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#Hendrick30th spotlight: Aero specialist Steve Bergh talks Talladega

Building a speedway car for a track like Talladega (Alabama) Superspeedway is like putting together a giant puzzle with tiny pieces – if you were doing it in slow motion. The process is a crawl; a slow and gradual evolution.  Little by little, the car is assembled and perfected. And from step one until the finishing touches, not one stone is left unturned and nothing goes on the car until it’s proven that it works.

I’ve been working on race cars at Hendrick Motorsports for almost 18 years, and my passion for racing isn’t one that’s rooted in family tradition. Rather, it’s something I sought out first by running modifieds in New Jersey, which is where I grew up and also where I met Ray Evernham. In 1997, Ray, then the crew chief for Jeff Gordon, gave me the opportunity of a lifetime when he offered me a job as a mechanic in the shop. He asked if I could start in two weeks. Gordon already had one championship under his belt – How could I say no?

When I first began working for Hendrick Motorsports, I remember watching Chad Knaus to see what he was doing with the restrictor-plate cars, which are taken to Talladega and Daytona (Florida) International Speedway. Chad was and still is one of my most influential co-workers. But once he transitioned from working on the shop floor to becoming a crew chief, not many people worked on the restrictor-plate cars like he did. So every day after my shift was over, I began to work on those speedway cars. That led to me taking them into the wind tunnel and the process just grew from there.  Now this is my fulltime job.

Sure, the schedules can be crazy – sometimes I’m in the shop for more than 17 hours at a time– but I’m passionate about what I do because it makes a difference. The crew chiefs are so involved with the other 32 races of the year and are very literate with the cars. But four times a season, they take this weird animal – otherwise known as a restrictor-plate car – to Daytona and Talladega. That’s where I come in. It’s so rewarding for me to see the hours of tinkering with these cars pay off when we run well at one of those tracks.

When I go to a superspeedway race – and I do attend every one— I like to sit in the truck and watch the race by myself. I’d rather not get involved in all the hoopla on pit row, and I am able to concentrate on the race better when I’m alone. But if I were a NASCAR fan, I think the restrictor-plate tracks would be my favorite races to watch. Not only do they have the most passing and the draft, but from a spectator standpoint, they’re just the most exciting to watch. And I think the race this weekend at Talladega will be no exception. 

Steve Bergh

Aero specialist, No. 48/88 team

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