So now we've had a taste of it, and we're both NASCAR fans! We head off to the "King", or the "evil empire" depending on who you're talking to - Hendrick Motorsports. Rick Hendrick has a campus of 16 buildings. We went to his museum first only to find it closed for inventory. There are transmission. engine, frame, body composite, and the engineering buildings to name a few, and of course a building each for his 88 & 48 cars, and his 5 & 24 car.We went to Dale Jr's (88) and Jimmy Johnson's (48) building first.
The story was the same at the Gordon/Kahn shop. They had a very large window you could look through. We could see a little more but it was a bit disappointing. We were impressed with the size of the organization, and being a Jr. fan it is hard to knock his team. We were to find however, there are much more open operations that are able to keep their secrets.
One such shop was Michael Waltrip's. I have watched Michael and his brother DW on Fox, and they are fun to listen to. His shop is the same. When we walked in the door, instead of the car of a winner there was this 3' square cube of crushed car. You can enlarge the picture and read all the details, but in this car Michael had won Daytona the prior year & his team had won all of the recent restrictor plate races. All was going well until he got caught between 2 crashing cars, spun out, rolled over a few times, and ended up on the grass upside down. It took rescue crews 10 minutes to extract him. DW told him that he wasn't a real winner until he had rolled a car at Daytona. So Michael is now a "real" winner, and here is his car. The whole shop is done with a sense of humor from the bubble gum vending machine where you can buy 2 experienced lug nuts for a quarter, to the handmade box of "restart tissues" with Jimmy Johnson's picture on them next to the guest register.
We watched and learned from the video presentation they had going on as they made parts on six large CNC machines. They had a good video explaining the suspension adjustments that crew chiefs make, how the cars are set up, and the changes that are made at the track. We watched the guys doing it below. We learned more at Michaels shop than all the rest combined. When the tour started, we were the only two people there. So we just kind of walked from place to place as our guide filled us in on the why's, hows, and who's of NASCAR racing. The "evil empire" reference was borrowed from this tour guide. They let us peer in the engine.
We stopped by what looked like a movie set of a pit, where Michael trains his pit crews.
He looked at the tires and told us that they were all Kurt Busch's teams. They rent Michael's practice area. We went next door to a renovated skating rink, where the team builds all their frames, and does their fabrication work. No one had let us in these places before. In this one the guide just asked that I not take pictures. The last picture is of their haulers, the trucks that take the cars and the traveling shop with them. Each has an upper level with room for two cars, and below there are lockers with car parts. There are coffee machines, microwaves, etc. Each one of these cost about half a million $. So we'll watch Michaels drivers with a new sense of loyalty, because of the openness of his shop. BTW they are; Micael Waltrip, Mark Martin, Clint Bowyer, Martin Truex Jr, and Brian Vickers