Scottvoight's NASCAR Blog

February 7, 2011

NASCAR crew members hurt by the economic recession.

Filed under: NASCAR Articles — Scott Voight @ 2:26 pm

In a sport that is so driven by sponsorship, fans and mass media, NASCAR employees walk  a perilous tightrope of poverty and riches. NASCAR teams continue to feel the pinch of the recession. There were approximately 640 crew layoffs since the end of last season due to the downsizing of many NASCAR teams.

Today things are just as bad. With sponsors unwilling to use their money for sports sponsorship, teams cannot hire back many of their employees.

 In a recent teleconference on NASCAR Media,  Humpy Wheeler, former president of Lowe’s Motor Speedway, said this situation is not new. He’s seen this before in the 1970’s and 1980’s. But his concern in this cycle is that the numbers are much larger.

In the 70s and 80s, “I think it was even worse economically,” Wheeler said. But teams were much smaller then. Some teams back then were letting go 50 percent or more of their crew members. But that was only five or six people. Today, cutbacks might be less of a percentage of the team but could equal dozens per organization.

When you count up the small teams too that we don’t hear about, the Nationwide teams and smaller Truck teams we likely have over 1,000 people losing their jobs, Wheeler noted. “Historically those who lost jobs in the past moved back to their hometown states and we lost them from the area. The main thing is that we don’t lose them from the region. This has major economic impacts to all of the community including non-motorsports related business.”

Outside of racing, the job situation is also dire, leaving many veteran crew members unable to find employment there either. These people have families to feed, children in school, mortgage payments, and dwindling savings accounts. Many of the small teams do not offer compensation packages to their employees so they are on their own.

Many fans think these hard-working individuals get paid exorbitant sums of money to work in NASCAR. The truth is many do it for low wages because they love the sport. The only rich people in NASCAR are the drivers, some owners, some crew chiefs, the network announcers, and NASCAR’s upper echelon.

Some people do care. The Motorsports Employment Task Force initiated by Wheeler and administered by the North Carolina Motorsports Association was developed to address the job loss issues.

The newly formed Task Force is working towards the development of a central site to support out of work crews, by providing information to future employers about hiring people from the racing industry.

Another group, the Displaced NASCAR Racers, formed a support website for work. Don Gemmell, one of 113 let go from Dale Earnhardt, Inc., created www.DontCheckUp.com   December for displaced workers in the motorsports industry seeking employment. In the beginning the site will listed the names of almost all 113 people recently laid off from their NASCAR team.

 The site to lists the names resumes and contact information for each person and is categorized by each department in NASCAR.

 This website enables team owners and department heads to find qualified and quality people to fill openings they may have in their race shops. Companies from outside the motorsports industry are encouraged to look through the list of talented people available, as well.

Gemmell said, that he thought about a website at a job-placement meeting.  As I listened to them and talked to others who were also losing their jobs, I started to think of ways we could work together instead of individually.

 “What we are offering on our site is a group of experienced workers ready to interview right now,” Gemmell said. “We are going to help them edit or even write their resumes to post for future employers review.

Many other companies offer services, and other organizations are offering help to people in the racing industry.

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