CONCORD, N.C. -- Valvoline’s "Thanks to Truckers" campaign gives kudos to the men and women who drive the big rigs, delivery carriers and waste management trucks for essential services during the coronavirus pandemic.
With NASCAR's return to the track this past weekend, Hendrick Motorsports would like to thank the hauler drivers who always make sure the cars, fire suits, food and other supplies for all four drivers are safely delivered to the tracks.
The drivers also are responsible for making sure the members of their teams have the necessary items needed to set up in the garage. They make sure each hauler is clean and that everything is unpacked and repacked for each race.
“You have to basically take care of 26 guys when you come to the racetrack and set the garage up for the guys. You are almost like the backbone of the operation, because if they don’t have us they don’t have what they need to perform the race duties,” said Heath Edler, the hauler for the No. 9 team.
Get to know our hauler drivers and check out why they play such an important role in making sure everything runs smoothly behind the scenes for race day.
HEATH EDLER, HAULER DRIVER FOR THE NO. 9 TEAM
Edler joined the No. 9 team after fellow hauler driver Dean Mozingo mentioned the crew needed another hand. Previously, he was transporting team pit boxes and other equipment with Champion Tire and Wheel, making him familiar with the hauling and racing lifestyle.
Edler and the rest of the drivers are having to adjust to a new normal where they have 24-hour turnarounds at tracks and more than one race a week. Interestingly, Edler said since NASCAR has implemented safety guidelines to keep everyone socially distant, his job has become a little easier. The crews are much smaller, drivers are not allowed to leave their designated areas to help in the garage and everyone is meticulous about making sure items are sanitized and clean.
“(No. 9 crew chief) Alan (Gustafson) has been good about keeping us all up to date and what each person is going to do,” Edler said. “He is thorough about making sure nothing is forgotten. It’s funny because everyone says we are rusty -- we are all a little rusty because we haven’t been there in a while. It all comes back to you.”
JASON GRAY, HAULER DRIVER FOR THE NO. 24 TEAM
Gray credits crew chief Chad Knaus for bringing him on to the Hendrick Motorsports team in 2005. Gray left the organization for about 10 years but when Knaus joined the No. 24 team in 2018, he convinced Gray to return. Gray said Knaus has kept the team close while NASCAR operations were on hold.
“He has us doing this deal every day you have to call someone on the team and find out more about them and I had Chad (recently),” Gray said. “He and I talked for a while, about 4 hours, because we have known each other for so long. Plus, I am the second oldest guy on the team.”
Gray said being clean at the track will be amplified to keep all the crews, drivers and personnel safe. He said the first race was a bit of an unknown, but everyone was prepped to wear their masks while performing their duties and to spray the haulers down a strong disinfectant every hour or two.
LANCE SCOTT, HAULER DRIVER FOR THE NO. 48 TEAM
Scott has been the hauler driver for Jimmie Johnson and the No. 48 team for five years but has been with Hendrick Motorsports for 10. He grew up around racing, so even though he didn’t have much hauling experience when he joined the organization, he said the transition was easy.
Despite Sunday being a learning curve and the drivers having to be more conscious of cleaning and being safe, he said the crew has done everything they can to prepare to get back to the track.
“Hendrick Motorsports is of the elite -- they have everything dialed in,” Scott said. “I have no question that everyone will be dialed in and ready to go. There is one reason why we’re going down there and that’s to win. That’s what we strive and work hard for.”
Scott added that the camaraderie within the team and working with Johnson makes traveling to the tracks even better.
“Being on the best of the best with the seven-time champion, you know you have the best equipment, you have the best teammates, that’s all anybody would want,” he said.
ANDY QUILLAN, HAULER DRIVER FOR THE NO. 88 TEAM
Quillan was part of the racing program at Northwestern Ohio, where he learned about the high-performance side of the racing industry. He worked with Levine Family Racing for two years before he was offered a job with Hendrick Motorsports in 2013. Quillan’s father also is a truck driver and Quillan recalled riding along with his dad as much as possible growing up.
He said while the drivers won’t be loading or unloading the garages for the next several races, the teams have to “think outside the box” in making sure the hauler has everything the entire team needs. On a normal race day, he will not only make sure everything is cleaned and stocked, but he helps with fueling and servicing the cars during practice. Obviously, races over the next month will be different.
”Since we're not going to do practices and qualifying, unloading and setup is going to be basic, but I'll be doing a little more thorough cleaning than I have in the past,” he said. “Other than that, I might be helping a little bit more with pit stops.”
According to Quillan, the best part of driving a NASCAR hauler for a big organization is the fan recognition and the group effort given by each person on the team.
“You get to drive the coolest rig down the road,” Quillan said. “You're pretty much like a rolling billboard. But with how Hendrick Motorsports operates, the biggest thing is always communication with everybody. We try to have the right stuff, right pieces in the trailer and everything.”