Every sport has rules and racing is no exception. There are rules to govern driver’s activities on the track and rules to govern the parts and equipment used on the cars. Recently Wade Wilson talked with Donnie Greer, Speedway 660′s chief tech inspector, about his role in racing.
Wade: Hey Donnie, how long have you been involved in the tech side of things at Speedway 660 and how did you first get into this area of racing?
Donnie: Well it all started for me back in 1996 when Chris and Steve purchased the track. I worked at a local auto dealer as a technician and Steve’s mother worked there as well. So I think she might have suggested they contact me, which they did, and here we are 17 years later.
Wade: So what is your background in terms of cars and all of this mechanical stuff?
Donnie: I am a licensed automotive technician and now am an instructor in that program at the Moncton campus of the New Brunswick Community College. I started working in the trade many years ago, because like a lot of young people, I really liked fast cars. I was initially drawn to the high performance cars that are involved in drag racing. It wasn’t until I hooked up with Speedway 660 that I really got interested in stock car racing.
Wade: Safety is obviously the most important component of your job. You really have to make sure every car in every division is built following all of the safety specs and has all of the safety equipment required.
Donnie Greer (right) inspects a Fredericton Jewelers 4 cylinder division
race car outside of Speedway 660′s tech shed. Our chief tech inspector
says its important that every car passes strict safety measures.
Donnie: We do indeed take safety very seriously Wade. The worst thing that can happen at a track, in my opinion, is to have someone (racer, fan or staff) seriously injured. We develop the rulebooks, for all of the divisions that race at Speedway 660, with very specific safety rules that must be followed. There has been a renewed emphasis on safety items, in the last few years, and we are constantly making sure we are up to date with industry standards.
Wade: Drivers and race teams from NASCAR right on down to local tracks, like Speedway 660, are known to bend or stretch the rules. Some things are written down in black and white, but there seems to be a lot of grey areas when it comes to racing rules.
Donnie: Yes, there are definitely grey areas when it comes to most rules that are written down. Our goal however is to write the rules with clarity so hopefully, most if not all, of those grey areas are addressed. It’s really important that the drivers and race teams clearly understand the rules and know what is expected. As you know, we have five divisions, from Bandolero to Pro Stock, so it is quite a challenge at times to make clear rules and then enforce them.
Wade: So what happens when race teams arrive at the track, before the races, when we see cars being pushed into and out of Speedway 660’s tech shed?
Donnie: When the teams go through the back gate they find their pit stalls, unload, and then as soon as possible they make their way to the tech building. We normally have a few items that we inspect every week such as weight and percentages and we will also look at other items that we have decided to check out on that particular week. If everything is up-to-par, the car is then given a tech sticker which allows the teams to practice when the racetrack opens. We try not to keep folks waiting in the tech line too long, but with so many divisions and right around a hundred race cars, there are times when it can be quite hectic. I must say the teams are very patient as we work the cars through inspection. Our goal is for everyone to clear tech before the drivers meetings.
Wade: And what happens after the features when the top three or four cars in each division are required to go through tech?
Donnie: This obviously is post-race inspection and it can be lengthy depending on what is being inspected. There are no set items that are inspected and it can change from week to week. A decision as to legality is fairly easy to make if a driver or race team blatantly breaks the rules and uses an illegal part or adjustment that gives them an unfair advantage over the other competitors. But those situations are rare. We might however encounter a situation where a car is real close to the measurements we allow and we might tell the team to make sure to address that before the next race. Then if they come back the next week and are still in that grey area, we would have to issue a penalty. The bottom line is we want to work with the race teams. We want to establish a level playing field for all of the cars when it comes to the technical side of things.
Wade: I won’t mention any names, but there have been a few times over the years when winners of major races have had their wins taken away in the tech shed. And sometimes on regular races points have been taken away after a team has been disqualified. Those must be tough decisions.
Donnie: I guess you could say that we impact, to some degree, the final results of any race. It has never been my intention, in doing this job, to be heavy handed. I respect the racers for the job they do and I would like to think that they respect the job that I am called upon to do. To be very clear Wade, I do not like to disqualify anyone. I want to assist teams in following the rules and interpreting them correctly. Having said that, there have been times when an infraction is found. As tough as it may be, it is a part of this sport as it is in many others. We deal with it and move on. You may have noticed the “Donnie’s Dungeon” sign over the shed. I think it was Mike McGraw years ago that wanted to have some fun, so the sign stuck.
Wade: I think you have earned the respect of Speedway 660 drivers and I have heard visiting drivers say you are very fair in your dealings with them.
Donnie: I do appreciate the reinforcement because I know that the respect goes both ways. They know that my job is not an easy one sometimes.
Wade: You don’t do all of this work alone. Who works with you and what roles do they play in our tech shed?
Donnie: I have a great group of guys who help keep me straight week to week. Ed Chapman is our statistician and scale operator and basically looks after any other items that need attending to. Ed is a retired teacher and he really does help keep me on track. Mike Rogers and Bob Coffey have been with me the last couple of years. Bob is a licensed mechanic and works closely with the Pro Stock ignition inventory program. Mike is a former Pro Stock crew chief and it is great to have all of his racing expertise and experience with us. They all do a great job and are much appreciated.
Wade: Your work in the Speedway 660 tech shed is demanding and keeps you very busy. Do you ever get to actually watch any racing?
Donnie: In the last few years I haven’t been able to see as much racing as I used to. But when I do get a chance to watch, I mainly look at the races from an information gathering point of view. I would like to actually sit and watch Speedway 660’s exciting brand of racing sometime. But I can hear you over the PA system and when you get wound-up I know I must be missing something pretty exciting.
Wade: Thanks for all of the great work you do to make racing safe and fair for our race teams.
Donnie: Thanks for the kind words Wade. I do enjoy it and the people involved so I guess it really doesn’t feel like a job. If I may, I would like to thank the former owners Chris Johnston as well as Steve, Tracy and Joyce Burns for their commitment to Speedway 660 and for allowing me a chance to get involved. I still can’t believe I’ve been here for almost 17 years. I also would like to wish the Roy and Foley families the best as new owners and thank them for their commitment to take Speedway 660 track to new and exciting places in the years to come. See you at the track!