In endurance racing, driver swaps mean there is always a driver in the car and a driver waiting to get in the car. The driver who is waiting is usually standing around with his or her fingers crossed, hoping the person in the car is playing nice and will bring the car back into the pits in one piece.
Being “on deck” often can be a painstaking experience. Pit stops are not always scheduled to the exact minute. Racing is a dynamic experience filled with numerous never-ending changes. These changes often mean the driver on deck will stand in the hot pit, suited up in Nomex, helmet and HANS strapped on, waiting for a long, long time. Depending on the climate, the time spent waiting can be miserable. Wearing a driving suit on a hot day is no fun. With a helmet on, it is difficult to get a swig of water. Also, with a helmet on, it is difficult to hear what is happening. Long story short, being a driver on deck sucks.
Keith Kramer came up with a way to make the experience more enjoyable. He invented the driver’s lounge. He designed a setup that allows a driver waiting to get in the car to sit, stay cool, hydrate and have radio communication. The system provides the on-deck driver with the best seat in the house. Instead of a Lay-Z-Boy recliner, we call it The Racey Boy recliner.
The first step in the lounge is cooling the driver off by using a portable cool-shirt system with a 12-volt battery. This was home built using a lawnmower battery, a cooler and a fish-tank pump. Fill the cooler with ice, flip the switch and enjoy the refreshing cool temperatures. The second step in the driver’s lounge came from Sampson Racing Communications. It’s a mini-car harness that connects a driver’s helmet to a portable radio. This cord has its own push-to-talk button, which allows the driver to hear and talk to the crew and stay informed about what is going on. This cord is also a great way to check the driver’s ear buds to ensure they are working before he or she gets in the car. The third step in the driver’s lounge is a camel pack connected to the helmet to allow the driver to stay hydrated. We keep the driver’s lounge in the car trailer for the shade. However, as an alternative, we also recommend a beautiful umbrella girl if one is available.
All of these toys in combination with a simple beach chair allows a driver to remain comfortable and stay cool while waiting for his or her opportunity to go out and have some fun, make some passes, blow up some engines, or maybe even win a race. Of course, this driver’s lounge is so comfortable, the on-deck driver may decide to just enjoy the Racey Boy recliner and skip the driving all together. Replace the water in the camel pack with beer, tune the racing radio to the football game, have the umbrella girl fetch some wings and you have the makings of a great weekend.
In all seriousness, keeping the on-deck driver informed, comfortable and hydrated is a matter of safety. A long stint in a racecar is already hot enough. Ensure your fresh drivers are as fresh as they can be.