My job on the race team is to drive, but it’s not what you think. My job isn’t to drive racecars — that is my reward. My actual job is to drive the motorhome. The motorhome is where the team eats, sleeps and makes the bathroom smell. Our motorhome has been the hub for our team for a lot of years and it is where the drivers can get away from the hustle and bustle of a race weekend and concentrate for a bit. For the NASA Championships the last few years, these races have been so far from our home base in California we didn’t take the motorhome with us. We shipped our cars and flew in, which meant we wouldn’t have the comforts — or the private bathroom —of our motorhome. What would we do? No problem, solution: a driver lounge.

Our first driver’s lounge was at the Circuit of the America’s in Austin, Texas, during the 2018 NASA National Championships. As a California team, we were far from home, but still wanted the creature comforts of being at home so we would be relaxed and chill during the big weekend.

Luckily for me, I had family in Austin, Texas, for the 2018 NASA Championships. I gave them a budget and said, “Go crazy, build a driver’s lounge that we can all chill out in while we are at the track.” My cousins were on it. They sourced a futon from Craigslist, brought in a mini refrigerator, had a table, lights, and added some Feng Shui with some plants. It was awesome. They set the bar for what a driver’s lounge should be, and I am forever grateful for their efforts and creativity.

In the middle of the NASA Championships, these two dudes look relaxed. Of course they are relaxed. They are sitting on a leather futon between two plants just chilling out, discussing race strategy. The driver’s lounge certainly provided relaxation.

The Double Nickel Nine Motorsports driver’s lounge in Garage 18 at the Circuit of the Americas in 2018 was the talk of the paddock. Plenty of people stopped by to check it out, and we all enjoyed drinking Tactical Ops Brewing Double Nickel Nine IPA as we bench raced and exaggerated about our latest sessions on the track. For 2019, I knew I wanted to do another driver’s lounge at Mid-Ohio but I didn’t have the luxury of my Texas cousins to make it all happen. New plan: Walmart and Amazon.

For the 2019 NASA Championships at Mid-Ohio, we shipped our cars across country, which meant we had less space to send driver’s lounge materials, and no friends or family in Ohio. I got on Walmart.com and just ordered a bunch of stuff and had it shipped directly to the track. The address you see on the order, 7721 Steam Corners Rd, is actually the address for Mid-Ohio, not my house. When we arrived boxes were already waiting for us at Will Call.

I found an inexpensive futon, a carpet, some small tables, plants, lights and other cool amenities, and ordered it all online. I had everything shipped directly to the track. In reality, everything I purchased was less than $250 and had free shipping. When we arrived at Mid-Ohio I asked the staff there, “You guys have any boxes for DNN Motorsports?” to which they answered… “Yeah, we have a lot of them.” I bribed the folks at Mid-Ohio with some Tac Ops beer and they used a golf cart to truck all of our online purchases to Garage 4. We unpacked the boxes, and after an hour of “some assembly required,” we had a proper driver’s lounge setup to rival the one we had created in Texas.

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The race crew always needs supplies and the driver’s lounge needs to be constantly stocked, which is why someone needs to make a daily Walmart run. Fill the cart, go crazy, you can’t have enough food, sunscreen, Sharpies, or water for a racing weekend. We even bought a bicycle for just $65 for our spotters to get around the track quickly!

They key to a good driver’s lounge is its functionality, décor, and some sense of humor. We added an Oriental rug to ours, because, well, it looked cool. The reality is it was nice to have the rug as we were changing from our dirty shop shoes into our Nomex socks and racing shoes. The futon was a great place to sit to get dressed and it also was a nice place to pass out after too many IPAs.

Here you can see some of the details of our driver’s lounge at Mid-Ohio. We had a Block Rocker cranking out Katy Perry and Kesha the entire weekend. There were snacks, with gluten and gluten free. We had a plant to provide oxygen and sense of Feng Shui to the environment. We had a mirror to help drivers put on helmets and plug in radio wires. A large digital clock to always know what time it was and a schedule to know when we were on track. We had a futon for chilling out on, lacing up our racing shoes on or just sleeping on. We also had an Oriental rug, which really tied the room together. We had a track map made out of a white board to make notes on race lines. We had mood lighting to keep things calm. And last, but not least, spare axles under the futon just in case.

The driver’s lounge was a social call out to meet other teams and drivers. They would stop by our garage, make a comment about our lounge, and then we would end up shooting the breeze and making new friends. It was really fun. In our garage, we also added a few more amenities after learning what we needed in Texas. We purchased a big screen television so we could watch GoPro footage without having five guys huddled over a small laptop.

One of the things we added to our driver’s lounge for 2019 was a large flat-screen television for watching GoPro footage between sessions. This turned out to be extremely valuable to helping us improve lap times.

For the driver’s lounge to work effectively, we prioritized keeping it clean every night. Food wrappers, beer cans, cut zip ties, scraps of 100-mph tape, all seemed to culminate around the lounge. We policed it all up and made the driver’s lounge fresh and new so it would work well the following day. The whole point of the lounge is to have a place for the driver to relax and get ready before the race. We ensured our lounge was that type of environment by keeping it clean.

Keeping the driver’s lounge tidy is key in success of the driver’s lounge. You want it to be a place to relax and clear the mind, not a cluttered mess.

When anyone saw a driver sitting on the futon putting on his gear they knew it was time to leave the driver alone for a few minutes, just to give the driver a moment to concentrate on the big prize. Racing is just as much a mental game as it is a physical one. You could even say our driver’s lounge was a mental game to other drivers, “Yeah, this is us just sitting on a couch chilling out while you are running around the paddock panicking because you lost your a 10 mm socket.”

One detail of our driver’s lounge is our team mascot, Carl. Carl always has Acura on the brain and we keep a shot of tequila in front of him at all times. Usually there are candles burning, as well as incense. We bring Carl broken parts as a sacrifice to the racing gods. You can see here he has a dead fuel pump beneath him.

For fun, we brought our team mascot, Carl, along. Carl adorned our shirts at Mid-Ohio and we started treating him like a racing deity. This was all just in fun of course, no actual voodoo involved. No chickens or virgins were sacrificed. However, some Honda parts did die during the weekend and were offered to Carl as an offering for good luck, which, admittedly, he did bestow upon us.

The whole goal of the driver’s lounge is to have a clean, organized place for the driver to get ready and to concentrate on what he or she needs to do: win races.

Our driver’s lounge did its job and was a great place to get ready before each track session. It certainly beat standing barefoot in the paddock in my underwear trying to get on a sweaty Nomex driving suit as small rocks jammed into my feet. To be honest, we spoiled ourselves with our little driver’s lounge. I can’t see racing again without one.

When you have a big crew with you, like we did in Texas, it is crucial those people have a place to sit down and get something to eat and drink. A driver’s lounge is a great space for that, and keeps people away from leaning on the racecars.

I’ll pass the torch along to another team to do their part to step up their game and outdo our driver’s lounge with their own creative ideas. On-call masseuse? Italian chef on staff? iRacing setup? I look forward to seeing what people put together in Utah for 2020.

If your driver is nice and relaxed from chilling in the driver’s lounge then you should be adding some hardware to your trophy case. We have created two driver’s lounges in two years, one at COTA and one at Mid-Ohio, and we won National Championships both years. Obviously it was the driver’s lounge that made the difference! You can’t argue with these statistics.

At the end of each championships weekend, we couldn’t get the furniture from our driver’s lounge home so we donated the furniture and bicycles to needy families in the local area. We had our fun with the parts of the lounge, but when we were done, it was our opportunity to give back to the community. If you decide to build your own lounge, then I wish you happy hunting on Craigslist for the perfect trackside couch!

Rob Krider is a NASA Honda Challenge 4 National Champion and the author of the novel, Cadet Blues.

Image courtesy of Rob Krider

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