If you ever have the chance/opportunity/luck to stand on the top spot of a podium and spray champagne on the crowd after winning a race, you will stand there alone in a halo of glory, but I can guarantee you didn’t get there on your own. Auto racing is a team sport, a team sport that often awards only one person with the victory (one trophy, one bottle of champagne to spray).
The trick is to find a way to share that victory with the people who helped you attain that incredibly awesome moment in time. If you don’t spread the love and share the rewards for everyone’s selfless hard work, the chances are at the next event you will be filling your own car with gas because your friends/pit crew you burned at the last event, won’t be around again.
If you are independently wealthy and you have the resources to hire a pit crew then this article isn’t for you. Your pit crew members are paid employees that you can hire, fire, and treat poorly (although I wouldn’t suggest it). This message is for the average weekend warrior who is scraping together every dime they have to put together what they need to make it to the next event. You are the folks that need to convince your closest friends to spend the next entire weekend at a hot racetrack, laboring day and night, to keep your car running — just so YOU can win a race.
I have been blessed to be surrounded by an entourage of talented, awesome, hardworking people who make up the Krider Racing/Double Nickel Nine Motorsports pit crew. I am often asked at the track by competitors, “How do you find so many people to come out to the track to help you out?” To be honest, I never really thought about it.
I’ve always just had a lot of people hanging around that seemed to want to be a part of the adventure. We have a great time together. To me, the whole thing is sort of just a big party that caravans in the motorhome from one track to another. But, I was asked so many times about it, I finally started to reflect on how our team seemed to be so lucky when it came to an abundance of pit crew.
One of the things we have consistently done with my team is to ensure everyone has some sort of uniform. I want them to feel like they are part of a bigger thing. That bigger thing is the racing team. It isn’t the driver. It isn’t the guy behind the wheel. It is about the team itself.
A simple t-shirt or a sweatshirt can do wonders for making somebody feel as they are part of the group. Sure, shirts cost money, but a $20 custom screen-printed t-shirt is worth the 30-plus hours of free labor you may get out of a volunteer crew member during a race weekend.
Keep the coffee hot and feed me bacon, I can stay up for 24 hours. — Crew Chief, Stephen Young
Besides throwing a friend a team t-shirt you need to ensure you throw them three square meals a day, minimum. The crew works off of their stomachs. It is important to ensure you have meals, drinks, shade, sunscreen, and a place to sleep for your crew. If all of your efforts are for your car (or for yourself) and you leave the crew hungry and sunburned, you will never see them again.
They are volunteering their time to help bust knuckles on your car. The least you can do is throw them a baloney sandwich for the effort. My best advice: bacon. My crew chief, Stephen Young tells me all the time, “Keep the coffee hot and feed me bacon, I can stay up for 24 hours.” I’ve seen him do it multiple times for 24 or 25-hour races.
Besides t-shirts and hot dogs, the biggest thing you can do to ensure you have a volunteer crew who comes back to the track is to share in the victories. Make sure you personally thank each and every one who busted their butt and did their part to help you win a race. Find a way to give back to the people who made you a winner. In the past, I’ve created team posters that I mailed out to everyone after a big race or custom beer mugs with the car number on it. These things cost me money, but I always want to share my appreciation for the people that made our team competitive on the track.
So, to summarize: if you want people to come out to the track with you, get them a t-shirt, lots of bacon, and a high five. It may sound like I’m oversimplifying it, but the reality is if you treat people with dignity and make them feel like they are part of something bigger, then you will find yourself at the racetrack surrounded by friends and family all working together to win the next event as a team. And it takes a team to win.
Good luck with your recruiting and remember, what you are looking for is synergy!