You were born with two legs. So what? Who wants to use them at the racetrack? Not me. It’s time to purchase a paddock vehicle. The question is which one fits your budget and style.
Bicycles are cheap and easy to transport. However, I found that balancing four racing tires on the handlebars is difficult. Motor scooters are small, require little human effort — unless you think twisting your wrist is a lot of effort — and they are easy to get to the track inside a trailer or the back of a pickup. However, motor scooters seem to bring out the Evel Knievel in all of us. I always find a crew member trying to pull a wheelie, carrying too many passengers, or generally screwing around. These stunts often end up with someone on their side. Hello road rash. How about skateboards? Jerry Kunzman says, “Don’t even think about it.” NASA rules say no skateboards in the paddock. Golf carts are cool, but they’re costly, large and difficult to transport.
My team went through a multitude of pit vehicles, from a simple child’s wagon dragging around fuel cans, to bicycles, which we have mistakenly left at the track, to ultimately different golf cart variations. We learned a few things through the process of elimination and settled on a four-seater golf cart with a fold-down rear seat that converts to a makeshift cargo bed. Our latest golf cart was “free,” which is a four letter word for a reason. The cart was a hand-me-down from a family member who lived on a golf course. The “free” golf cart just needed a new battery. No problem, right? Wrong. It turned out our free golf cart had seven deep cycle marine batteries, all of which needed to be replaced. That meant that free equaled $1,500.
But we did have a golf cart, so we would be the cool kids at the racetrack. Only we realized we didn’t have a way to get the large golf cart to the racetrack. Our single-car trailer only had enough room for the racecar. So, to get the golf cart to the races, we had to find a way to get it into the back of one of our trucks. We picked up some ramps from Harbor Freight and discovered their weight rating wasn’t quite accurate, and we dropped our new “free” golf cart while it was halfway into the back of a truck.
Eventually we resolved all our golf cart teething problems and got our new toy into service. At the track, we realized that the golf cart was an indispensable asset. We could move spotters around the course, we could pick up fuel and tires, we could get a large part of the team to drivers meetings and we could get all our pit-box tools and gear from our camping spot to the pit wall easily.
We also learned that the most important thing the golf cart needed was a team radio on the dashboard at all times —because everybody on the team loves using the golf cart. Invariably, whenever I needed the golf cart —the guy who put batteries in it and towed it to the track — it was nowhere to be found. This meant I ended up walking a mile through the paddock. This never made me happy, although it could be argued I needed the exercise anyway. Normally I ended up walking back to the motorhome and grabbing my trusty bicycle.
Whatever pit vehicle you choose, remember to be safe in the paddock. Believe it or not, more people are hurt in the paddock than on the racecourse. That can cause NASA’s insurance to go up, which can mean price hikes on entry fees. Take it easy and I will see you at the track. Look for the guy on the bike yelling into a radio, “Who has the golf cart?!”