Anyone who has spent any time in a race paddock has experienced this super-fun racing sequence: 1. Quickly crawling under a hot racecar to check on something. Slithering and sliding along dirty asphalt, trying not to burn yourself on the exhaust. 3. Attempting to keep junk from falling in your eyes. 4. Feeling small rocks poking you in the back. 5. Destroying a T-shirt and scraping your back on the broken asphalt just to find out… 6.Yes, the car is leaking oil. I’ve done this sequence 100 times and I’ve probably destroyed nearly 100 T-shirts in the process. Tired of this routine, I decided it was finally time for my team to step up its game and get some type of flooring for the paddock.
Over the years, I’ve tried multiple different options to avoid ruining my T-shirts, like renting a garage at the track, which is not always available or affordable, or throwing down an inexpensive roll of outdoor carpet, which soaks up oil, becomes incredibly dirty for future use. Nothing was really working for me and I was still thrashing shirts while climbing under cars. I went to an IMSA race and hung out in the paddock checking out how the professionals do things. I noticed a few obvious differences right away. A) They race brand-new Porsches; I race a 1990 Acura Integra. B) They all have 18-wheel haulers; I have a two axle single car trailer. C) They all use some sort of artificial flooring in the paddock; I use my T-shirt. I couldn’t afford the Porsche or the 18-wheeler, but if I wanted to be a little bit more like the pros I could probably pull off purchasing some flooring. I went with C.
Looking for flooring options, a simple Google search landed me at RaceDeck where after a few clicks, I could pick some colors, choose a size, and design the floor I wanted. Sixteen credit card numbers later and I had flooring heading my way. RaceDeck builds floors for race shops, car shows, garages, paddocks, and they are portable. They snap together, and rip apart. All that was left to do was wait for UPS and start snapping things together.
The floor arrived in a number of separate boxes and we planned on putting the floor together for the first time in the shop, but you know how plans go the week before a race. Our cars needed our attention that week and we never even opened the boxes from RaceDeck until we arrived at the track. The good news was there wasn’t any real drama in setting up the flooring –if you take the extra few moments to lay the tiles out before you start connecting them.
The floor pieces came in 12-inch by 12-inch squares, so we had our work cut out for us the first time we assembled the flooring. A pair of knee pads, gloves, and a rubber mallet were the three indispensible tools for putting the floor together. You will be on your hands and knees putting the floor together, and there is no dignified alternative, so the knee pads are must. The ends of the RaceDeck pieces can be a bit sharp so gloves are a smart move. To snap the pieces together, you will need to bang each piece a bit –this gets hard on the hands so a rubber mallet is great.
Once we were organized and had the correct tools to use, the RaceDeck flooring went together pretty smoothly. We started to find our rhythm and a pattern of construction that made connecting the floor pieces easier. It was faster to go one row at a time before moving onto the next section.
As the floor started coming together, we were extremely satisfied with the look and the feel of the floor. We added an edging to the flooring that makes driving on and off the floor easy — and takes away tripping hazards in the paddock. Once we put cars on the floor, we realized jacks rolled easier on the flooring than they did the asphalt, making jacking up the cars safer. This was an unknown benefit to us prior to buying the floor.
The flooring proved to be everything I was looking for. It made our paddock look more professional. I could climb underneath a car without ruining a T-shirt and overall it kept our pits clean. It does take time to set up, and we have to haul it back and forth to different tracks, but once it is in place, I think it is worth the effort and money.
Once we were done with the weekend, we chose to pull the floor apart in 3-foot by 3-foot squares — nine tiles — instead of breaking them up into the individual 1-square-foot tiles that came out of the boxes. This process would keep the pattern together, the edges on, and make tear down/setup quicker and easier. The 3 x 3 sections stacked up nicely in the back of my pickup and were easy to haul. To pull the tiles apart you simply rip the seam like you are ripping a piece of paper and the tiles separate like a zipper.
At $3.79 a square foot, RaceDeck is by no means free, but the stuff is pretty tough, so I don’t imagine we will have to replace any tiles for many racing seasons. For me, the flooring met the bang for the buck price on stepping up our game and saving me from destroying more T-shirts. Happy snapping!
Rob Krider is a NASA National Champion and author of the novel “Cadet Blues.” To read more, or to contact him, go to www.robkrider.com.