The Long-haul

March 18, 2023

When Justin Marks envisioned Trackhouse, it was a commitment to NASCAR and entertainment for the long haul. It would require the hard work and commitment of an entire team of mechanics, engineers, race drivers and front office staff that would build the team into a winning operation that extends outside of the race courses and speedways of North America.

Nobody understands the “long haul” better than the logistics team headed by Tim Beaver. He helps orchestrate a staff of two primary drivers that include veteran truckers drivers Glenn Shano and Roy Miller and two back-up drivers including David Alexander and Bryan Whitman.

Miller drives the No. 1 team transporter along with backup driver Alexander. Shano drives the No. 99 hauler along with Whitman, who rides shotgun.

Because NASCAR has a “West Coast Swing” of three races that include Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California, Las Vegas Motor Speedway in Las Vegas and Phoenix Raceway in Avondale, Arizona, Beaver had to masterfully orchestrate the transportation needs required to get fresh race cars and equipment to each race.

To accomplish that, he hired a third set of drivers – Dan Collins and Rocky Boggs.

The “Long Haul” for Trackhouse began on February 1 when the transporters departed for the Los Angeles Coliseum for the February 5 Busch Light Clash. Afterwards, it was a cross-country trek back to the team’s home base in Concord, North Carolina – a 43-hour drive each way.

By the end of that week, the team had unloaded and prepared the Trackhouse Chevrolets for race drivers Ross Chastain in the No. 1 and Daniel Suarez in the No. 99 for the biggest NASCAR race of the season, the 65th Daytona 500.

That’s a relatively easy 7–8-hour drive for the team.

After that race was over, it was back to Concord to manage a long, three-week trip for the team that would include one truck returning from each race while another truck stayed West for the next event.

After the race at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Miller and Shano hopped in the No. 1 transporter and headed straight to Las Vegas. The two backup drivers, Alexander, and Whitman, drove the No. 99 hauler back to Concord, NC to swap race cars.

A third crew was brought in consisting of Collins and Boggs, who hopped back into the No. 99 transporter and drove two fresh race cars to Las Vegas.

After the Las Vegas race concluded, Collins and Boggs drove the No. 1 truck back to Concord to drop off the Vegas cars and load two fresh Chevrolets for the Phoenix race. Miller and Shano drove the No. 99 transporter straight to Phoenix.

Alexander and Whitman then drove the No 1 transporter from Charlotte to Phoenix to reunite it with the No. 99.

After that race concluded the three-race “West Coast Swing” Miller and Alexander co-drove the No. 1 from Phoenix to Concord, NC while Shano and Whitman returned in the No. 1.

Six drivers with two trucks with one truck traveling across the country after each race made all of this happen.

That is why this weekend’s trip to Atlanta Motor Speedway was like a trip down the street for Shano and Miller, who drove their respective transporters to Hampton, Georgia without a backup driver.

It’s 285-miles and takes about five hours for each truck to make the trip, according to Shano.

“This is kind of nice, actually,” Shano said after arriving in Hampton, Georgia for this weekend’s Ambetter Health 400. “This drive here is pleasurable. It’s easy. Most people wouldn’t want to drive for 4-1/2 hours, but it’s easy for us.

“I like to get the West Coast races over with. It would have been nice to get Sonoma done, too. It’s the furthest we drive to. It’s a good 46-to-48-hour drive depending on traffic.”

According to Beaver, there is much more to the story of the “Long Haul.” Some of the NASCAR Cup Series teams drove back and forth to the respective shops after each race, creating a maddening amount of time on the road. Other teams met halfway in Texas, where the crews would swap out a transporter with new cars for the transporter with the used racing machines.

“With us only having to carry one backup car, that does help us a little bit,” Beaver said during a rare break at Trackhouse earlier this week. “My main drivers, all four of them, went out to California. After the race, my two backup drivers came home in the 99 trailer and the two primaries stayed out in the 1 trailer. They stayed Sunday night, and left Monday, drove up to Las Vegas and then they took a couple days off.

“They got back here on Tuesday. Our people here want those cars back as quick as possible. Limited parts and everything, they want them back. Some people swap them out, out there. Some people like Stewart-Haas met halfway in Texas, but our guys want them back.

“We got back Tuesday morning. I have a guy named Dan Collins that does test stuff for me, and I contracted a guy named Rocky Boggs that used to work for us a long time ago, he lives in Charleston, South Carolina. Those two came in Tuesday afternoon, we unloaded, reloaded, the truck barely cooled off and it was back out with two fresh race cars.

“They drove back to Las Vegas and got to Vegas almost at 12 noon. They swapped a few things around. The firesuits were cleaned here. Those two guys took off and the primary guys took over because they were fresh. They did the race and after the race at Las Vegas, we brought the 1 truck home. We had to put two toolboxes on the truck and things like that.

“Dan Collins and Rocky Boggs went out to Vegas, turned around and came home. My two backup drivers that came home from Fontana, California had four or five days off, rebooted and as soon as the truck got back on Tuesday from Vegas, they came in, turned the truck around, left Wednesday morning and went to Phoenix.

“Once you get to Phoenix, you have the same four drivers that you had in Fontana and in the middle, we had two contract guys. We kept one truck out West, and the other truck came back and forth.

“Sometimes, there is a third truck. Other teams keep two trucks out and take a third truck with two cars. We’ve done that in the past, but with just one backup car, we don’t have to swap it so two trucks are feasible.”

The drive from Concord, NC to Fontana, California is 42 hours. According to Department of Transportation rules, each driver must have 10 hours of “bunk time” in the sleeper cab and are not allowed to drive more than 11 hours at a time.

Each truck holds 200 gallons of diesel fuel. Currently, diesel fuel costs nearly $5 a gallon. It takes three tanks of fuel per truck to make the trip so that calculates to about $6,000 in fuel per truck to make the round trip, according to Beaver.

It's a 36-hour drive from Trackhouse to Las Vegas and 34 hours from the team shop to Phoenix, so it’s relatively about the same amount for fuel.

Both trucks take Interstate 85 to I-20 in Atlanta, then travel I-20 to I-10 in Van Horn, Texas, about 200 miles east of El Paso.

I-10 travels to Santa Monica, California and Fontana is about 50 miles east of that location. Las Vegas is on I-15. Once the Las Vegas race is over, the teams head south on I-15 to I-10 in Phoenix.

To get home, they drive I-10 to I-20 to I-85.

“In Vegas, there was a lot of snow, so we had to go down to Phoenix and come back up, so that was three hours more,” Beaver explained.

Extra time, or “fudge time” must be factored in for highway delays, weather issues and mechanical problems.

“Usually on West Coast stuff, we have 18-20 hours leeway in case we have a truck breakdown and have to get a rental,” Beaver said. “It gets tight on these West Coast trips. When the truck got back from Fontana, it was here for eight hours and flipped and gone. They got back in time for the big parade at Las Vegas on Thursday night and we made that.”

Drivers often arrive at the next speedway well before the time the garage is open, and the trailers can be parked side-by-side with just a few feet separating each transporter. Two-thirds of the tracks have people that come in and wash the trucks, so they are sparkly and shiny for the spectators, giving each team a professional appearance.

“A lot of times, they park in the morning, get the trucks washed, go to the hotel, get parked and unload and it’s two to three hours before the crew comes in to help them,” Beaver said. “Our truck drivers are truck drivers only. A lot of that is the rules now because you can’t really work at the race track and then drive. On the shorter races, we don’t send two drivers. Anything under seven hours because you have three hours before the race and a four-hour race, that’s seven.

“The maximum you can work in a day is 14 so we have to play by the rules.”

Parking the trucks in the garage area is also an art form, requiring tremendous skill and precision.

“Whenever you pull in, it’s one-by-one and you have a NASCAR official stand in front of you,” Beaver explained. “If you watch the official, he’ll put it pretty close to where you need to be.

“It used to be tight at Dover, but they fixed it. Martinsville is tight, but it’s a little place. The dirt track at Bristol is tough if it gets wet. The dirt makes it very difficult. It will take your breath away the first few times.

“Everything is strapped down tight inside, and the cabinets are locked. But it can adjust and move around. Dover is bad because you come in on the backstretch and it’s banked pretty good.

“We carry a Pig Mat and lay that down and we also have tarps that we put underneath it. Our cars like to lay that Pig Mat down and it makes it a lot cleaner.”

At 50, Beaver is a longtime veteran of NASCAR. He is from Mooresville, North Carolina and is a 1991 graduate of South Iredell High School, where he was known on the football field.

He started as the “Show Car” driver for Ricky Rudd, then moved over to Penske Kranefuss Racing for three years before moving to Kyle Petty’s team for a year-and-a-half.

After that, he went to work for Chip Ganassi Racing, where he was for 20 years before it was sold to Trackhouse.

In addition to juggling the logistics of the operation, he also does wind tunnel projects with General Motors and runs parts for Trackhouse.

He is the emergency trucker driver in case one of the regular drivers has an issue.

Shano turns 65 in July and Miller turns 60 in two weeks. Both have been involved in NASCAR with Miller driving for the old Furniture Row team that was based out of Denver, Colorado.

All that team’s trips were long hauls with the shortest a nine-hour drive to Kansas Speedway. He joined Chip Ganassi Racing, which is now Trackhouse.

Shano started his career as a truck driver in the old Busch Series, now the Xfinity Series. He drove the 21 hauler for The Wood Brothers before joining Michael Waltrip Racing, where he drove the transporter for eight years. He went to work for Richard Petty for one year before joining Chip Ganassi Racing, which is now Trackhouse.

When these drivers are on the road, they aren’t sight-seeing; it’s “Hammer Down” to get to their destination. Also, they must concentrate on every other vehicle around them on the highway for safety reasons.

“I’ve been driving trucks for 45 years and I’ve seen scenery, but you aren’t looking at scenery, you have to be focused on driving,” Miller explained. “When you are driving that truck, you must watch everything. You are looking at the vehicles around you. We don’t get to admire the scenery. We only see glimpses and don’t really focus on it.”

With just a few days between the end of a NASCAR Cup Series weekend and the beginning of the next, these drivers have put the hammer down to make the “Long Haul.”

“We do not stop,” Shano said. “The only time we stop is when we are swapping out. We drive 10 hours on and 10 hours off. You stop after your 10 and fill your truck up and the next guy that gets in, that’s it. You don’t stop anywhere else.

“The guy that is getting out, it’s his job to fill in the truck, get all the windows and mirrors all cleaned out. The guy that is going to drive, all he must do is check the car because it is your responsibility at that point the race car is tight. They do loosen up every now and then.

“We must do 30-minute break every eight hours so every five hours, we try to take a break, run in and a take a shower. You feel a lot better and are ready to go again.

“We typically will stop at a Love’s Truck Stop. They go up and down. Love’s is ahead in terms of condition and cleanliness. Both Roy and I don’t eat a lot when we are on the road. We don’t stop. We want to keep on digging and not stop and keep on going.”

When passing motorists discover these massive trucks are representing a NASCAR Cup Series team, Shano and Miller are often greeted in a very positive way.

“Right now, half this country is in love with Trackhouse,” Shano said. “We get a really positive response from Trackhouse. I haven’t had one bad experience. I’ve been with other teams where we did not get that.

“We were at lunch the other day and an older gentleman told us we have done a phenomenal job in a short period of time. That’s the kind of response we get.”

The past month has meant a lot of time on the road as both Shano and Miller were away from home for over three weeks.

“I got to see my wife for the first time in almost four weeks and we had one day off,” Shano said. “Once we get going on the East Coast, it becomes a routine, and we get time at home.

“That swing is tough. I don’t care who you are or how long you have been doing it, it wears on you in a hurry.”

And what does all this travel do for Miller?

“I just worry about my dog biting me when I get home,” he said.

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