[Skip to Content]

NASCAR® Hauler Drivers Turn to Compete

By on May 1, 2018
truckchallenge-main

Special Skills of race team Hauler Drivers Recognized

When the average fan watches, listens to or reads about NASCAR racing, it’s usually in the context of drivers, car owners and/or crew chiefs. On six 2018 race weekends, the TA Truck Service Challenge provides NASCAR professional hauler drivers with a great opportunity to be recognized for their driving skills, as well as their support roles in delivering the NASCAR experience.

Since starting in 1994 with four events and a $10,000 prize fund, this friendly competition has experienced its share of twists and turns. Fast forward to 2018, and the 25th annual skills challenge will be paying close to $50,000.

TA Truck Service has signed on as the new title sponsor for the TA Truck Service Challenge. A record field of 60 entrants has their competitive juices flowing in hopes of pocketing some serious money. Bragging rights among those who transport the cars that bring the NASCAR touring series to life each week are a cherished, if short-lived bonus. With handles like Thumper, Primetime, Stump, Scooter, Scrap Yard, Quicksilver, Suitcase, Bus Ticket, Shrek, Gator and Slim, it’s easy to see these guys and their show-no-mercy style love to trade barbs and jibes about their driving prowess throughout each race weekend.

At the Shop, At the Track

When they’re not driving to and from events, the hauler drivers are busy supporting their race teams in many other ways. At the shop, many replenish supplies, switch out spare components for a given track type, assist with car preparation or help fabricate and/or assemble cars. At the track as part of the road crew, you’ll find hauler drivers making sure their trucks are clean and ready for sponsors and their guests, cooking on grills, serving breakfast and lunch, restocking beverage coolers, assisting with car prep in the garage, accompanying cars through inspection, running gas and tires for practice, qualifying and race days, setting up and tearing down pit boxes, and handling many other team support tasks.

Eligible hauler drivers represent most of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series teams, as well as those from the NASCAR Xfinity Series. Drivers from Champion Tire & Wheel—haulers of wheels, pit boxes, tool boxes, crash carts and other equipment to and from each racing venue for dozens of NASCAR teams—are also eligible. Champion has another special mission hauling, mounting, balancing and recovering the allotted sets of Goodyear Racing Eagles that each team utilizes throughout a race weekend.

truckchallenge-2

With a few exceptions, NASCAR hauler drivers operate from team race shops located within 50 miles of Charlotte, NC. The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series haulers log in excess of 40,000 miles each season trekking to/from NASCAR events. The trips can be as long as coast to coast, or almost local for the three annual races staged at Charlotte Motor Speedway. The locations of some tracks require team driving, and most teams have multiple drivers, thereby avoiding burnout by alternating events over a 41-week grind that involves 38 Monster Energy Series and 33 Xfinity Series races.

The TA Truck Service Challenge tests the professional transport drivers’ skills behind the wheel of the Freightliner Cascadia dedicated to the Challenge, as well as their knowledge of Department of Transportation (DOT) rules and regulations in a written exam. A thorough understanding of pre-trip inspection requirements and procedures is also part of the competition. To be competitive, drivers need excellent depth perception and maneuvering skills in a variety of situations. The course is timed, so being too cautious results in lost points. Points are also lost for hitting cones and horizontal bars. A perfect score at each event would yield 1,200 points.

The skills competition reflects the configuration and personality of each track. Over the course of six events, competitors will be called upon to exhibit a wide range of skills with only inches to spare, similar to many state, regional and national driving competitions. At the ovals, the course is set up in a counter-clockwise configuration. Road course events involve more left and right turning. As the haulers line up to enter the NASCAR garage at each track, the Challenge event takes place in a cordoned off section of the parking lot adjacent to the infield tunnel entrance to the NASCAR garage area.

Cash prizes of $25,000 for first, $10,000 for second and $5,000 for third are on the line after six events.

Each registered team transport driver is eligible to compete in the six competitions. The top point accumulator at each event earns a $1,000 prize. Based on the best five-of-six point totals, a Grand Champion and two runners-up will be crowned at the Charlotte Motor Speedway on Sunday, September 30, 2018. Cash prizes of $25,000 for first, $10,000 for second and $5,000 for third are on the line. The TA-Truck Service Challenge is hosted and administered by Marketing 500. Goodyear is the premier vendor partner for the Challenge, and Freightliner is the official truck of the Challenge.

“Every item at the race, from the race cars to the bottles of water at the concession stands are transported by a truck driven by a highly skilled professional,” said Barry Richards, President and COO of TravelCenters of America. “We are honored and proud to sponsor the Challenge and recognize the transport drivers’ skills and the valuable roles they play in providing a great race experience for all who participate, attend, and enjoy watching NASCAR races in the comforts of their homes.”

The driver of the Joe Gibbs Racing No.20 hauler and 2012 Truck Challenge Champion, Tom “Thumper” McCrimmon shared his excitement about the competition. “The transport drivers in the NASCAR garage are really grateful to TA Truck Service for sponsoring this Challenge. We appreciate the opportunity to show the public what transport driving is all about and what professional truck drivers really do.” Other past champions participating in 2018 are Stump Lewis, Jamie Price and Bob Decker.

Connect to the Excitement

In addition to the Challenge, TA Truck Service will join other vendors inside the Fan Zone at the six NASCAR race weekends, providing information about tire purchases, as well as the maintenance, repairs and services that TA Truck Service offers. If you’re at a NASCAR event, stop by the Fan Zone for fun giveaways and more information about TA Truck Service.

While you may not be competing in the Challenge, you can still put your DOT knowledge to the test. Each week, the official TA Truck Service Challenge Facebook page will post DOT safety tips that also involve questions straight from the Challenge quiz. Follow along to see how well you would do.

See the Challenge Hauler

If you’re not attending any of the four remaining Challenge events, you can still join in the fun. Get up close and personal with the official Challenge hauler as it stops at approximately 10 TA and Petro Stopping Centers locations near each of the host tracks. Representatives from vendor partners will be at each stop with giveaway items, talking about tire purchases, answering tire-related questions and providing all of the details you need to know about the Challenge.

If you can arrange your schedule to attend one of the Thursday afternoon competitions, you’re always welcome. Spectator benches are usually set up for easy viewing. The TA Truck Service Challenge is free and open to race enthusiasts holding the proper credentials. All NASCAR fans can visit the TA Truck Service and Goodyear booth in the Fan Zone throughout the six race weekends. Follow each of the competitions and see the event winners and point standings at TATruckChallenge.com.

A Challenge Taken Seriously
Atlanta Winner Brendan Greene in to Win

Having tasted success to the tune of $5,000 and a 2nd place finish in 2015, Brendan Greene wasn’t about to miss an opportunity to participate in the 2018 TA Truck Service Challenge competition. He drove his personal car from Midland, NC to the Atlanta Motor Speedway on Thursday, February 22 just to participate. Although he flew back as part of the Sunday race crew, the lead driver of the Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) No. 18 hauler in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series wasn’t scheduled to transport Kyle Busch’s M&M’s sponsored primary and backup cars to Atlanta for the second 2018 race weekend.

Upon arriving on Thursday, Brendan completed the written exam covering DOT rules and regulations and pre-trip inspection requirements. He then took his turn at the wheel of the Freightliner Cascadia used by all competitors for a crack at the Challenge layout prepared by the Marketing 500 staff. Each of the six scheduled 2018 competitions will require a different mix of driving skills.

The Atlanta course had many cones marking really tight corners, wide swings, a simulated stopping zone and a very tight loading dock. Tolerances are as small as three inches on each side, and good depth perception is required to position the nose and tail within 12 inches of barriers. Reasonably confident he had done well, Brendan returned to North Carolina before learning he would take home a cool $1,000 for winning the Atlanta Challenge event.

Appreciates TA Truck Service

“Special thanks are due to TA Truck Service, Goodyear and Freightliner for continuing a tradition that started 25 years ago,” said Brendan. “It’s pretty neat to have a truck stop serve as the title sponsor, because the staff really understands the rigors of over-the-road trucking. I’m super happy to win the first 2018 event and the bragging rights that come along with it. The competition is a lot of fun, a nice diversion from our regular routine throughout the season’s 41-week grind.

“Hauler drivers love having a skills competition that simulates many of the challenges we face. After arriving on Thursdays, we usually have plenty of time before entering the garage area and parking our trucks. We don’t talk to each other until the competition is over. After, we talk about the hardest parts, what was easier, where we messed up, what we need to improve. Because we understand each other and the challenges of the job, some good-natured kidding around contributes to the bond that brings us closer together as professional drivers of NASCAR race team haulers.”

During shop days, he works for the transportation director maintaining and restocking the hauler and making sure the grocery cupboards are full for his teammates and JGR sponsors and guests. At the track, he reports to the crew chief and handles a wide range of responsibilities including unloading the car, setting up the garage, helping with the car, maintaining supplies, cooking, running gas during the race, and tearing down and reloading after the checkered flag flies. Hauling for Kyle Busch frequently means some extra, but no-complaints waiting time as the No. 18 goes through NASCSAR’s postrace teardown and inspection process involving the top finishers.

Not counting a one-year diversion driving in the oil fields, Brendan “Slim” Greene has logged 11 years of NASCAR experience, the last five with JGR. He lives in Midland, NC, his hometown, with wife Meghan and daughters Reagan (4) and  Carsyn (1). Brendan takes a slim lead into the second round at Texas Motor Speedway, with 10 drivers at or less than 12 points behind. Watch for articles appearing in the next three RoadKing issues that will track the TA Truck Service Challenge through the sixth and final event at Charlotte Motor Speedway on September 27. You can also follow the action and point standings at TATruckChallenge.com.

About Road King

For the professional Driver

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *