While the Indy race car drivers get the glory, they'd be high and dry without the team of drivers that get the race cars to the event. The hauler truck drivers have pretty sweet jobs, but driving is only part of what they do. And they earn every nickel they make.
Indianapolis-based Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, owners of the #5 Indy Car driven by James Hinchcliffe, operates three hauler trucks, each always loaded right to the numbers with all the gear the crew needs for a race. This includes three race cars and enough machinery and spare parts to build another new car from scratch, tons of electronics and diagnostic equipment and of course all the technicians' tools. Typically, about 45 crew members travel to a race.
Timothy Lane is one of six truck drivers on the ASPM team. He and fellow drivers had arrived in Toronto from Indianapolis early Thursday morning ahead of the technical inspections to he held that afternoon prior to the Honda Indy Streets of Toronto race on Sunday, July 14.
Before joining the ASPM team, Lane was an avid Indy racing fan and a regional and city P&D driver. "I had been driving for a year and a half, so I wondered if I could put it all together and drive for the team," he says. "I decided to ask them if they were hiring drivers, and here I am. I asked the right team and I got hired."
The hauler trucks are usually the first part of the crew to arrive at the race, and obviously the last to leave. Often, they are packed up and backing of the paddock area just a couple of hours after the champagne corks have been swept away. They always head directly back to the shop in Indianapolis so the crew can start prepping the cars for the next race.
"We have two drivers per truck so they can drive non-stop," says the team's vice president of marketing, Jeff Darks. "As soon as they get in the truck it's non-stop back to the shop. It's critical that we get everything back to the shop in Indianapolis as quickly as we can so we can get the cars ready for the next race."
It's a short 520-mile trip from Toronto to Indianapolis, so an easy overnight drive, but races on the West Coast can put a little strain on the drivers. They still have to get back to The Circle before heading off the next event, and that means some serious team driving.
The Indy season runs from March through September, so the drivers are away much of that time. Things slow down a little bit in the off season, though.
There's really no off season for the drivers and the team," Lane says. "We do a lot of testing, so we have to ferry the trucks and equipment around to the test tracks. We also get down to doing the maintenance and repairs on the trucks we couldn't find the time to get to during race season. And we even manage to squeeze in a little vacation time."
Part-time driver, full-time pit crew
Lane is also part of the pit crew, with responsibility for managing the team's tires and fueling the car during the race. "It's really exciting to be 'over the wall' and doing anything with the cars," he says. "The fueling is tough. It's a really fast paced environment with a lot of things going on in such a short time."
It's also the hauler-driver's job to take care of everything you see in pit lane.
"They set up the pits for us, maintain the pit for us all weekend, and most importantly, they do the tires," Darks says. "The race teams do not own the tires; they are all leased from Firestone. It's the same for every team.
"We own the wheels though. When we arrive at a race venue, we take a cart that holds 10 sets of wheels off to Firestone. They mount our tires for the weekend, we use them all weekend, and when the race is over, we bring them all back to firestone and they dismount them. They take the rubber home and we take the wheels home."
The truck drivers are in charge of mounting and measuring the tires and wheels and maintaining them for the race.
"We take instructions from our tire engineer because we use different inflation pressures under different track conditions," says Lane. We have to match the tires to the track conditions."
The hauler trucks, a fleet of three Kenworth W900s are owned by team co-owner, Ric Peterson, who also owns Ochulus Transport based in Calgary, Alberta. Ochulus specializes in oil and gas work, and they do a lot of work on the ice roads in northern Canada.
For Lane, driving for the Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports team is a couple of dream jobs rolled into one. One day he was sitting on the sidelines wishing he was in the thick of things and the next day he was. All he did was ask.