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Running on full: feeding a NASCAR crew


Watching a NASCAR Race takes approximately three and a half hours. But before that race can happen, an entire team of people needs to make it to the race track. And keep in mind, racing teams aren’t small.

Not only is there the driver, but there are also team owners, managers, crew chiefs, engineers, the pit crew itself, and many others. In all, an average NASCAR team consists of between 50-60 people, all supporting their drivers as they race around the track towards victory.

This army of people creates a large presence in any town they arrive in. In fact, these teams have so many people travelling that most of the bigger race crews actually have two to three private jets to get them from track to track.

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It turns out it is actually cheaper to fly a team out on a team owned jet than it is to have to continuously charter airplanes. Not to mention the fact that they don’t have to go through security to get on their own plane.

These literal armies of people work extremely hard to make sure that their car is in the best condition that NASCAR standards allow, and work around the clock for days before the race making sure that everything is in place and running smoothly.

Just like a real army, this army of pit crews and engineers runs on its stomach. And a question which many race fans ask is: with all of the running around and intense work these teams do, how do they find time to eat? Do they really shell out $12 a meal at the race track?

Over the past few years a recent trend has been popping up around NASCAR pit areas – the food tent. Usually manned by a crew member turned chef, this position has become one of the most important on the team.

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Image from the blog “Devour Houston”

Before, NASCAR crews would either pay money for expensive catered meals or give their crew members an allowance to go get food from the concession stands. But you can only eat hotdogs and cold cut sandwiches so many times, and considering that the racing season lasts 36 weeks, cold cuts and hot dogs get old really quickly.

Additionally, pit crews have almost no time to eat, typically trying to grab a bite here or there while going through time trials. The crews need to be able to eat on the go, and they need something that is healthy, balanced and filling.

Enter the crew chef. Either already a crew member or taken on specifically for the role, the chef helps provide the meals that the crew will eat at the track. These chefs are typically given a budget of about $2,000 a week to go to local grocery stores or farmers markets to pick up as much food as they can to feed the crews.

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All of this grocery shopping amounts to about $72,000 a season. Not a terrible price for feeding and ensuring that over 60 people receive three healthy and tasty meals a day.

The meals themselves help keep the crew members on their toes with the vast selection. With meals like BBQ pork ribs, chicken fajitas and even grilled trout or tilapia, the food cooked by these trackside chefs is kept interesting and nutritious, enabling the crews to operate at peak performance levels.

Additionally, the crews have healthier options to snack on throughout the day, with fruit bowls and salads at the crew’s constant disposal. And of course, there are cookies and cupcakes from local bakeries keeping crew members’ sweet fixes in check.

Keeping a 60 member crew fed and happy is not an easy task and requires a lot of assistance. Therefore, many times the crew chef will seek out extra help. They do this by putting ads out in the local community for volunteers to help the chef in his all important job.

This means that the volunteers get a three day pit pass for free – something which usually costs about $200 (although you are definitely working for it).

So, if you want to see your favorite driver up close and personal, and actually do something to help your favorite NASCAR team, try and volunteer to cook with one of these chefs.