On the fast track

by Sonia Straface

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — To drive for NASCAR, you have to be fast and heavy on the throttle. You most likely have to be a thrill-seeker or an adrenaline junkie, too.

Tony Fripp

And your worries about fuel economy are likely out the window once the flag waves.

Doesn’t sound like you? Don’t worry. Your dreams of driving for the stock car racing series aren’t over just yet. You can still drive for NASCAR, just in a different capacity.

NASCAR truck drivers are the behind-the-scenes winners who travel from track to track hauling everything needed for the big race, like lights, TV cameras, and yes, even the cars.

The NASCAR season, which runs from February to November, is comprised of 36 races at racetracks all over the U.S. To date, the NASCAR truck driving team has around 40 drivers that work all week long to prepare for the Sunday race days.

One such driver is 39-year-old Tony Fripp. Fripp has been driving for NASCAR since 2006 after being an over-the-road driver for a handful of years with US Xpress.

“I worked up to their Walmart dedicated fleet for five or so years,” he said. “I was pulling Walmart freight. And I was at a Walmart in North Carolina delivering and I met a guy while I was there and he asked me if I was interested in driving for NASCAR. And that’s how I started.”

Like any new job offer, he was apprehensive. “I was comfortable where I was. And I really didn’t know anything about the sport,” he said.

But after some gentle pushes (from his mother) Fripp pulled the trigger and joined the NASCAR truck driving team.

“And it’s been the best decision I’ve ever made,” he said.

Fripp hauls TV and broadcasting gear for NASCAR production.

“My truck never goes home, but I do,” he explained. “Once we get loaded from one racetrack, it’s on to another. We are always the first ones to get there, and the last to leave.”

Fripp’s job includes not only driving the truck from racetrack to racetrack, he helps with the unloading of the TV equipment including fibers and cameras. He also helps unload the NASCAR technology trailer and set everything up.

“Mondays and Tuesdays are set-up days and then we start the process of tearing down on Sunday after the race and it’s off to the next track,” he said. “This job is not a typical freight hauler job where you drive up to a dock. Here, you have to put in some manpower. And this job isn’t for everyone.”

Despite this, Fripp says he loves his job and couldn’t imagine doing anything else.

“The best part of my job is I’m a people person,” he said. “I like seeing the fans and talking to them. And seeing their excitement and knowing that I had a part in that is the best part. I wasn’t a fan of NASCAR before this job. I didn’t understand racing before. But once I got into it and they started teaching me about the points, and how you play with part of the car, and learning the logistics, it got interesting to me and now I love racing. I watch it when I’m off.”

It also helps that he drives what he calls “the best truck in the world” – the new Mack Anthem.

“My favorite feature would be the overall set-up,” he said. “All the gauges are perfectly located. It’s so focused. I love that. Coming off of an 18-speed transmission, the mDrive is great. Especially when you’re stuck in the race traffic after – you don’t want to be shifting gears in traffic. It’s the smoothest truck I’ve ever driven. It has lots of storage too. I’m always looking for things I’ve stored away.”

Jeff ‘Cowboy’ Icenhour is also a driver for the NASCAR team. He is a transport driver for Richard Petty Motorsports, a racing team that competes in the NASCAR series.

Icenhour is responsible for hauling car number 43 to each and every race.

“That’s my responsibility each week,” he said. “I have to make sure that everything we need for the race is on my truck. I always make sure the straps are tight. And make sure the car isn’t moving around. The last thing I want is to get to the track and find out it’s gotten loose in the back. It’s also very important that I make sure I follow the rules and obey traffic to get to each race safe.”

Icenhour has been a professional truck driver for 32 years. He said trucking is in his blood, as both his grandfather and father drove trucks.

He’s been driving for various NASCAR teams for 16 years, and just started with Richard Petty this February.

Icenhour said he loves driving from track to track, but the best part of his job is that he gets to do something different every week.

“I like being on the track, and I like that it’s more than sitting in a truck all day,” he said. “With this job, there’s something new every week. Plus, it’s a good crew here that I like to work with. Everyone pulls more than their own weight. There’s 43 guys that get to do what I do, and I’m very fortunate and blessed to be one of them.”

And of course, he’s a NASCAR fanatic.

“You just about have to be for this job.”

Have your say

We won't publish or share your data