How NASCAR Works

The Race Team

Jimmie Johnson sprays champagne on his crew after his victory in the NASCAR Nextel Cup Series Subway 500 in October 2006 in Martinsville, Va.
Chris Graythen/Getty Images for NASCAR

Racing a stock car might seem like a solitary sport, but it's not. NASCAR race teams include hundreds of people who work together to get a car and its driver ready for races all over the country. Here are the major players.


The owner of a team is like the president of a corporation. He (or she -- there are a few female owners) makes all of the hiring decisions and has ultimate control of the purse strings. In fact, one of the main jobs of the owner is to secure a sponsor, which will provide the bankroll necessary to put together a top-notch team and a winning car. That means owners must possess a strong business sense, regardless of their path to ownership. Some owners, such as Richard Childress, started as drivers. Others come to NASCAR racing after finding success in other ventures. Joe Gibbs, for example, earned three Super Bowl victories as the coach of the Washington Redskins before he started Joe Gibbs Racing in 1991.


Team manager

The team manager is the owner's right-hand man. He oversees most of the day-to-day administrative duties that keep a team running. But don't think of a team manager as some sort of glorified secretary or administrative assistant. Most come to the job with years of experience in NASCAR racing, either as a crew chief or in some other important position.

Crew chief

The team manager works closely with the crew chief, who oversees all of the hands-on activities related to building and tweaking the car that will race on the track. These activities include designing the body, adjusting the suspension, tuning the engine and more. As you can imagine, a good crew chief must know a lot about how a car works, but he must also know how a car handles on a specific track, as well as the personality of the driver behind the steering wheel. Many crew chiefs have engineering degrees and helped design race cars in college.

Other team members

A number of technical positions report directly to the crew chief. Some of them actually travel to the races, and others remain at the race shop to prepare for future races. Here are some of the more important "lesser" jobs on a NASCAR team:

  • The engine specialist is concerned with one thing and one thing only: the health of the race car's engine.
  • The tire specialist monitors the tires on a car, measuring such variables as air pressure, heat buildup and wear.
  • Several engineers work in the garage to make calculations about the major systems of the car and to make sure the technologies used on the car generate maximum performance.
  • In the early days of NASCAR racing, every team member was a general mechanic, but in this era of specialization, most teams employ a small number of mechanics that the crew chief can call on for a variety of fixes and tweaks.
  • The pit crew may be a specialized team of seven individuals, or it may consist of other team members -- the crew chief, mechanics and tire specialists, for example -- who do double duty on race day.
  • The team truck driver is responsible for getting all of the equipment, including the primary car and the backup car, to the track.