NASCAR Race Weekend Central

NASCAR Mailbox: The All-Star Race & What are Crew Members Paid?

The Sprint All-Star Race. 20 of the best drivers in the world meet in Charlotte for the sport’s premiere event. At least that’s what it’s supposed to be, right? Saturday night seemed like it belonged to the few up in front, the eventual winner of the non-points race, Denny Hamlin and the No. 11 FedEx Toyota.

Throw into that mix Kevin Harvick, teammate Kurt Busch and Brad Keselowski, who, even down on only two fresh tires at the end of the second segment, held off a fast No. 4 machine. Four-time Cup champion Jeff Gordon was dialed in for most of Saturday night’s 110-lap race, but couldn’t narrow the massive lead created by Hamlin and Harvick, who really were the cream of the crop.

The event, although lackluster (as I’ll dive into in today’s Q&A), had some decent racing throughout, and this weekend should be another great show with the annual Memorial Day weekend tradition. The longest race of the year will be a true test of endurance for Kyle Busch, who just came back from his debilitating leg and foot injury suffered after a crash at Daytona. It remains to be seen whether the younger Busch brother will be able to make the full 600 miles on Sunday, though his plans are to do just that.

Now onto this week’s Mailbox questions from you our readers….

Q: Greg, we were watching a race recently and started wondering about the pit crews and how much they got paid. On a top-tier team (HMS, JGR, etc…) what would the average crew member make? Do they get a salary or are they paid by the race? Are they needed at the track the entire weekend or just on race day? How much of the pit crews in the Truck and Xfinity series are made up of Cup crew members looking for an opportunity to make a few more dollars? Thanks. – Bill B., Glen Burnie, Md.

A: Bill thanks for writing in this week. Great question on the team members. So first what do they get paid? Well, as you may know in NASCAR contracts, whether it’s driver, crew chief or even front tire changer, salaries aren’t public knowledge like in some other sports. Take the NFL or MLB for example. You  could easily find the compensation level for most managers, coaches or players for any team at any time online. Not in NASCAR. However, to give you a little bit of insight on this one, back in 2009 a former pit crew member of Roush Fenway Racing, Jason Myers, was terminated and subsequently sued the organization. In the court filings he did disclose his compensation. Myers was at one point the car chief on Carl Edwards‘s No. 99 Ford, and as Dustin Long details in his 2009 article, Myers could have made over $140,000 for the 2008 season with bonuses and incentives.

Now, this kind of salary over $100K isn’t every crew members’ in the Cup Series, and certainly not even close in the Xfinity or Truck series. Basically it all comes down to what you can do and offer to a team. If your position is in the shop, but on race weekends you’re also a tire carrier or jackman on a car, then you’re earning more than the guy who works solely at the shop.

In some instances, even at major shops like those you named, the crew members are making around $800-$1,000 a week. I’ve even seen online (although they are dated numbers) some of the smaller-team members at the Xfinity or Truck series levels make around $300 per race to pit a car. Again, these all vary by the size of the organizations and earnings of the teams themselves. If they’re winning, that crew is getting paid a little more.

Hope that helps. Again these are dated numbers, but because this is truly something that is not public knowledge in the NASCAR world, tough to find much good data on.

Q: There’s been a lot of talk about the All-Star Race and all the changes NASCAR has made to it over the last few years. Curious, do you think the race is really where it should be? And if not, what in your opinion should NASCAR do to change it? Thanks Greg. – Ben F., Westborough, Mass.

A: Ben, the All-Star Race is a shell of what a true all-star event should be. When you think about it, almost every week in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series is an all-star race. The same 20 drivers who are competing are in those races. The crew chiefs and teams prepare their cars and show up with the same will to win as they would any points-paying race. The difference? $1.1 million up is up for grabs for the winner. That’s it.

So to NASCAR I say, why not put the all-star event into hyper drive? You want to create a true NASCAR all-star event? Bring in the top drivers from the other two national touring series to compete in Sprint Cup cars against the Cup Series’ top talent. I know, I know… this isn’t the old IROC Series races. There was a reason that series went under. But could you imagine the top drivers in the Camping World Truck and Xfinity series challenging the Cup regulars to a shootout showdown in Charlotte for a million bucks?! Now we’re talking about some novelty non-points paying excitement.

Instead, we’re stuck with just a trimmed down field and a 110-lap version of any Saturday night Sprint Cup race. The field is made up of all the regulars we see week in and out up in front of the pack, nothing is really all-star about it. Well, except for those awesome intros by Michael Waltrip and Chris Myers to kickoff the race.

Obviously there’s a ton of holes in my proposal for this new all-star event. What cars would they drive? All Cup cars? Who’s paying for these cars to be built for the Truck and NXS guys, and how would they get entry to this exclusive race? Top two in points in each of the series, then the remaining top 16 from Sprint Cup? Nonetheless, this would be an all-star race that fans (and drivers) could really get excited about.

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LB

I posted an article on May 12 that I found on the internet which said the All-Star race at Charlotte has been a dud for the past 10 years. After what I watched last Saturday night, make that 11 years. That was a poor excuse for a race. I totally wasted 3 1/2 hours of my life on that. I would hate to have been one of the race fans who spent their hard earned money to go see that in person. In addition, all of the pre-race hype just makes the outcome that much worse. And I am sick to death of Michael Waltrip and Darrell Waltrip with their silly, goofy, idiotic comments, too. They both think they are so humorous and witty. I have news for them. You guys suck!!
I have heard this idea thrown around for years and I believe it is now time for it to take place. Many people have said they would like to see the All-Star race moved to a different race track each year. I am all for that! The race has become way too predictable and BORING! The other option I would suggest would be to eliminate the race completely. It is a joke. There is no racing except for the first lap or two of a re-start and then they get strung out. Again, as I said, BORING!
I bet Sprint is glad to be done with NASCAR. And their last All-Star race will always be remembered as a non-race and a waste of a huge amount of cash to sponsor it.
I say move the All-Star race or drop it. Good riddance.

joe

your right on

Ken Smith

More up to date compensation information from a recent Michael Waltrip Racing lawsuit:

A former Michael Waltrip Racing tire changer claims he was fired from his $160,000-a-year job in August after he demanded to have surgery for an injury suffered on pit road, while the team states he was released because he stole a specially made gun on the day he asked for permission to talk to other race teams.

Brandon Hopkins sued the team in January in North Carolina Superior Court in Charlotte, and Michael Waltrip Racing (MWR) filed its response last week while also having the case moved to North Carolina Business Court.

Hopkins claims he was fired the day before shoulder surgery in August for an injury he said he suffered after being hit while pitting Clint Bowyer’s car in 2013. He alleges he was told he was fired for what he characterized as unsubstantiated claims for stealing a pit-road gun, and he claims MWR retaliated against him by telling other teams that was the reason he was fired. He seeks unspecified damages.

Hopkins, who began changing tires in 2005 and joined MWR in 2012, was making $160,000 per year, according to his contract that is part of the court file. His salary comprised of a base salary as an MWR employee ($50,000), an over-the-wall crew member salary ($97,000) and a fee to participate in the team’s training program ($13,000). The two-year deal, signed in September 2013, was for the 2014 and 2015 seasons.

BRUCE

Ok we want an all star driver’s race. Let’s start by using ARCA cars and pit crews. Then we put all the car numbers in a hat and the drivers draw, the only rule is you can’t draw one of your cup owners cars. They will be allowed to install their own seat and wrap the cars in their sponsor’s colors ( I know a Ford wrap could end up on a Chevy but its for one race). Add the top two point drivers from ARCA, sure let them drive their own cars, and the two other secondary series and let them start out front then fill the field with cup cars of NASCAR’s choosing. Now whoever won that race would be a true Laa Star driver.

BRUCE

excuse the last sentence it should be a true All Star driver

Bill B

Thanks for that info Greg and Ken.

I can’t help but wonder why this information is so hard to come by. Personally, I don’t need specifics. I just wanted a ballpark figure/range of what a pit crew member might make for just their pit duties. Obviously if the employee fills other roles at the shop then their pay would rise. It’s hard to believe that kind of information isn’t available.

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