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NASCAR racing is one of the most popular spectator sports in the U.S. Becoming a successful NASCAR driver, however, requires a lot more than just quick reflexes and good judgement behind the wheel. Success on the NASCAR circuit results from teamwork. It takes the efforts of everyone on a team, from the lowliest floor sweeper to the car chief or crew chief, to build and tune a vehicle fast enough to give the driver a chance at winning the race. The car chief is the second in command of the team, and most earn a six-figure salary.
A NASCAR team employs dozens of people, including marketing and administrative staff, floor sweepers, tire specialists, mechanics, engineers, car chiefs and a crew chief. Floor sweepers are general labor; tire specialists are responsible for receiving tires and ensuring that they are race-ready; mechanics tune and repair race cars; engineers analyze vehicle dynamics, aerodynamics, and engine technology from data from past races, test sessions and computer simulations; car chiefs are responsible for making a car fully race-ready; and a crew chief manages the entire operation. Seven members of the team are chosen to be the pit crew on race day.
Car Chief Duties
The position of car chief evolved from the burgeoning responsibilities of a 21st-century NASCAR crew chief. A crew chief today simply has too many administrative responsibilities to oversee the final fitting and inspection of the race car, so that duty has been passed on to the relatively new position of car chief. A car chief supervises a team of mechanics to make sure the car meets all required NASCAR standards and is fully race-ready. Many car chiefs also serve on the pit crew.
Car Chief Salary
Most NASCAR team members earn a comfortable living. NASCAR car chiefs earned between $110,000 and $130,000 on average in 2006, according to Car & Driver. According to court documents, former Roush Fenway Racing Car Chief Jason Myers earned a base salary of $110,472.96 in 2008. Car & Driver reports tire specialists earn $50,000 to $60,000 a year, and crew chiefs can earn annual salaries anywhere from $200,000 to more than $1 million for the most successful chiefs.
A crew chief is in effect the general manager of a NASCAR team. He not only works closely with the driver, supervises the engineers, mechanics and car chief, he is also the one responsible for "tuning" a car for a particular racetrack and racing conditions. He works from experience, with knowledge of how cars have reacted in the past on this track under specific conditions. He decides the overall specs of the race car body, the adjustments of the springs and shocks and the air pressure of the tires.
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Clayton Browne has been writing professionally since 1994. He has written and edited everything from science fiction to semiconductor patents to dissertations in linguistics, having worked for Holt, Rinehart & Winston, Steck-Vaughn and The Psychological Corp. Browne has a Master of Science in linguistic anthropology from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.