Race Team Manager / Crew Chief

In the world of racing, the driver is the star, but the crew chief calls the shots.  He makes all of the strategy calls and sets the car and the driver up for success.  The crew chief wears many other hats, and he needs to be the calming influence in the driver's ear when things really go bad. Every great crew chief must possess these attributes.

Knowledge 
 

A crew chief has to be knowledgeable in every area they manage. They must have a deep understanding of engineering, aerodynamics, suspension, physics, mathematics, and even design. 

He has to know how everything works so he can make decisions in real time, and understand the impact of those adjustments and decisions.

Communication 
 

Good communication between a driver and their crew chief is critical.

Whether the crew chief is trying to calm the driver down after an on-track incident, or whether the two are just discussing pit strategy, it is vital that they be on the same page.

But there's always time to share a laugh.
(see video below)

Leadership
 

The crew chief is the leader.  They set the strategy and hold the team together in a crisis. 

If the pit crew makes a mistake, the crew chief has to stand behind them, give support, encourage, and elevate their morale. 

It’s the crew chief who gets the blame when the race is over, and they ultimately accept responsibility for the defeat.

Think of the Crew Chief as the Head Coach of a sports team.

Strategy 
 

What do you do on that all important final pit stop? Do you take two tires or four? How about no tires, just fuel?

These are the questions that the crew chief must answer, and they only have seconds to decide. At the end of the day, the strategy that a crew chief chooses to use is either going to make him into the hero or the scapegoat.

 

While it is usually the final pit stop that gets people talking, every pit stop requires important decisions. Do you pit early and get off sequence with other drivers? Do you take four tires now so you can take two later in the race? Should we just take two tires now and see how the car reacts to it, so we have that information for later in the race?
 

These are all questions that a crew chief has to ask himself before any pit stop is made because, in motorsports, races can come down to milliseconds. As soon as one pit stop is complete, preparations for the next one are already underway.

Calmness 
 

Every race can ultimately come down to one decision that a crew chief makes. It takes a lot of nerves to make some of the calls that they make. Each pit call can feel like a high-stakes gamble. But to succeed at the highest level you can't first be afraid of making the wrong call.

There are very few jobs in the world where you are constantly being watched by millions of people, and your every decision is constantly being scrutinized and second-guessed. But that is a reality for every crew chief that sits atop a pit box.
 

It takes some pretty thick skin to be able to handle the constant criticism, and a whole bunch of nerves to know that every call you make could be your last one as a crew chief if it doesn't bring your driver and team success.

Case Study

Ray Evernham

Ray Evernham began his career in racing as a driver until a crash left him with permanent depth perception issues.
 

His love for racing and his skill with cars landed him at NASCAR working directly with the Ford teams, ultimately as the crew chief for Jeff Gordon. 

Evernham served as the crew chief for Gordon from 1992 through 1999. Together they won 47 Cup races and 3 Cup championships. 


For his innovative work as a crew chief, Evernham was voted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame's Class of 2018. As the head of Gordon's "Rainbow Warriors" pit crew, Evernham implemented new ways of leading and managing the pit crew.

He used videos to watch and analyze the pit stops and make changes. He choreographed the stops and treated his crew like athletes. Evernham established specialists in the pit crew who trained like athletes to perfect their task, their teamwork and their timing. 

These methods resulted in faster pit stops. Evernham is credited with changing the expected duration of a 4-tire pit stop from over 20 seconds to less than 15.

Case Study

Peyton Saxton

Peyton Saxton is an 18-year-old race car driver from one of the world’s most famous cities, Las Vegas, Nevada. 

 

He is the owner and crew chief of the 3rd Generation Racing team that he drives for, housing four cars and doing all the setup work himself.
 

In 2013, the young driver raced in 13 different states from coast to coast.
 

When he isn’t racing on the track, you can find Saxton improving on his skills through iRacing.


In 2014, he has won races from coast to coast and was crowned track champion at 

The Bullring at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

 

Career Highlights:
 

– 2012 Young Lion Nevada State Champion in Road course and Asphalt
– 2013 Young Lion Bullring Track Champion
– 2013 Young Lion World Finals Champion
– 2013 Young Lion Battle of the Big Top Champion
– 2013 Young Lion Nevada State Champion in Road course and Asphalt
– 2013 Young Loin Touring Series Champion
– 2014 Pro Bullring Track Champion
– 2014 Pro Asphalt Nevada State Champion
– 2014 Pro Road Course Nevada State Champion
– Won 27 out of the 63 races
– 47 top 5
– 62 top 10’s

Case Study

Tim Shutt

On April 21, 2001, "Rookie" NASCAR crew chief Tim Shutt of Joe Gibbs Racing went to victory lane in only his 9th race at Talledega Motor Speedway with driver Mike McLaughlin. This accomplishment marked only the second time that an African American had gone to victory lane in a NASCAR sanctioned race since Wendell Scott's victory as a driver in 1963.
 

Until Shutt no NASCAR team has had a full-time African-American crew chief at any level. Wendell Scott won his only NASCAR race in 1970 doubling as driver and crew chief.

Case Study

Jay Blake

While working as the head mechanic of a transportation company in May 1997, Jay Blake was involved in an industrial accident that caused him to lose complete sight, smell and taste.

At the age of 31, he was faced with relearning how to live as a completely blind person. Refusing to give up on life, Jay aggressively participated in rehabilitation. With renewed self-determination, Jay began to follow his dream: owning a professional auto-racing team.

He soon learned that even without his sight, he was still able to do what he loved most − work on racing engines. Turning his dream into a reality, Jay combined his renewed participation in drag racing with his desire to spread his true-life success by inspiring others to accomplish their goals through the power of positive thinking, self-determination, and teamwork.

After winning the Eastern U.S. championship in 2012, Jay & his team of racing professionals finished in the top ten in NHRA national standings in 2013 and 12th in 2014, highlighted by victories at the Lebanon Valley Dragway regionals both years.

Mission
Established in 1999, Follow A Dream is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization with the mission of demonstrating the power of positive thinking, self-determination, and teamwork. The organization’s message is uniquely delivered through NHRA drag racing as its medium. As racing’s only totally blind, race crew chief,

Follow A Dream Founder Jay Blake draws upon his personal experience of overcoming adversity and achieving his dream of auto racing, and shares his inspiration with others.

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