When we watch NASCAR races from the safety and comfort of our own homes, it’s easy to think that it all just happens. The drivers show up, they race around the circuit, they make the occasional stop, they finish, and awards are given. A huge amount of work goes into preparing for every single race, and the work never stops for every member of the team, and especially the pit crews, and that work has to be rewarded. So how much money do NASCAR crew Chiefs make?
It all looks so seamless and straightforward, but we should know that it’s clearly not.We’re interested in learning more about how much a NASCAR crew chief makes, but also other members of the pit crew. They are often the unsung heroes of every NASCAR team.
Let’s start by being totally clear on what exactly the NASCAR crew chief does. On race day, any time that a driver pulls into the stop area, we see crews work like lightning to get the car ready to get back into the fray, and thus we can see clearly what each crew member is doing. The jobs and responsibilities of the crew chief, however, appear a little more unclear, so let’s clear that up.
Firstly, let’s be frank and say that the crew chief is undoubtedly the other most important person in the racing arena on any given race day besides the driver.
The crew chief is in charge of getting the car ready for race day, and also making fast-paced decisions on race day itself as to when and how the car and driver should make their pit stop(s), tactics as the race progresses, and calming or encouraging drivers as the need arises.
The crew chief thus oversees the work of all the members of the pit crew. To do that effectively, all great pit crew chiefs have one thing in common, which is that they know every job being done in the pit inside and out.
Think of it like an effective hotel GM who understands every process and procedure that goes on in the hotel, from sweeping management decisions down to exactly how the rooms and other parts of the premises are cleaned each day.
Therefore, enormous responsibility lies on the shoulders of the pit crew chief, as bad decisions either before or on race day can fall on them very heavily indeed. There are so many things that could go wrong at any time, it makes the job both stressful and difficult. Fortunately, the position is quite well compensated, as we’ll cover in the next section.
How Much Money Do NASCAR Crew Chiefs Make?
On any given race day, a crew chief could expect to earn in the region of $10,000, with an additional bonus of $2,500 or so if their team wins the day. When you factor in their share of other prize money and whatnot, the crew chief can make anywhere from $200,000 to $1 million a year depending on how well they’re doing in that role. Winning chiefs are like winning football coaches – they’re worth more than their weight in gold!
You’ll notice right away that while NASCAR pit crew chief salaries are not to be snubbed, pit crew chiefs still make nowhere near as much as drivers do. Critical as they are, the driver remains the star, and has that critical star power that attracts sponsors and endorsements.
Six- to seven-figure salaries are perhaps fitting for the person who is making the entire technical side of the NASCAR operation work for each team. The fact that any failure due to mechanical fault will ultimately come down on their heads certainly adds an element of pressure to the task.
What Factors Influence NASCAR Crew Chiefs Salaries?
Obviously no NAScAR team is going to give away a salary of a million dollars a year to just anyone. There is a long list of requirements that make an excellent crew Chief and we have highlighted the most important of these below:
- Dealing with Drivers: Although less obvious in Motor Racing in general, and NASCAR car in particular there are still Egos to deal with, tempers to sooth and confidence to build when dealing with athletes in any sport. A good crew chief knows how to communicate with their driver both in the high pressure environment of the race and during off track times as well.
- Knowing the Rules and how to adapt to them: NASCAR Rules are not made to be broken, but they are made to be pushed to their limits. A Good crew chief knows how to get the absolute limit out of the car and driver by going to the very limits of these rules. In a sport where hundreths of a second make the difference between winning and losing this skill is vital.
- Managing and Motivating his crew: It is not just the driver that needs a rocket up their jacksy, or a pat on the back from time to time. The Crew chief role is a man management position above all else and being able to motivate the rest of the crew as well as getting the best from them individually and as part of the team is another vital aspect of the crew chief role.
- Knowledge of Race tactics and decision making: In a NASCAR race there a little more to it that putting your foot to the floor and turning left for three hours. ( despite what detractors say). Crashes happen, cautions happen, other teams happen and a crew chief has to watch it all and make split second decisions during the course of the race. This instinct comes with experience and years of practice ,which brings us to our next point.
- No Substitute for Experience: You are unlikely to find a 25 year old fresh graduate siting in the Crew Chiefs chair, it takes time to develop the skills we have outlined above, and experience is probably the most important factor in the tool kit of an excellent NASCAR crew chief, some thing only gained from doing the hard work over years and years.
Who are the Best Crew Chiefs
Were there will be some partisanship when answering this the best crew chiefs are those who have great skills in achieving All the elements on the list above and more. Famous, and famous because they were the very top of their game include the following: We have split these into Current and Past Crew Chiefs.
Table 1: Three of the best Crew Chiefs in NASCAR
|Crew Chief||Teams / Teams||Drivers Worked with.||Notes|
|Harry Hyde||K&K Insurance team, Scott Family, Hendrick Motorsports|
Stavola bros racing,
|Tim Richmond, Carl Yarborough, Bobby Allison||A top Crew Cheif for over 20 years, His relationship with tim richmond was the idea behind the movie days of Thunder. Was famous for being able to set up cars to Suite individual tracks.|
|Kirk Shelmerdine||Kirk Shelmerdine racing, Ricard Childress Racing,||Dale Earnhardt||Although the youngest crew chief to win both a race and title he gave it up to try his hand and racing.|
|Ray Evernham||Evernham Motorsports, Hendrick motorsports||Alan Kulwicki, Jeff Gordon||Arguably the greatest Crew Chief in history, and has been voted it previously! Won 3 titles with Jeff Gordon.|
As we mentioned above one of the key aspects of becoming a good crew chief is experience, and there are plenty of crew chiefs in the current era who could match or even surpass the results of some of the greatest crew chiefs of all time. We have highlights just 3 below ( so don’t get mad)
Table 2: Contenders for Best NASCAR Crew Chiefs
|Crew Chief||Teams / Teams||Drivers Worked with.||Notes|
|Alan Gustafson||Hendrick Motorsports||Chase Elliott, Kyle Busch, Mark MArtin, Jeff Gordon||Won the title with Chase in 2021 and has been crew chief for some of NASCARs top drivers previously.|
|Paul Wolfe||Braun Racing, Penske Racing, CJM racing||Joey logano, Brad Keselowski’||has over 32 victories to his name, and Joey logano results are likely to improve on tha tin the coming seasons.|
|CHRIS GABEHART||Joe Gibbs Racing||Denny Hamlin||makign steady progress with drvier Denny Hamlin, and have 7 wins in 2020 and so far a win in 2022|
What kind of a crew is the chief overseeing in their work? NASCAR teams will put together crews as they see fit, some of which you will see on race day, and other people who might work more behind the scenes and are unique to each team and how they are managed. In most teams, however, you are likely to find the following roles, especially on race day:
- Spotter – A critical member of the team who keeps drivers informed of key happenings on the track. If there’s been an accident, there’s a problem ahead, or someone is creeping up, the spotter helps keep the driver fully informed.
- Jack-Man – As the name suggests, the jack-man raises the car up equally on all sides to allow the tire changers to do their work.
- Tire Changers – There are usually 4 tire changers in an active pit crew, one for each tire on the car, front and rear.
- Fueler – Adds fuel to the tank.
As we mentioned, each team may also put forward some additional utility people or technicians to do specific jobs, but in most pit crews during a NASCAR broadcast, these are the people you see at work getting the car ready to get back into the race. Now let’s get to the heart of the matter, looking at salaries.
How about other members of the pit crew. Below we’ve prepared a table of race day and typical winning bonuses for different roles mentioned above. It should be noted however that when factoring additional team income, the total earned in a year for many of these roles can easily reach 6 figures. The only exception to that is the tire changer role, which while still pleasing at around $80,000 a year, doesn’t quite make it to 6 figures.
|Role||Race Day Pay ($)||Bonus ($)|
The fueler seems to stand out from the rest of the team with added pay, perhaps due to the added danger of working with flammable materials and there being added pressure not to cause life-threatening spills. All pit crew members are trained relentlessly from their initial intake. Under the watchful eye of the pit crew chief, they train and work together to become an unstoppable force in the racing world.
A top tier NASCAR Crew chief can earn upwards, and likely more than a million dollars a year. Their experience, man management tactical and knowledge makes this a vitally important role and it takes years to develop the skills required to achieve success at the very top of NASCAR and it doesn’t come cheap.
However, once that car is sitting in victory land it seems cheap at double the price!