What jobs make up a typical NASCAR Nextel Cup race shop? According to Don Pearsall, president and CEO of RaceJobs.com, the answer is complicated. Pearsall's company, based in Cape Canaveral, Fla., bills itself as "the only full service international employment agency for professional motorsports," filling job openings for teams and placing job seekers in the industry.
"You can have more than 100 different job titles at different shops, and none of the job descriptions are the same," he said. "There's a lot of overlap in jobs, and every organization is different."
Andy Papathanassiou is executive director of the North Carolina Motorsports Association, a trade association for the motorsports industry involved in public policy, business development, workforce development and networking. He said that as the sport has grown over the years, so has the need for personnel with specific skills and training.
"As with most professional sports today, specialization is used to try to gather every advantage over the competition," Papathanassiou said. "The positions on a typical race team are no different. All components of car construction, maintenance, performance and logistics are handled by specific areas.
"Big tracks, small tracks, heavy braking, aerodynamic objectives, driver comfort and cockpit safety are all the responsibilities of specific groups. The idea of one group dealing with all these areas is no different than the idea of someone playing both offense and defense on an NFL team. While it's possible, and was the way it used to be, the demands and responsibilities of each position today have long ago surpassed that option."
Keeping in mind that job titles and descriptions are typically very comprehensive, although different, at every race shop, here are some key job titles and very brief descriptions of the duties of each position:
Team manager: Responsible for the overall operation of the team. Coordinates efforts between all departments.
Shop foreman: Responsible for the overall running and supervision of the shop.
Chief engineer: Supervises the engineering staff. Must know all aspects of design and construction of all components of the race car and associated support equipment.
Body/aero engineer: Responsible for the preparation and testing of the aerodynamics of the race car. Tests the effects of speed and wind velocity on car.
Data acquisition engineer: Responsible for gathering and interpretation of data, analysis of materials and designing tests for equipment.
Race engineer: Responsible for designing and testing new components. Also includes design, preparation and testing of any research and development equipment. Compiles prerace report prep and postrace analysis.
Body specialist: Responsible for fabrication schedules for composite or laminated parts. Other duties include assisting engineering with testing of new technology and materials for race car.
Lead fabricator: Responsible for the final inspection of body components prior to going to the finishing shop. Other duties may include inventory and purchase of related parts and tools.
General fabricator: Responsible for building and preparing body parts for use. Duties may also include some welding and/or painting.
Finish fabricator: Responsible for all finish body work on race car prior to painting and graphics.
Machinist: Responsibilities include machining of parts and components for race team.
Lead mechanic: Responsible for preparation of race car and support equipment. Organizes work flow and work schedule.
Shock technician: Prepares shock absorber valving, maintenance of shock absorbers, documentation of shock combinations and set up. Other duties may include chassis setup combinations.
Cylinder head specialist: Prepares new cylinder heads, installs valves and assembles other components. Duties also include disassembly and cleaning of heads.
Dynamometer technician: Responsible for dyno testing of race engines.
Electronic technician: Responsible for compiling and interpreting electronic data. Other duties include the designing and maintenance of all electronic components.
Gearbox technician: Duties include gearbox/transmission setup, preparation, rebuild and analysis of combinations and failures. Duties also may include mechanical support to race car.
Parts manager: Responsible for parts purchase, parts inventory, spare parts preparations, inventory and quality control.
Parts runner: Responsible for acquisition of parts from outside sources, picking up components from suppliers, and sometimes doing internal mail delivery.
Driver/transporter: Transports race car and/or associated support equipment to and from race events and test sessions. Duties might also include minor maintenance on equipment, cooking for team at track, and laundry detail.
Driver/motor coach: Transports driver's motor coach to race and test events. Other duties include cleaning and stocking motor home with food and refreshments, maintenance on equipment, expense logs and maintenance schedule, cleaning and preparing coach for events.
Utility/expediter (gofer): Responsible for parts and materials to complete operational demands, maintenance of team utility vehicles, and other miscellaneous duties.
Shock specialist: Responsible for preparation of shock absorber valving, maintenance of shock absorbers, documentation of shock combinations and setup, and testing and matching of shock absorber performance.
Suspension specialist: Responsible for the completion of work needed and ordered by the engineering department.
Tear down specialist: Responsible for disassembly of race car after use. Prepares documentation and measurements after race. Other duties include cleaning of chassis and components.
Tire specialist: Orders and inventories tires for team. Tuning/matching tires for varied race conditions.
Track engine tuner: Provides general maintenance of engines at race track, inspects and changes valve springs, inspects carburetors, and maintains and stocks spare engines.