NASCAR roars into Infineon this weekend and with it, all the raw power that comes with the sprint cup series – the racing stars, the high-powered engines encased in fantastically painted steel, the millions of adoring fans and camper upon camper upon camper out in the fields.
But way before the green starting flag is waved, the real heros of NASCAR will be hard at work behind the scenes. The true brawn of the racing operation, these men are responsible for transporting the cars, tools, and supplies pivotal to the race and their teams. They are the long distance truckers who drive through the night, arriving in Sonoma on Thursday, just in time to unload their precious cargo and ready it for another shot at glory.
If you haven’t seen these haulers arrive in town, you’re missing out. Bigger than life and brilliantly hued, they are rolling billboards each displaying the message of their sponsors: Home Depot, M&M candies, Kellogg’s, and Jim Beam to name a few. As fabulous on the inside as they are on the out, the trucks are big, bold and ready to rock.
Steve Fiedler drives the Taco Bell truck for Front Row Motorsports. Originally from Yankton, South Carolina, Fiedler grew up around dirt tracks and has racing in his blood. His truck driving experience began when he was just 19 and is something he’s parlayed into a 30-year career. For the past nine years, he’s combined both of his favorite things – trucking and racing – as a driver for NASCAR, first in the truck series and now, hauling the gear for the sprint cup series.
As with most NASCAR teams, Front Row Motorsports calls North Carolina home – Statesville to be exact – coming and going with clock-like regularity. “Everything we need for the weekend is on the hauler and the team depends on these guys to get the gear to the track safely,” said racecar driver, David Gilliland.
A typical week during race season looks something like this: Monday night, two drivers will depart Statesville in the hauler, carrying two cars, a spare engine, tools, radios, supplies, food and whatever else the team needs. They’ll drive in shifts until they reach Infineon on Thursday and unload the truck that evening. They’ll perform various jobs throughout the weekend and most important, feed the 15-member team breakfast, lunch and dinner, cooked in the hauler’s ultra efficient galley kitchen as well as on an outdoor grill.
Come race day on Sunday, rather than relaxing, these drivers are readying their cargo for the trip back to the North Carolina home base.
Within 90 minutes of the checkered flag, they’ll finish packing the truck and hit the road. The drive from Infineon back to North Carolina takes about 50 hours and, with both drivers taking shifts, will see them in Statesville by Wednesday afternoon.
Fiedler will stop at home for a shower and a change of clothes. He’ll peck his wife of 32 years on the cheek, visit with his two grown sons and then, it’s time to do it all over again.
After turning around the gear on the truck, Fiedler and a second driver will be on the road by early morning, bound for Loudon, New Hampshire – the next stop on the NASCAR circuit.
“My job fits me to a “t.” I love driving, I love racing and it’s the perfect occupation,” said Fiedler. “And this team is just a great bunch of guys. All hard workers who care about each other and the race.”