IndyCar – The Traveling Show

The “Team” depends on three black Western Star trucks that carry everything from track to track.  These trucks are expected to get everything safely and quickly from track to track and look good while in the paddock area.  The trucks have almost zero deadhead on them and are always loaded to near 80,000 pounds.

What impresses me about these trucks is that they run the speed limit consistently and are always loaded heavy.  The truck that Bob and I drove averaged 7.1 MPG from Long Beach, CA to Plainfield, IL, home of Dale Coyne Racing.

Recently IndyCar was in Long Beach for the Grand Prix street race.  The Dale Coyne team traveled from Barber Motorsports Park, Leeds, Alabama to downtown Long Beach.  This area is not truck friendly, and yet they had trucks crammed everywhere with enough room to set up the tent garages.   There were several types of races going on throughout the week, and each class of race vehicles had their designated parking area.

The IndyCar garages were erected near the “Aquarium” which I later learned was not an aquarium at all but an event center.  A huge round building with fish painted on it should be a large round aquarium.  As each truck and trailer pulled in to their designated space, the area was measured for the tent, and then the next truck and trailer would pull in.  Dale Coyne Racing had two cars racing, the engineering trailer was parked next to the # 19 trailer of Santino Ferrucci, then the garage area for both cars and then the #18 trailer of Sebastien Bourdais.

Once the trucks are parked the floor of the garage is laid out (Kiwi tile) and then the tents are set up.  It is unbelievable how much “stuff” is inside each trailer and how quickly these guys can get the garage set up and their tools out ready to work.  Once the garages are complete, the cars are lowered from the upper section of the trailers, and the work begins.  New race and new track require a different set up for each car.

The central part of the team consists of about twenty people who set up the garages and then as the week goes on more people show up to help or to support.  Each one of these people will be fed lunch each day, drinks provided, as well as snacks.  The garage area is kept spotless from the rugs being vacuumed often, tables wiped down, inside of the trailers cleaned, trash emptied, and at the trucks polished and dusted.  It is a never-ending effort to maintain this level of tidiness.

While all of these people are milling around, trash cans are emptied and people are chatting, the mechanics work on the cars.  When one of the cars is started crowds form at the barriers to watch and listen.  Finally, it is time to go to the track for practice and qualify, all building up to the final race.  If a racecar is damaged during practice, a team’s hopes can be dashed, or they scramble madly to get the car back into competitive racing form.

It is unbelievable the work and manpower that is involved in getting each car out onto the track.  One of the people of the team that fascinates me the most is the girl in charge of logistics. Karina schedules everything.  Flights are planned from the various cities, cars are rented, hotels rooms reserved, and what time everything happens at the track.

Her rooming schedule is a nightmare of who rooms with who and do they get along, who drives each rental car and who will ride with them, and then when it is over, she gets flights for each person to get back home or to Chicago and home base for the team.  All of the extra people for each race have to have credentials to get into the track, and she lines that all up.

In her spare time, she also does many of the press releases for the cars and each driver.  Karina is unflappable and I have watched her when someone’s plans change last minute and they want her to fix their flights and plans and she calmly takes care of it as if it was no big deal.

Once the race is over the “traveling show” is packed away, and it is off to the next race with dreams of the next podium finish. We feel fortunate to be a part of this operation and to have a glimpse behind the scenes of an IndyCar Team.