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.