CONCORD, N.C. – With the 2023 DAYTONA 500 in the rearview mirror, Hendrick Motorsports and the NASCAR Cup Series head to Fontana, California, to officially kick off the first of three consecutive races on the West Coast. The series will travel to Auto Club Speedway first, followed by trips to Las Vegas Motor Speedway and Phoenix Raceway.
While drivers, crew chiefs, road crews and pit crews will fly to the events, each team’s hauler drivers will make the cross country trek to "The Golden State" on the open road. Joseph Anderson is one of two hauler drivers for the No. 24 team and will spend considerable time on the road during the West Coast swing. Along with Jason Gray, who is the other hauler driver for the team, they are responsible for ensuring the car's timely arrival to the racetrack. For the California race, garage activity begins at 6:30 p.m. ET (3:30 p.m. PST) on Friday with at-track inspection.
"It’s roughly 36 hours to get there (to Fontana). It’s 2,500 miles," Anderson said. "We take shifts and drive about 11 hours each per shift. We’ll drive eight hours straight, take a 30-minute break, drive another three and a half hours and then we’ll switch. Jason (Gray) and I try to spend as little time as possible on the side of the road. We don’t like to waste time."
The trip began on Tuesday, Feb. 21. That night, the team loaded up the truck with Byron’s No. 24 entry. With everything loaded, Anderson and Gray started their way out to California. Following the race, all four Hendrick Motorsports haulers will make the trip to Las Vegas where additional transporters from the team will drop off the primary vehicles for the third points-paying race of the season.
After the Las Vegas race, all four haulers will return to the race shop to load up the freshly prepared Phoenix primary cars. They then will make their way to the Arizona desert for the final race in the West Coast swing.
"We’re going to do minimum 10,000 miles in a couple weeks," said Anderson. "It’s tiring and mentally draining. Physically also. But that’s our job and it’s what we do. We plan it out very well in what were doing. Everything is scheduled out for us. We try to be detailed in what we do so there’s no hiccups or anything that can go wrong."
While the travel schedule can be exceptional of most jobs, the role is a vitally important one for any race team. If anything happens to the transporter on the way to the track, the issue must be resolved quickly to get everything the team needs - equipment, tools, etc - at the racetrack. For Anderson, having mechanical experience to quickly address problems has served his team well in the past.
"There have been a couple times this past two years where we had an incident," Anderson said. "We’ve had belts break on the engine while climbing a hill. All of a sudden, you lose all power while you’re climbing a hill and you have to pull over on the side of the road. Luckily, we had the parts that we needed to get back on the road quickly. If we hadn’t, we would have had to call somebody. That’s a minimum of two to three hours."
Anderson and Gray will be making sure that the No. 24 Chevrolet gets to the 2-mile venue to kick off the western stretch of races. The first of those takes place on Sunday, Feb. 27, at 3:30 p.m. ET with coverage on FOX, MRN Radio, and Sirius XM NASCAR Radio (Channel 90). Catch all of the action as the Cup Series runs its second points-paying race of the year.