Yeley...
Nextel Cup driver J.J. Yeley and Peter Jellen enjoy a joke. After moving to Charlotte from Connecticut in the late '80s, Jellen has enjoyed more than 20 years as a NASCAR crewman and gasman, winning two Cup championships: one with Alan Kulwicki (1992) and another with Bobby Labonte (2000). Photo by Bob Lesieur
Just in my area around Central Florida, I know of a good many persons who have made that move and it all worked out. Here are a few examples. Robbie Loomis lived in Lake Mary, Florida, and made his way to Petty Enterprises in the late '80s to end up as a crew chief for Richard and Kyle during the '90s before moving to Hendrick to lead the Jeff Gordon team. He is now back with Petty as the executive vice president of racing operations.
Tony Gibson, a recent crew chief for Dale Earnhardt Jr., grew up in South Daytona, Florida, and worked his way up in the sport through short-track and ARCA racing and is now a valuable member of the DEI organization.
More recent transplants are Kyle Busch's crew chief for the past few years at Hendrick, Alan Gustafson, who grew up in Ormond Beach, Florida, my hometown. Then there is Brian Wheeler, a local Late Model crew chief who moved to Mooresville several years ago and is now a master fabricator for Evernham Motorsports.
Technical jobs aren't the...
Technical jobs aren't the only opportunities in the NASCAR garage. Here, public relations specialist David Hovis escorts Bobby Labonte to his next appearance. Courtesy NASCAR
Gordon Gibbs, a chassis specialist and car chief, grew up in Port Orange, Florida, and moved to Mooresville some years ago and now works for Hendrick Motorsports, helping to get Kyle Busch going in the early years of his career.
Other hot spots for talent are the Northeast and the Modified divisions, where the competition director for Bill Davis Racing, Tommy Baldwin hails from. And then there is the Midwest, where so much racing goes on. A lot of talent has been born there. Some racers even trek from as far away as California to become members of professional racing teams in North Carolina.
Bob has relationships with all of the top teams, including all of the Nextel Cup, Busch, Craftsman Truck, Hooters Pro Cup, and ARCA teams. Because he has this close relationship and the trust of the owners and managers, he can influence your selection if you are the right candidate for the job.
Bob even founded area softball and flag football leagues for race team members. This further enhances his presence in and among the teams. By being a respected member of this community, he has gained the trust and confidence of the people you need to know.
All positions are available from time to time, but it depends on a team's immediate needs. Positions may be created where none existed before, new teams come along, and people leave and create a void that must be filled.
Crews in NASCAR are often...
Crews in NASCAR are often under the gun to deliver quality work in a short period of time. Photo by Bob Lesieur
Bob says, "Right now, with the COT coming along for full-time competition in 2008, the teams need people who are experienced in setting up the cars. Whereas over the past 10 years most of the focus has been on aerodynamics, with the fixed body shape of the COT, more attention is now being brought to the mechanical grip issues. Handling and setup balance is now where the focus has gone. Mechanical engineers are needed more than aero engineers."
If you have had serious thoughts about working for a professional team, be sure to do an honest evaluation to determine if it is right for you. Contact RCR and submit your resume. You'll be provided an honest evaluation as to your likelihood of being hired by a team.
If you are a fan and have no previous experience with a racing team, it's going to be hard, if not impossible. But magic does happen if the desire is strong enough. Bob tells me he tries to determine the ambition of the applicant as well as the skill level. Persistence and drive can make up for a lot of inexperience.
Employers can teach skills, but they know they cannot make a person passionate about their profession. And passion is what racing is all about. If you have it, go for it. Don't let anyone tell you it can't be done. It's all up to you. Good luck, and good hunting.