Making The Race

JuneTT01When you see a NASCAR hauler going down the road, I’m sure that most drivers think that would be a pretty cool job to have. After attending the 500-mile race at Texas Motor Speedway on April 8th in Fort Worth, TX we went down by the garage to watch the haulers as they were loading up and leaving. I’ve always wanted to do a story about the hauler drivers, so when my editor Dan said, “Go ask him,” I did.

Approaching the hauler driver for the Hendrick Motorsports’ No. 88 Nationwide hauler and introducing myself, I had the pleasure of meeting Andy “Squiggles” Quillan. I told him that I write for 10-4 Magazine and that I’d like to do a story about what it involves driving a hauler for NASCAR. We chatted briefly while he was washing his mirrors and later became friends on Facebook. When I contacted him about the story, he told me he would check with his “people” first, but he was very JuneTT02interested in chatting with me.

Andy told me the number one question he is asked by other drivers is, “How do you get a job like that?” The simplest answer is… you have to know the right people, and you have to have a little luck! I think for this young man, at only 31 years old, it was all meant to be. In our brief conversation he told me that driving is only about 15% of what a hauler driver in NASCAR has to do. I was very curious to learn about the other 85%. Andy’s dad always says, “This is not a normal trucking company – it’s NASCAR!” And he is right.

I had originally planned to write a more general article about a bunch of the haulers, but Andy’s story, and how he came to drive the hauler for some of the most popular drivers in NASCAR (Dale Earnhardt Jr. and now Alex Bowman), was just too good not to make the main highlight. Andy’s love of trucks came even before he was born, because his mom Donna rode on the truck with his dad David a few times when she was pregnant with him. And what did his dad haul and still haul? Cars, of course!

JuneTT03Back in the day, Andy’s dad drove a lot of daycabs, so when Andy was little he would put a chair between the seats and belt him in. Growing up, he learned a lot about loading and strapping down cool cars, along with a few wrecks and repossessions, as well (training that would come in handy later hauling race cars). I’ve always wondered how they get a load of cars that look like they can’t or won’t run loaded on an open rack. Andy said some trailers have winches, and sometimes you have to use other cars to pull them up.

Attending the University of Northwestern Ohio, Andy eventually earned an Associate’s degree in Automotive/High Performance. While there, he also took a truck driving course to get his CDL. At the school, there was a race club that would pair trucking students with an ARCA Series race team. Being at the right place at the right time, Andy was paired with Brad Smith out of Dearborn, MI and worked for him for two years, pulling a 40’ enclosed gooseneck trailer. This experience exposed him to many people in the racing world.

JuneTT04In the winter of 2009, going into the 2010 season, a friend called and said Danny Gill, a NASCAR Camping World Truck Series competitor, needed a hauler driver and asked Andy if he’d like to drive for him. Of course, Andy said, “Sure!” The budgets with the smaller teams are smaller too, which means the driver does a lot more than just drive the hauler – Andy also got to work on the race trucks in the shop and change tires during the race. At the end of the 2010 season, Danny sold his number to another team, so that job ended.

During the 2010 off-season, Andy kept going back and forth trying to sell himself to other teams. Leavine Family Racing was building a team and a friend who was partnered with them helped sell Andy on coming to work there. Here, he drove the hauler and was the tire guy, which means he got to manage all the tires for the race. At this point, JuneTT05Andy made the decision to make the move to North Carolina, where most NASCAR teams are located. He had to make up his mind if he wanted to be a mechanic, a crew chief or drive a truck – he chose the freedom of the open road and the responsibilities of driving.

After working with Leavine Family Racing for two years, he went over to Inception Motorsports and became a co-driver for David Stremme’s team. The following year, Andy started working for Swan Racing, where he was the tire guy and co-driver for the team. During the All-Star break, Andy overheard that the No. 88 team (with driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. at the time) was looking for a second hauler driver. He got an interview with Hendrick Motorsports and ended up getting hired as the primary driver. And the rest, as they say, is history!

JuneTT06At the bigger race teams, everyone takes care of their area. A hauler driver’s “area” includes keeping the trailer clean and stocked with parts and pieces, along with loading/unloading the two race cars upstairs. Being very hands-on, Andy loads and straps down the cars himself to make sure they are good to ride, instead of having someone else do it. He also has to keep the refrigerator stocked with drinks and snacks for the crew (back in the day the truck driver was also the cook for the team, too, but now the teams have meals catered for the crew).

The trailers are max height and width and they use every inch of space in them. In the hallway of the hauler, you have tool boxes, a cooler, scales and a suspension cart. There is a lounge in the front of the trailer that is used by the crew chief, engineers and the driver to go over data from practice. These hauler trailers are as low to the ground as JuneTT07they can be, and are always top heavy, so when the wind blows, hang on! To ensure that every hauler looks top-notch at the track, there are two wash crews that follow the NASCAR circuit and wash them outside the track before they go in to get parked (the haulers must be clean at the race).

A favorite memory Andy has doing this job was when Dale Jr. rode with him in the hauler from the shop in North Carolina to the July 2015 race in Daytona Beach, FL. The night before, Dale was tweeting trucker slang, and then he was at the shop at 5:00 am, ready to go. He stayed awake and sat in the jump seat the entire ride. When they stopped at a rest area in Georgia, people recognized Dale, and later, at a fuel stop, a driver couldn’t believe it was really Dale in the truck, who took time to sign a few autographs and take a few pictures with fans.

JuneTT08NASCAR sends a parking order to the teams, which get parked according to their points. Whoever is leading in the points, their entire team is parked first, and then down the line. The first driver does roll call on the CB, making sure everybody is lined up right, before they all head into the garage area together. Most of the tracks have some sort of a hauler parade to get the trucks to the garage. Andy’s favorite is Las Vegas, where the haulers stage at the South Pointe Hotel and Casino and then parade down “The Strip” with all their lights on, before heading out to the track.

Is the off-season like a vacation? Nope! The drivers are busy during the off-season getting the truck and trailer DOT inspections completed and any remodeling or updating done. If the trailer needs to be re-wrapped or painted, this is the time they do it, as there is no time for this once the racing season begins. A lot of testing is done during the off-season, as well, both in the wind tunnel and out on the track, so cars need to be taken to tracks out west, where the weather is usually good. Racing may be a seasonal thing but driving a hauler for the team is a year-round gig!

JuneTT09During the racing season, these haulers are counted on every week to get the cars where they need to be, when they need to be there, as scheduled. It’s rare that one breaks down, but if they have a flat tire or another issue, they stop like we do to get it fixed, but if it’s going to take too long to be repaired, they have a back-up truck. Or, if they are too far away, they will get a rental. Hendrick Motorsports has a relationship with Freightliner, so I asked Andy what he likes most about the Cascadia he drives. He said, “It’s roomy, quiet, rides comfortably and has been dependable.”

The drivers do get some home time. After each race, the trucks all go back to North Carolina to return the “used” race cars and load up the next two for the next race (each race has two specific cars built for it). Depending on how far away that race is, they can sometimes get a couple of days at home. If a race is less than ten hours away, only the primary driver goes out. If it’s more than that, they are running a team, because there is no time for stopping!

JuneTT10This “dream job” comes with a lot of work and responsibilities, but it also has a lot of benefits for drivers like Andy, who have made the cut. Having hauled race cars for eight years, five of those years for Hendrick Motorsports pulling the No. 88 team, now driven by the next up-and-coming star Alex Bowman since Dale Jr. retired, Andy loves what he does. And although it is no cake-walk, Andy realizes that it is still the type of driving job most truckers dream about, and he feels blessed and very thankful to have such a cool driving gig. To all the hauler drivers out there, be safe. All us NASCAR fans look forward to seeing you out on the road and at the track, “making the race” every week.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Big thanks to Hendrick Motorsports for providing us with many of the pictures for this article, as well as Andy Quillan for the picture of he and Dale Jr. in the truck.

About Kim Grimm

Kim Grimm has had a license to drive a truck since April of 1978 and has driven millions and millions of miles ever since. Living in Wisconsin with her beloved cocker spaniels, Kim, who is a long-haul owner operator, has been a regular contributor to 10-4 Magazine since 2003.