NASCAR moves between races constantly, and they must be logistical to ensure they make it to the next race on time. They are required to move heavy machinery for 9 straight months of the year. Everyone on the team must understand their role for NASCAR to move between races efficiently.
NASCAR teams move between races in different ways. They each start at their team’s headquarters, and most will take a flight provided by the team owner to the site of the next race. NASCAR drivers may take their own private jet, while a few team members drive the hauler to the next track.
Below, we will fully outline how NASCAR teams move between races. We will also discuss how many haulers NASCAR teams use, what is in those haulers, and how punctual haulers need to be to make it back to headquarters to prepare for the next race. We will also discuss how drivers travel between races.
How Do NASCAR Teams Move Between Races?
The majority of people in a NASCAR team, especially the driver, move to the next track via airplane, rather than on the road. Only 2 members of the team travel differently, as they are the ones who haul the cars and components between tracks in the team’s own semi-trucks.
Of all the professional sports organizations in America, NASCAR has arguably the most complicated logistics. Most professional sports teams such as the NFL, NBA, and NHL fly across the country and take the occasional bus if their road game is within the region. If the team is playing at home, their players will drive to the event between two and three hours before the game begins.
In NASCAR, all the tracks are spread out across America, and there are no home race tracks besides the Charlotte Motor Speedway – even if drivers might consider a track home if they come from a certain area.
But with the tracks scattered across the country and NASCAR drivers living predominantly in one area, they and their teams are traveling between 9 and 10 months out of the year. So, to move between races without major issues, NASCAR teams must concoct pristine logistics for each race.
Enter The NASCAR Hauler
While drivers, crew members, builders, mechanics, specialists, and anyone else related to the NASCAR team fly to the track, 2 members of each team do not. They are the ones tasked with hauling 2 Cup Series cars and car components to each track on the NASCAR circuit.
This must be done in a NASCAR hauler, which resembles your everyday semi-truck except it is decked out in a NASCAR team’s sponsors and partners. Some of these trips require the driver and their co-driver to leave team headquarters as early as Tuesday morning so they can arrive at the track well before the weekend’s first practice session.
Life Of A NASCAR Transport Driver
One of the hardest jobs in NASCAR is that of the transport drivers who drive these haulers. However, they are the lifeblood of the race team. Without the transporter, no one is racing that weekend. You may hear the phrase first to arrive, last to leave. And that is what the transport driver is. They arrive at the track before the rest of the team, and they are last to leave the track.
The transporter is not just in charge of hauling the car to the next track. They must also get everything ready in the team’s designated area. This allows the team to immediately get to work on further tuning the car for the race.
Since NASCAR teams are subjected to state and federal laws regarding regulations, there are always 2 transport drivers tasked with hauling the car for each road trip. This ensures that the hauler can remain on the road longer than they otherwise would legally be allowed to with just 1 driver.
While the transporters are tasked with the major responsibility of hauling a car plus other vehicular components to and from a NASCAR event, they also have smaller responsibilities that are every bit as important. Responsibilities you may not have otherwise thought about.
They must keep the rig stocked with the team’s uniforms, radios, laptops, and food, among other miscellaneous items. This is because NASCAR haulers stock more than just car components. It is literally a NASCAR team’s headquarters on wheels.
If you want to be a NASCAR transport driver, you need more than a CDL license. You also need to be able to take inventory every week. The drivers are responsible for the upkeep and maintenance of the hauler, and a shortage of fire suits because of a miscalculated inventory can set a team back – especially if there is a race at Auto Club Speedway, 3,000 miles (4,828 km) away from headquarters.
Are There Ever Any Issues?
With 38 race weekends per season, 36 of which are points-paying events, and between 36 and 40 haulers per race, haulers are making at least 1,368 road trips to various tracks across the country. Multiply that number by 2 to account for the trips home, and you get 2,736 total trips. Odds are, someone is going to have an issue.
It happened once in 2013 when Josh Wise’s hauler experienced a faulty oil pressure sending unit. While the other 2 haulers at Front Row Motorsports returned to the organization’s headquarters, Wise’s hauler stalled again. It then required a second repair when the same issue occurred.
This is when a spare truck comes to the rescue outside of the early-season West Coast swing. The spare had to come and get the cars, the parts, backup parts and components as they also keep another engine stashed in there. That hauler also had to pick up the laundry and the food!
While the other 2 haulers returned at 8 am to Front Row’s headquarters, the spare hauler carrying Wise’s car returned 8 hours later. This put Wise’s team on crunch time so they could have the cars tuned up and ready to go by 8 the following morning for the cross-country trip to the Sonoma Raceway.
How Many Haulers Do NASCAR Teams Have?
NASCAR teams need just 1 hauler to haul cars to the track, even in today’s age when most teams field 1 primary car and 1 backup car. There is one exception to this: the infamous West Coast swing, which occurs in the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th races of a typical season at Auto Club, Las Vegas, and Phoenix.
West Coast Swing Logistics
It logistically makes no sense to haul cars from California to North Carolina, then back again. This would take about 80 hours of a week and would be inconvenient for everyone. NASCAR teams may instead use a second hauler to haul out a car from team headquarters to the next West Coast race.
So, if the next race is at Las Vegas, the first hauler will bring the old cars and the equipment to the Las Vegas Motor Speedway. The second hauler brings another pair of cars and any additional tools they may need for them.
The haulers then meet at a predetermined location, often a vast area like an open parking lot, swap cars and equipment, then head to the next track. The second hauler brings the old cars and equipment back to the team shop.
East Coast Swing?
This does not occur, however, if races are happening at nearby tracks on the East Coast. For example, imagine a Pocono event is supposed to take place after a New Hampshire race. Since North Carolina is roughly 880 miles (1,416 km) from the New Hampshire Speedway, it would take a hauler about 13.5 hours to reach their team’s shop.
With the New Hampshire event starting at 3 in the afternoon and ending between 7 and 8, it gives haulers plenty of time to reach the shop. Teams will fine tune the cars, then load them back up for the 565 mile (909 km) trip to Pocono, a 9-hour drive.
Even those races that may take place in proximity to one another require a haul back to team headquarters in North Carolina. So, although Indianapolis and Michigan occur in back-to-back events in 2022, haulers will return to North Carolina before embarking on the 600 mile (966 km) trip back north.
This is because it’s just a 9-hour drive back to North Carolina from Indianapolis and a 10-hour drive to Michigan. So, if the race ends at 7 in the evening at Indianapolis, haulers will have the cars and tools back by 4 or 5 in the morning on Monday.
Organizations Fielding Multiple Teams
Some NASCAR organizations like Hendrick Motorsports and Joe Gibbs racing field up to 4 teams, so each individual team also typically gets 1 hauler since it wouldn’t make sense to try and haul 4 primary and 4 backup cars across America in 1 hauler.
Plus, each team has their own crew chief, builders, mechanics, and specialists working for them. There would be a lot of chaos if members of 4 different NASCAR teams in 1 organization were running around in the same hauler. And to avoid a situation that Wise’s car was unfortunately involved in, teams will also have a backup hauler because they never know when they might need it.
When Do NASCAR Haulers Leave After A Race?
NASCAR transport haulers leave as soon as the cars and components are loaded inside. At this point, the rest of the team is likely already on their flight home. Since post-race inspection takes place at the track, NASCAR teams typically get a flight home within 1 hour of the race ending.
The fast exit back to headquarters is necessary because NASCAR teams have just hours before they are set to take off once again for the next race. Things become especially tight if the next race takes place across the country. In 2022, for example, the Auto Club Speedway returned to NASCAR’s schedule, and it called for a cross-country trip from North Carolina to California.
Immediately following the Daytona 500, NASCAR teams loaded up following the race to make the 500-mile trip back to the Charlotte-Mooresville area. For a race that takes place on America’s East Coast, haulers typically make it back to the shop by Monday morning. This gives engineers, specialists, and mechanics 24 hours to fine-tune the primary and backup cars.
To make it back to North Carolina as quickly as possible, NASCAR teams must engage in the following to make it as easy as possible on their transport drivers tasked with hauling the car.
Preparing To Leave The Track
If it takes so long to assemble and disassemble everything before loading them plus the car into the hauler, you may be asking how NASCAR haulers manage to leave so soon after a race ends. This is because preparations to leave the track begin before the race even ends, typically with 15 to 20 laps remaining, though this could vary depending on track size.
Races at smaller tracks require teams to disassemble within the final 25 to 30 laps while races at larger tracks may not start packing up until roughly 10 to 15 laps remain. Another good marker as to when teams start packing up to leave is following the final pit stop.
This process involves packing up any unused tires and deconstructing the pit box. Once the race finishes, controlled chaos erupts, as teams scramble to grab tools and other car components and relay them to the hauler. Then there is the process of loading the car itself.
Loading The Car Into The Hauler
Believe it or not, the loading process is more than just putting the car back into the hauler. Teams must remove the slick tires and replace them with grooved tires. The drivers will also collaborate with their crew and builders for a debrief, before pit crew members remove NASCAR-owned components from the car. These components are used for data collection at NASCAR headquarters.
Finally, everyone involved directly with the car changes out of their fire suits at the lower level before the car returns to its spot at the hauler’s rear end. Once this occurs, the crew and other members of the NASCAR team return to the airport while the hauler drivers prepare to bring the car back to team headquarters.
Leaving For The Next Race
Once tuned for the next track within NASCAR’s specifications, teams reload the primary and backup cars before the hauler again leaves the shop at 8 am for the cross-country trip from North Carolina to the next race. Their goal is to arrive well before Friday’s first practice session at these tracks.
However, when a NASCAR event takes place in the eastern or central United States, haulers will leave early enough to arrive at the track the day before the first practice session. But with the tracks substantially closer, transport drivers are not facing the same level of crunch time as opposed to a trip out west.
Number Of Days On The Road
No one is on the road longer than the hauler’s driver and co-driver. They leave their respective organization’s headquarters before everyone else, and they arrive home after everyone else. This is because the hauler is not a tour bus. The pit crew, builders, and specialists will fly to the site of the next race.
That said, these transporters are on the road for roughly 220 days each year. Divide that number by 7, and you get 31 weeks out of the year that these transporters are on the road. By no means is this an easy lifestyle or one for the faint-hearted. They also cover an estimated 70,000 miles (or 112,650 km) per year.
How Do NASCAR Drivers Move Between Races?
NASCAR drivers take a private plane back to their base, while NASCAR crew members take a plane back to their team’s headquarters in North Carolina and the transport driver hauls the cars back home. They might stay at home until Wednesday, before they need to be present at the next event by Thursday.
Although half of NASCAR tracks are based predominantly in the Southeastern United States in 2021, drivers never drive to a track. Even if they are racing at a nearby track like Charlotte or Bristol, they are taking to the skies to get there.
They have several reasons behind doing so, one of which is because many NASCAR drivers also have families. They have spouses, kids, and parents who need them to perform familial roles even if they are on the road for over 150 days a year.
Also, drivers fly because they may have commitments to make appearances at various events on behalf of their fans or sponsors. Other drivers may appear at meetings for various companies or charitable gatherings for meet and greet sessions.
Drivers Have Second Homes
You may be wondering where NASCAR drivers stay when they are not running practice or qualifying sessions during the 3 to 4 days they are at the track. They actually stay right at the track, right in the in-field inside lush motorhomes.
These motorhomes sometimes house the driver’s entire family for the weekend. And since they and their family are flying to the track, the driver often hires their own transport driver to haul their motorhomes across the country to the next track.
Drivers Are Everywhere On Race Weekend
Drivers make several trips to their team’s respective hauler to collaborate and remain up to date with everything going on before and between practice and qualifying sessions. However, they must also fulfill their duties as the face of their respective team.
This includes making sponsorship appearances over the weekend. Some drivers may also have committed to participating in support races at the Truck and Xfinity level. Other drivers are team owners slated to oversee operations for their respective Truck and Xfinity Series team.
Once the main event Cup Series race ends, drivers will then catch a private flight back to North Carolina. Here, they will fulfill family and work obligations in North Carolina until it is time to fly out again.
How The Logistics Of NASCAR Works
Many NASCAR fans, even die-hard fans, believe that NASCAR is all about loading up the hauler and sending it on its way to the next NASCAR event. They may believe that the mechanics and even the pit crew are the only ones fine-tuning the car, and getting it ready for race day. That may have been the case at one time, but it isn’t today.
They may also believe that there is no one behind the scenes mapping out logistics to haul the cars from team headquarters and to each respective track. And while the transport drivers may have their preferred routes from North Carolina to the site of the next race, there may be roadblocks in the way in the form of spring and summertime highway construction, among others.
This is why logistics are so important in NASCAR. However, while NASCAR teams are busy with their own logistics on the best way to get their cars and personnel to the track, there are also behind-the-scenes employees tasked with ensuring each NASCAR event runs smoothly.
Logistics Of NASCAR
While many people work for NASCAR teams, many more work for NASCAR itself. These employees are also on the road for 38 weeks per year, traveling from track to track and getting everything set up to put on not 1 but at times 3 weekend events.
NASCAR has its own equipment and people to haul from track to track, and it is pretty similar to the logistics of hauling a car to and from each track. The difference, however, is that NASCAR itself does not need to return to a base camp to swap out cars and even car components. Instead, they can order all necessary equipment to come to the next track on the circuit.
They do, however, need to haul equipment to the next track, keep inventory of such equipment, and further, figure out how they are going to get both their equipment and everyone else to each track. This is where the logistics team comes in, and they are mainly tasked with one job focus.
For example, there are logistics coordinators in charge of setting up equipment for the broadcast, both in and out of the booth. NASCAR also has its fair share of data collection devices which they must place in each car and collect them following each race. Others may be in charge of simply booking flights to get their employees to the next track.
While NASCAR teams are setting up shop, fine-tuning their rides, practicing, and qualifying, NASCAR’s logistics team must be able to work around them and ensure everything is set up and everyone is in their right places for the race weekend ahead.
While Cup Series teams only need to focus on the Sunday afternoon or Saturday night race, NASCAR’s logistics team must at times worry about 3 events that also includes the Truck and Xfinity Series races.
And if you attend any sporting event, NASCAR or not, you will notice setups and displays all over the event venue. These are a direct result of sound logistics. Without them, the event would not function so smoothly.
It all starts with finding the most efficient way to haul equipment to a track and how much of it. The logistics department is responsible for finding the quickest and most efficient route to the track. And they must also ensure the setup of such equipment is done in a timely manner.
NASCAR moves between races in various ways, with drivers often flying in private jets while the rest of the team may fly via a flight funded by their owner. Transport drivers must haul the car on the road to and from each track. Transport haulers are usually the first and last ones at the track.