If you have roamed through the pit area of a dirt race track that is hosting a major event somewhere in the southeast, chances are you have likely noticed a distinctive looking man who is often in the company of some of Dirt Late Model racing’s top stars. And this individual is not a media member, an autograph seeker, or a fan just hoping for a selfie with his favorite driver. As a matter of fact, those star drivers are often seeking him rather than the other way around.
Ronny Crooks serves as a technical specialist and innovator for Penske Racing Shocks. This ‘guru’ of racing suspensions offers the teams who use that particular brand advice on the best way to get a car around the track in the shortest amount of time possible.
“I do track tech,” Crooks explained in an interview with InsideDirtRacing.com. “I consult and answer any questions they might have. If we need to do something in that area, I’m there for the guys that run our shocks.”
The list of drivers Crooks works with could serve as a virtual who’s who in the Dirt Late Model world. And many of those racers look to him for answers when they want to go faster.
“We’ve been pretty lucky in that,” Crooks said of his impressive client list. “We do have a lot of guys, but it’s a good product and racers are going to want the best stuff. That kind of makes my job pretty easy.”
The real secret to beating the competition doesn’t lie with just one piece or part. Instead, the entire package of engine, suspension, aerodynamics, tires, and talent must come together to make up a winning formula. Crooks sees it as his job to incorporate suspension components, particularly shocks, into that total package in the best way possible.
“Hopefully I will be able to help them with getting the rest of the car and the shocks to work together,” he explained. “I can help to make sure we’re all pulling the same way and making adjustments that are compatible with the chassis and the shocks.”
So how important are shocks as a component on a winning race car?
“Well, if you listen to me, I’d say they’re pretty important,” Crooks said with a chuckle. “Everybody is doing things with the motor and other things that they haven’t done before. It’s racing and racers are trying to make everything better. Shocks are just another part of the car that they’re trying to make better.”
Crooks does consulting work in shops with race teams and he accompanies them when they test their cars during the week. His calendar is virtually booked solid from the beginning of the racing season until the end.
“There are very few weekends when I’m not at a race track,” he declared. “I’ve probably stayed home five days out of the first two months of the season.”
Crooks has an extensive history in racing. For the better part of four decades he has worked with some of the most recognizable figures in the sport. Much of his career was spent in NASCAR where he provided suspension setups for Richard Childress Racing and driver Dale Earnhardt, Sr. as well as with Joe Gibbs Racing and drivers Tony Stewart, Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin. He last worked in NASCAR with Stewart-Haas Racing during the 2014 season.
“I spent quite a few years in NASCAR and I really had a good career in that,” he recalled. “I worked there from the late 1980’s until 2014 with Stewart-Haas. That was the last year I went to the track with those guys. That was something you wanted your whole career was to work with Dale Sr. I felt fortunate to do that in that era. The drivers, owners, and crew guys were tight back in those days. You traveled to the race and you went out to eat. It was awesome.”