En NASCAR, el trabajo nunca termina, pero el conductor del camión siempre puede contar con Cummins
When Bill “Stump” Lewis pulls the hauler containing Clint Bowyer’s No. 14 Ford into the next track on the NASCAR circuit, he knows there’s a pretty good chance he’ll never see the actual race.
Lewis is usually busy packing the Cummins powered tractor-trailer during a race to get back on the road as quickly as possible after the checkered flag falls.
Every second counts, both on and off the track, for Bowyer's team, which has been sponsored in part by Cummins during the 2018 and 2019 racing seasons. It's just part of the job, says Lewis, who has been doing this kind of work for more than 20 years.
“Sometimes I don’t even know who won the race,” he said with a laugh, taking a short break from his duties for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) at the Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn, Michigan (USA).
It’s OK, the affable Lewis says, driving the truck is still one of his favorite parts of the job.
FIRST IN, LAST OUT
Hauler drivers are typically the first to arrive at a track for a NASCAR team and often the last to leave. Some say they have the toughest job on the circuit and that's easy to understand listening to Lewis describe his typical week during the season.
It starts at the SHR garage in Kannapolis, North Carolina (USA), where Lewis gets everything loaded into the hauler - including two cars, nearly enough parts to build another, tools of all sort, and the electronic equipment used to evaluate a car's performance on the track. Lewis is even in charge of the snacks served in the team break room inside the hauler - which usually means he makes a trip to the grocery store before leaving town.
By the time the hauler hits the road, it's filled either at or near the legal limit - 80,000 pounds. When he gets to the track, Lewis' work is just beginning. He gets everything out and positioned, so the crew can get right to work the minute they arrive on site. Even at 66, Lewis can run circles around many of his younger peers on the NASCAR circuit.
THE IMPORTANCE OF THE HAULER
It's a tough job, agrees Gary "Bear" Geissman, who is the fleet manager for SHR and has been involved in the racing transportation business in various capacities for some 40 years. He oversees all of the team's haulers and 16 to 18 drivers. Sometimes more than one driver is needed if a trip takes more than the legal time limit before a driver must rest.
The SHR team's haulers are usually on the road for more than 220 days a year, each covering about 70,000 miles annually, crisscrossing the United States under all kinds of driving conditions. There are seldom any "empty miles" that other truck drivers experience heading home after a delivery.
Keeping the haulers clean and in top condition is paramount. First, they each carry about $1.5 million worth of equipment, Geissman said. If that weren't enough, the haulers amount to rolling billboards for teams and their partners.
In certain locations, the haulers even have their own rabid fans. After NASCAR's stop at Watkins Glen International in upstate New York, Lewis said people were lined up for miles on the sides of the road to see the haulers head south into Pennsylvania.
THE CUMMINS DIFFERENCE
Nobody wants to get stuck by the side of the road, the drivers of a stock car hauler perhaps least of all. They know a race has never been delayed or cancelled because someone's hauler had engine trouble getting to the track.
Lewis says torque and dependability are key to getting his job done and Bowyer’s hauler has had a 600-horsepower heavy duty Cummins engine for about three years.
"We are at maximum load with our trucks," said Geissman, who's worked with Cummins engines for most of his career. "With a Cummins engine we get the power we need to pull all of our equipment. We can get up to and stay at the speed limit, and our Cummins engines are really good on fuel, too. "
Hauler drivers have enough to worry about. They shouldn't have to worry about their engines, too.
The Cummins’ name debuted on the No. 14 Ford of driver Clint Bowyer at the Aug. 18, 2018 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway. To follow Bowyer’s efforts, check out the Stewart-Haas Racing website or follow the team’s social media platforms on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.