The growth in electronic components has made parts assembly easier in the time that Oberhofer has worked at Kalitta. “It’s actually easier to work on this stuff now,” he says.
Tools of the trade
While the tools used in the assembly have changed over the years, the pit crew tools have not changed as much, since race car engines have not evolved the way regular car engines have. “Our stuff reminds me more of the cars in the sixties and seventies,” Oberhofer says of the pit crews’ tools. Kalitta Motorsports relies on Mac Tools for all of its standard tools.
Certain tools, such as line borers, mills, lathes, valve grinders, soldering guns and wire crimpers are used more in parts making than in maintenance.
Soldering guns and wire crimpers are used to make wire harnesses for electronic ignitions.
A valve grinder cuts engine valves to a precise length to get the right angle on the base of the engine. An intake valve has a 55-degree “seat.” A grinder makes the seat a precise 55-degree angle on the intake side.
A dynometer in a soundproof room allows a tech to use an analyzer to test the airflow of the teams’ blowers.
Kalitta Motorsports serves as a tool test laboratory for Mac Tools. Mac Tools recently developed a wrench used for tightening the inner head nuts of cylinder heads and other delicate tasks. Mac Savage, a clutch tech, told Mac Tools he wanted to see more weight on the handle in its precision torque wrenches, for a more solid grip.
The pit crews play an important role in the success of the race team. The engine must deliver as much horsepower and torque as possible through the clutch to the rear wheels without the wheels losing traction. The biggest challenge the pit crew faces is being able to work fast as a team during the races. Each of the two pit crews has one person in charge of making sure tools are accounted for.
“Every time that engine runs, it has to be torn apart,” explains Bob Lawson, Kalitta Motorsports business manager, who grew up in a racing family and has spent his life in the business.
The marketing effort has increased significantly over the years as parts and tool manufacturers have partnered with racing teams to promote their products. Drag racing gets great media exposure for partners such as Mac Tools.
Mac Tools has used other partnerships to leverage its drag racing ties, such as bringing rock stars like Kid Rock to events. “Anybody that’s a fan of his is going to associate him with us,” notes Lawson. “You make these people (fans) feel exclusive.” While marketing to the public, Mac Tools also invites shop owner customers to races. Professional customers recognize racing represents the most demanding use of their tools.