For a team to race eleven times over a two week span is a major undertaking, particularly when that racing is taking place over five different states. That’s exactly the sort of test facing competitors on the Schaeffer’s Oil Southern Nationals throughout much of the remainder of July. Obviously, preparation is a major key to success for any operation that dares to take on this grueling challenge.
Crew chiefs are at the heart of that essential preparation. No driver can succeed if his car is not up to speed or if it lacks reliability. Getting the car up to speed and keeping it on the track for so many races contested over a relatively short period of time requires many hours of labor and much ingenuity. A great deal of that responsibility falls upon the team’s leader.
David Bryant heads up the Larry Garner-owned Blount Motorsports organization which fields cars for driver Donald McIntosh. The crew chief on the No. 7m machine is a veteran at preparing for the very rigors to be faced during this challenging run.
But according to Bryant, it isn’t just the actual work on the car that will provide obstacles to his team’s success over the next 15 days.
“The truck driving is the worst part of it,” Bryant declared. “We don’t have a lot of help so you spend your nights driving. You try to get all your work done before hand. When we leave out we’ve got enough tires to race for the first seven nights because we don’t have a tire guy. Our challenge is help, we need one more helper. You drive all night then you get to the race track so we try to avoid having tire work to do. That at least makes part of your day better.”
A significant part of that preparation is making sure the hauler is packed with everything that might be needed while away from the shop for so long. And the veteran pit boss hopes that such preparation will lead to the ultimate goal of earning a championship.
“We have new noses, full body sides, other extra stuff,” Bryant added. “You’ve got to be prepared. It’s my favorite time of the year. I love doing this, which I’m known as a points racer, so I love it.”
Harold Holly leads Joey Coulter’s Rum Runner Racing team which puts cars on the track for Brandon Overton. The former championship winning NASCAR crew chief believes that constant maintenance on the various pieces and parts involved in producing speed and reliability are crucial elements in regard to winning races.
But there are other challenges as well.
“The heat mostly,” Holly retorted with a laugh when asked what his major concerns for these two weeks are. “Brandon’s real familiar with the track’s where we’re racing so the biggest thing is just going in and out every night doing the maintenance. You have to watch after everything so that you don’t break. It’s hard to race that many nights straight and not have an issue.
“Those guys on the Hell Tour do it 28 nights or something like that,” Holly added. “The biggest thing is preparation. We actually took the week off last week to get prepared for this deal. We’ve got spare body panels and those kinds of things.”
Overton won the Southern Nationals opener at Wythe Raceway on Saturday evening and followed that up with a second place effort the next night at Cherokee Speedway. But not every track on the tour are those same type of big, wide-open facilities and Holly looks forward to the changes he will have to make on the No. 2 machine.
“When we go to Tazewell, Toccoa and places like that we’ll have to make some changes to the car,” Holly stated. “Those tracks are quite a bit different from places like this(Wythe) so we’ll have to change quite a bit because the banking is so high and you have to get the car ready to hit that banking.”
Longtime car builder and chassis guru Barry Wright serves as the mastermind behind the Barry Wright Race Cars house car effort for driver Ross Bailes. The veteran team leader knows that one big challenge facing all teams striving toward Southern Nationals glory is that of manpower.
“The biggest thing is having enough help,” Wright insisted. “Most of the teams that I see here, we’re all lucky to have one employee and that’s the biggest issue that I see. But we do have a few more days off which is good because it’s awfully hot this time of year.”
Location is the key in the early going for Wright’s operation. Most of the races contested over the first week of the series are relatively close to his Cowpens, SC shop. As a result, the hauler does not have to be overloaded. But when the tour takes a turn toward south Georgia, preparation takes on a different theme.
“As long as we’re fairly close to home we don’t bring that much stuff that we wouldn’t have anyway,” the builder of the No. 87 car explained. “But in the second week when we’re further away from home there are some extra things we will bring with us. Where we’re located, we can go back and forth everyday until next week.”
No team will succeed on a tour such as the Southern Nationals without good leadership and preparation. David Bryant, Harold Holly and Barry Wright have been through the racing wars and know what it will take for their teams to achieve their goals.
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