For years I have witnessed friends pulling into the paddock with their car on the trailer, but when I look around and ask, “Where’s your crew?” I get that look. “What crew? I’m it this weekend.”
Can you imagine Batman without Robin, or how about a dentist with no assistant? “Suction, please. Oh, never mind, I’ll stop what I’m doing and get it.” So, my question is why would anyone in their right mind, spend so much time and money on a racecar and not take the time to build a strong relationship with people they can trust and depend on to help them run a tight ship?
To be a consistently fast driver it’s important to know your car is well prepared before you head out onto the track. The very second your car leaves the paddock and hits the track all those concerns about the car should disappear and the only thing on your mind is driving. Now is not the time to be thinking about what tires you’re going to put on the car for the next session/race, whether you should make a suspension change, what time qualifying is, and so on. These are all things a qualified crew chief or support crew should be taking care of. There’s nothing more comforting than hearing a crew chief telling you, “I got your back. Just drive the car.”
Show me a successful racecar driver and I’ll show you a team. Every single winning car you will ever see, will have a team/group behind them making it all come together and ready to overcome whatever adversity gets in their way. The more dedicated the team, the more successful they are.
Sounds easy, huh? Well, think again. When you built your car, you had to research who makes the most reliable parts, who’s the best and most reliable engine builder, how it is installed, and so on. What I’m trying to say is you just don’t ask your next-door neighbor if he wants to help at the track this weekend simply because he invited you over for barbecue last week. You need to do your homework. First and foremost, you want someone that knows what he’s doing, o,,r at minimum someone’s who is willing to learn. More importantly, you want to find someone who’s willing to make a team commitment. None of this, “I’ll see if I can make it,” BS.
During the off season is the best time to be giving this search some serious thought. Once you have a few prospects in mind, invite them over to the shop and sit down and lay it all out. “I’m looking for a right-hand man or crew chief that I can count on to help during the upcoming season. Here’s the schedule for the upcoming season, the dates, the tracks we would need to get to and so on. Also, here’s a list of responsibilities I would ask you to assist with.” The goal is to find the right fit for your team and be sure to make him feel appreciated and that he or she really is an intricate and valuable part of your team. Let them know you’ll feed them at these events, supply a team uniform and that you’ll find a proper place for their names on the car. Let them know they’re important!
Team building doesn’t just occur out of the blue, and it’s not about individual achievements. It’s about what the group accomplishes while working toward a common goal. Carroll Shelby once told me, “Surround yourself with people who make you look good. They will make you a better driver if you just find the right ones.” You’ll have a much better time at the track once you find the right people, so you can clear your mind and just drive the car.