The drive from Saint Louis to the Portland International Speedway was the easy part as once we got to Portland the real work started. First, we got in line with the other race car transporters to have the truck and trailer washed and then found a dry-cleaner who could do thirty bags of laundry overnight. All of the fire suits and protective gear had to be dry cleaned as well as their uniforms. After a couple of people hanging up on Don Bentz one smart guy listened and realized how lucrative it would be for his business and not only would they clean everything before the races but they would do it again after the races. With that off of our hands, it was time to find the track and get in line.
I would never have guessed that there is a protocol on how to get into the garage area and set up the garages…. Yep goes either on points or times and we took our proper place in line. It took a bit to get all of the trucks into place and we were not allowed to start unloading trucks till everyone was parked and the brake set. As the race car transporters would go by us I always wondered what they looked like inside. Now I know that while they are going down the road it is impossible to see inside as they are packed like household moving trucks. I stood back and watched in awe as everything was pulled out of the trailers and like a well-oiled machine some worked on setting up the two tents, others worked on getting the toolboxes set up, some worked on getting a scale set up for each car, others took care of getting rugs in front of doors, crowd fences in place, and the other million and one little things that it takes to set up a working garage for three cars.
What I could not wait to see though was them unloading the cars, one trailer had two of the cars in it, one trailer had one car, and the engineering trailer had a backup car in it to be used for parts and wow did that car come in handy. Once everything was out of the trailers the cars were immediately being worked on by the mechanics. The race in Saint Louis was on a circle track and the race in Portland is a road course so a lot had to be changed. While the cars were being worked on the tire people were taking down the wheels to Firestone to get the tires mounted and this process never stopped throughout the weekend. There are never tires that will be used in a race left on the wheels between races or tracks, there are also only so many wheels they are allowed and they are all used through every practice, times trials, and the race, so taking and getting tires happens constantly.
Each evening when the team is using tents for garages the cars are locked away in the trailers and then brought back down in the morning. There was always a crowd watching as the cars came down from their section in the tops of the trailers. Speaking of crowds, it was interesting to sit back and watch when one of the cars were started at how quickly the crowd grew as they watched the mechanics tune the cars. I have a picture in the video of Sebastien Bourdais car being worked on after he hit the tires and did some front-end damage, the spectators have to be twenty people deep. Watching everyone jump in and repair the number 18 car so that Sebastian would be able to qualify in the next time trial was truly amazing. Once again it was safer to sit back and watch as each person took care of their part of the car, while others ran and got what was needed, and others continued to work on the other cars. The number 18 car did make it to the second set of time trials and I believe he qualified with the 4th best time. You would think that would be great but nope.
After time trials the number 18 car was pretty much stripped down to nothing and everything went through to make sure it would be ready for the race the next day. It was a very late night for the mechanics on this car. It all paid off as the next day after a mishap at the beginning of the race that took out two cars everything went smoothly and Sebastian ended up with a third-place finish.
The work though is not over as the cars will be readied to go the next and last race of the year in Sonoma, California. All of the tents, tool boxes, golf carts, ice chests, tables, chairs, rugs, and cars now have to go back in the trailers and driven to the next race where all of this happens again. This was one of the hardest weeks I have had in many years and all I can say is if we are asked to do this again before Don gets done speaking the answer will be a very loud “YES”. I hope you enjoy the video of some of the highlights of our week with the Dale Coyne Race Team.