CONCORD, N.C. – With more than 600 team members in the organization, there are stories all across the Hendrick Motorsports campus.
With that in mind, we’re taking the chance to give fans a glimpse at all of the many sides of Hendrick Motorsports.
Below, you’ll meet Rich Gutierrez.
Gutierrez has been with Hendrick Motorsports since 2002 and is currently a brake specialist for all four race teams following 15 years of working in only one race shop.
What is it like to work with all four race teams?
“Now, I have to look at everything. Everything is times four. It’s a different world. It absolutely takes more time. But things are a little more specialized for me. Instead of building rear-end housings and spindles and all the other stuff I’ve built before, now it’s just all brakes.”
Everyone thinks of speed and throttle when it comes to NASCAR, but how important are the brakes in these cars?
“These days, we’re using the brakes to turn the car. If you make the wrong decision, you can have a failure, or you can do something that helps your car turn and helps it in the long run. There are four different, unique setups for the different track styles. You have speedway, intermediate, road course and short track. Every component is a little different. Rotors are different sizes, different thicknesses, the brake pads are different compounds, different setups.”
Working at Hendrick Motorsports for more than 15 years, what is it about the organization that has kept you here?
“The success, and it’s a good place to work. I like my job, I like what I do. I was on the pit crew, I gassed Jimmie Johnson’s car for six years. I gassed his car for five championships. I did the pit crew deal and also jacked for a couple years here as a jackman. I’ve found my niche, I think, in the company where I’m comfortable as far as liking my role and what I do. It’s intriguing. It keeps me going.”
I understand you run a separate business centered around go-karts?
“My family owns a go-kart track and a shop, so I grew up in a racing family. Three years ago, I had talked to an old friend, Terry Fullerton. He lives in the U.K. and has his own Fullerton Racing Karts. The company that manufactures them is in Italy. We’ve been good friends for about 25 years and about three years ago, he asked me to import the kart from Italy. The last three years, I’ve been importing the kart and setting up the dealer network and racing all over the country with top drivers.”
What makes the go-karts unique?
“Anywhere in the U.S., if it’s a Fullerton, it has to be bought through me. Through (fellow Hendrick Motorsports team member) Lance (McGrew) and myself, both through Fullerton USA. Pretty much, we have the rights for the whole United States. It goes from the age of five all the way up to adults. There are several different classes you can run. We have all the different configurations of parts and we primarily work with juniors and seniors at the top level. And the national level, we’re getting ready to go to Vegas for seven days for the Super Nationals so that will be a big race. There are 98 entries per class. They cut it off at 98 and only 43 make the show and the rest go home.”
You don’t just sell the karts, you build them and run them as well?
“Yes. Lance is very good with data acquisition, so we actually build turnkey packages. But then, we also support at-track race teams and help them with set up and basically, it’s a full-time deal.”
Is there a similar stress level to running that business and working at Hendrick Motorsports?
“Absolutely. It seems like the stress doesn’t stop. Lance and I, we leave our real job we call it and then go to the race shop and we’re in the race shop until 10, 11 at night. I’ve used every single vacation day for the last three years to go race go karts. People go, ‘Oh, I’m going to the Keys, I’m going here,’ and I’m like, ‘Yeah, I’m going to a race.’ Pretty much that’s all I do is race.”
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