Ernsberger Jr, Richard. God, Pepsi, and Groovin' on the High Side: Tales from the NASCAR Circuit.
New York: M. Evans and Company, Inc. 2003. 418 pages.


This book focuses less on the glitz of the drivers and the circus that is NASCAR and more on the nuts and bolts -
sponsorship obligations, the money game in NASCAR, the day to day operations of teams, and the conflicts and
confusion between track owners, team owners and the NASCAR hierarchy as a whole.

Of the many NASCAR books I read, this revealed the most information about all the "behind the scenes" stuff in
NASCAR...the money, the deals, the rivalries, and the constant pressure to perform. Though a few things about
Ernsberger's book bothered me (such as the numerous spelling errors, transposed words and wrong verb usage),
I admired the fact that he researched and wrote this from virtually a non-fan standpoint. Ernsberger's previous work
was as an editor of Newsweek (an editor should know how to spell Hendrick, not Hendick, ya think?) and author of
Bragging Rights: A Season Inside the SEC. Still, he managed to score interviews with lots of key folks in the sport -
Junior Johnson, Rick Hendrick, Jeff Gordon and spent many days in the Andy Petree race shop. A well-researched,
thoughtfully-written book...for the most part.

So why the hell am I bringing this up here?

One of Ernsberger's inteviewees was Ken Howes, effectively the top manager at Hendrick Motorsports, and most of
his job is to deal with HMS's crew chiefs, who in turn are responsible for their own teams. What does Howes discuss
with the crew chiefs? According to Howes, "Everything...We have something of a democracy here--it's untidy and
it's chaotic, but nobody has come up with anything better yet." But, as Howes admits, the crew chiefs have the
final say for his car.

When asked to describe a crew chief, Howes likens them to a football coach - they need the technical skills and
the people skills. He said it takes longer for a car mechanic to make crew chief - ten to twelve years (a lot longer
than it used to). They have to work with more and more people, and be willing and able to delegate.

But hold on, here's my favourite part.

"Howes said that crew chiefs tend to have 'fairly large egos, which is understandable. You wouldn't do well in
racing without one. They're all fighting for the best of everything, and want it right now - the best people,
the best cars, the latest stuff, the best driver. They want to win. They're all fairly good politicians, and good
poker players probably. Racing doesn't make sense [as an occupation] if you're not competitive; why
would you do it?'"

I don't know about y'all, but reading the interview with Howes made me realize just how much The Chad kicks ass.
He's a youngin, he's rockin', and he didn't take nearly the normal amount of time to get to crew chief status. He
knows what he's doing, he's good to his people, and he sets the pace for the 48 every week.

So what if he's a little egomanical? (Hell, he's a Leo...aren't they all?) *grins and winks*

Just another crew chiefs need love too. ;-)