Want To See Inside A NASCAR Toolbox?
It’s Not All Racing

Obviously the vast majority of NASCAR attendees are there for the race. They probably have their favorite drivers and even the team shirts to match. Me though? Well, when I attended the Daytona 500 a few months ago I was just there to hunt speed. And what better place than Daytona?

There are many aspects to the pursuit of speed, and the one that interests me most is the mechanical side of racing. The engineering, hardware, fabrication and tools are what make me tick, so it wasn’t long before I realized that my Hot Pass granted me access to the garages where the cars were being prepped. In short order I found myself spending more time crawling around the pits and garages than in the stands spectating.

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With my media pass and camera in hand, I had access to the underworld of wrenching that doesn’t usually get a lot of attention. The mechanics do a lot more than simply keeping these stock cars running; they make sure they’re ultra-competitive, because a tenth or even a hundredth of a second can mean everything.

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Before the race, I witnessed the mechanics setting up the cars specifically for the high speeds of Daytona, which is considered a ‘Super Speedway’ for its relatively long 2.5-mile distance.

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The teams used very specific alignment settings to get the cars to handle exactly the way the driver wanted while hitting speeds upward of 200 miles per hour.

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I began to notice that the teams also used very specific toolboxes depending on the task. This rolling fab station definitely caught my eye.

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Nearby I found the engine department, with tons of engine crates and stands.

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In my last story I mentioned that many of the teams were changing gear ratios during practice and qualifying. Here’s a specially made stand to hold a third member.

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Each team had a custom built, massive toolbox at the front of their assigned garage. You have to remember that NASCAR is a travelling circus, so everything is portable and loads into a semi truck to travel on to the next race. I was dying to know what was inside these toolboxes, so I decided I’d just ask for a peek.

What’s Inside?
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I wandered around the garages during a quiet moment, and then approached the #19 team of Carl Edwards. I had no idea how they would react to my inquiry to look inside one of NASCAR’s top driver’s tool boxes. Were the contents top secret? I was about to find out.

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The top half of the box opened up to create a work space which was in plain sight. I still asked before I took any photos though and the team were more than hospitable, even if they were perplexed by my curiosity.

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LED work lights were mounted to the inside of the flip-up lid, and serve to light up the area where the wrenching goes on. Genius!

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The teams are very organized, after all this is professional motorsport. Everything had its place, and custom-fabbed holders were the norm. This part of the toolbox holds spray cans of cleaners, lubricants and paint.

Before long our conversation ramped up and drawers were flung open. Here we see a variety of measuring tools, ranging from digital angle finders to simple rolls of string. Most of this is used to adjust alignment settings on the car.

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Track width is another aspect of the car setup that sometimes needs adjusting, so having a variety of wheel spacers on hand is very helpful.

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Likewise, coil springs are shimmed using spacers that are anodized unique colors to make them easy to identify and swap out.

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Behind the coil shims were a bunch of spare shocks and springs, all marked with details like spring rate or valving. Notice one even says ‘Qual’ on it, short for qualifying I would assume. I love the PVC pipe holders featuring extensive speed holes.

Of course there were tons of hand tools. I thought perhaps they would only have one of each and it would have a special home in the drawer so they could tell if it was lost.

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But no, this is racing, and when they need a wrench they don’t have time to go looking for it.

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You’ll notice each and every tool says MAC on it. That’s because Stanley, which owns the MAC Tools brand, is a major sponsor of the Carl Edwards team.

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While there was plenty of redundancy in the main wrench drawer, I also found these smaller trays with color-coded tape carefully wrapped around each handle. These dedicated trays are for specific jobs so they can just grab what they need and get to work.

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This tray even had specific hardware for the job, stuck to an easy-to-grab magnetic strip.

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I found it interesting that each mechanic had his own little section of one drawer to store personal items such as gloves.

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I love the individual trays for each size ratchet, and you can bet those are high quality torque wrenches. It’s worth noting that all of the wrenches and sockets were SAE, with not a single metric tool in sight!

More Than Wrenches
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I would imagine it’s mostly hand tools that are used to prep the cars and make adjustments, but once the race begins and the cars get a little banged up, these mechanics can turn into bodymen. Besides the dead blow and ball peen hammers, I also see a tear drop mallet, body hammers, dollies, and a slap hammer in there – all tools of old-school metal shaping.

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Once the metal is hammered into shape, you’ll need tin snips to trim it and a rivet gun with which to attach the new part. I dig the MAC files in both large and small.

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Having every variety of vice-grips must also come in handy when positioning a panel for riveting.

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Plenty of pneumatic abrasive tools are at the mechanics’ disposal, including right angle die grinders, cut off wheels, dynafiles and the requisite safety glasses.

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Sharpies, paint pens, pencils, ink pens, and even Crayons – they’re all here.

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Stanley also owns DeWalt, hence the variety of yellow cordless tools in this drawer.

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With the power and longevity of lithium-ion batteries these days, a drawer full of cordless tools sure beats dragging out an air hose!

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In my last story I mentioned the extensive use of silicone to seal all the gaps on the car. Besides silicone, the teams also use two-part epoxy, Super Glue and anti-seize, just to name a few of the chemicals shown here.

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A few drawers down I found even more liquids and aerosols. Spray adhesive can be handy for holding a gasket in place, and I bet the PAM is to keep welding slag off of surrounding parts should they need to MIG weld something in a hurry.

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If all else fails, there’s always tape!

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Really though, the mechanics have every bit of hardware for the race car neatly sorted into bins, ready to be put into action.

Mobile Tool Kits
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Once the cars leave the garages, the tools need a way to come along for the ride too.

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This cart was interesting. Why do you suppose there are two jugs, one marked ‘Race Gear’ and one ‘Qualify Gear’? Are they simply keeping track of the oil, or perhaps a different weight is used for the shorter qualifying runs?

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I found this little gem at scrutineering the morning of the 500. A no frills, rolling box with only the tools the mechanics might need to make a quick adjustment to satisfy the rulebook. Check out the chopped handles on the Snap-on screwdrivers, obviously so they would fit inside.

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I didn’t get to ask about the lone ratchet attached to the outside. Perplexing, isn’t it?

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I’d like to thank the Carl Edwards #19 NASCAR team for showing me through each and every drawer of their massive toolbox.

I hope you’ve enjoyed looking under a stone that’s usually left unturned, exploring the tools inside a NASCAR toolbox.

Keith Charvonia
Instagram: speedhunterskeith
keith@speedhunters.com

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81 comments

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2

I need that.

I must have all of that in my garage.

3

Really nice article!

4

Genius.
Hat tip to Keith for a very uncommon, yet very entertaining and informative post I've ever seen in SH.
And the photos are quite an eye candy as well.
Would definitely look forward to another unorthodox peeks like this.

5

Yep, great article this one :)
I think that lone ratchet jacks the wheels up and down, so it can't move when you are wrenching?

6

Really cool article - thanks

7

I see they use SAE sizing for their fasteners...only in 'murrika.

8

GREAT read Keith, one of the better and more interesting articles on SH in recent memory. There's easily a few college educations worth of tools in those war chests!

9

Nice work Keith, I'm exactly the same as you - I went to Silverstone for Blancpain GT endurance series recently and barely watched the racing, spent most of the time lurking around the garages!

10

Love this. Nice job Keith.

11

this is awesome, I have always wanted to see what teams have in their boxes when I lurk around the garages. Now I am afraid I will never look at my box the same.

12

This is pure tool porn. Froth....

15

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16
speedhunters_dino

Loving this stuff Keith!

17
Dimitry Mochkin

So. Many. Tools. Hnnnnnnggggghhhhh

18

Larry Chen Thanks Larry!

19

speedhunters_dino Thanks Dino!

20

Turbology Appreciate it!

21

mykrrrr I believe you would be shamed out of the garage for using a 14mm wrench. :)

It really is an interesting thing to note though, even American cars have used metric fasteners for decades now.

22

James_Turbo Ah that very well could be!

23

gagahsasono Glad you enjoyed it! I would love to continue this series by visiting other forms of racing.

24

JonathanW It's extremely interesting to see how things work in a professional motorsport garage.

25

KeithCharvonia James_Turbo it looks like the ratchet and attached extension are too long to keep in the box so they pass through the entire box and stick out the other end.  There is a duplicate coming from the other end and passing the opposite way.

26

That moment that you realize just how weak your toolbox game is.

27

I bet they still can't find the god damn 10mm socket

28

Keith - Excellent post! I'm an SO guy myself, and it's awesome seeing other tool setups. Please continue doing these, this is great for seeing how things are done in the professional world. It's also great for stealing organizational ideas :)

29

Truly interesting article.

30

@Doug Puts us to shame!

31

Frieswiththat Seriously! That's when I stop working and clean until I find it.

32

KLO101489 Absolutely, I'll be fabbing up some wrench trays soon.

33
mikeyjmoynihan

I have the weirdest boner.

34

That was far more interesting than I was expecting!

35

Frieswiththat They'd never find a 10mm since there's nothing metric! ;)

36

Frieswiththat LOL +1

They lost the 3/8 socket

37

Way to think outside of the box with this article Keith! Sometimes it's great to step away from the main show and focus on a key element we all understand...the toolboxes. :)

38

awesome photos! now lets get an update on the land cruiser! ps- i just got a 100 myself. excited for all the stuff to come.

39

Now that Im finally settled, Im redoing my whole toolbox...Literally took everything out, am cleaning and reorganizing, replacing everything that needs it etc..everything has a place, I found that the kitchen storage areas of my big department stores have been the best source for trays/ bins what have you. I have my screw drivers/nut drivers, etc separated, as are all my ratchets and extensions. Ive had the same socket organizers as you shown for over a decade and as long as you dont abuse them, they stay nice. I also have all my wrenches separated in holders...theyre designed to hang on the wall, so I cut the handles off to make them more compact.

40

Funny old country America.. You have Nascar, American football, baseball.. American past times and so so huge there.. yet the rest of the world has no interest in it. So strange..

41

JordanLipman KeithCharvonia James_Turbo Yes, that's the reason.  Easy access.

42

Keith, all the secretive stuff is left on the haulers, as you found out.  A toolbox is just a toolbox, and is able to go to any race without needing changes that are specific to the track or the type of setup.  If you want to see suspension bits or aero parts, you aren't going to find them in the tools.  That's why the team was a little perplexed about your curiosity.

The long ratchets in the small toolbox are to adjust rounds on the front and rear springs (change height, cross weight, etc).  The long extension is needed to reach the end of the spring perch adjuster through the holes in the rear windshield.  It will always be a 1/2" drive wobble extension.

43

James_Turbo See the last photo in the article, with the guys at the rear of the car?  There's an orange circle around the hole on the rear windshield in that photo, below the armpit of the guy on the right.  That's where the ratchet goes.  There's two spring perch adjusters (one left, one right) and one trackbar adjuster accessible through the holes in the windshield, and a guide tube connects the adjuster with the windshield hole.  That's why the long wobble extension is needed.

44

mykrrrr When we need metric for test equipment, I bring my own.

45

D1RGE EXE Frieswiththat Close enough. 9/16 vs 14mm or 3/4 vs 19mm would have worked better. :)

46

@Fabrik8 mykrrrr What do you do for work?

47

Nice article, thanks for that. I'm adopting the horizontal can holder organizer, tired of looking for cans behind cans.

48

I'm pretty sure there some metric bolts on this car, after all that's a Toyota TRD motor.

49

KeithCharvonia R&D Engineer. ;-)

50

I shot at an event once (not Nascar) and assumed what you said was true and though I wasn't even that close I found out is wasn't, media vest and all. I've asked ever since haha.
Awesome post Keith glad to see you back.

51

DaveT There's a lot more stuff laying around during practice and qualifying, it's often covered up with moving blankets or whatever, depending on how much can be gleaned by looking at it.  Some teams are much more diligent about keeping things covered than others, but again whether it's covered or not is a good indication of how secret it actually is.

52

DaveT I'm just making generalizations, there are always exceptions about what is kept in the pit boxes, etc.

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54

The SAE wrenches and sockets bit made me laugh. Nothing screams time wasting to me like dealing with Imperial measurments

55

@Kenny Finding the right wrench doesn't take any more or less time with Imperial or metric.  It's just tools and fasteners, it's not rocket science.

56

@Fabrik8 No it's not rocket science, but that doesn't mean that it couldn't be simpler and easier. 
E.g. Imperial: 3/8 wrench is too small, the 5/16? No..wait that's smaller, the 7/16 is next then the 1/2...Or did I miss one?
Metric:  9 mil is too small, 10 mil? Nope. 11? Huh? 12 is too big.... Who the hell put imperial fastners on this piece of scrap!

57

I work in aviation and use imperial everyday, same as someone using metric all the time, you know the sizes straight away just by looking, you don't have to think what's the next size up or down, you just know. Gets confusing when I go home working on my cars when you go looking for a 1/2" instead of a 13!

58

Great write up!

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62
Deep Dishin It

All that u named is huge around the world

63

@Kenny @Kenny The reason for SAE is that high quality metric fasteners - aircraft quality and better, are very hard to source in the US, and much more expensive than SAE when you do get them.  If you are used to using fractional sizes, there is essentially no difference in ease of use.

64

Chri5 Duncan My bet is that all are SAE and made by ARP.

65

John Evans Chri5 Duncan Doubt it, the blocks and heads have metric threaded holes, they aren't going to make a bolt with metric threads and an SAE head. Besides I see extra rows of wrenches and sockets that don't look like duplicates.

66

Brilliant story Keith. Loving this!

67

butterballs +1 for Land Cruiser update!

68

John Evans Madmcs15  I am quite frankly shocked to learn that SAE fastners are still used by the aviation industry. If you were only going to fly domestically or to Liberia or Burma it would make sense but the rest of the world is metric. Every aircraft maintenance company in the world having to carry full sets of metric and imperial tools is a masterstroke for Snap-on/Mac/whatever tool company that is laughing all the way to the bank.
I can just imagine an American Airlines Boeing landing in Heathrow and being swarmed by a bunch of lads wielding crescent wrenches and vice grips.

69

Chri5 Duncan This isn't a production-based block and heads, it's a clean sheet build for NASCAR use. How do you know it's metric?  It could be, but I'm questioning your assumptions.  ARP makes metric studs too, BTW.  They're just a fastener company, and will make whatever you want, metric or otherwise.

Most of the time, there isn't much engine servicing done at the track; if something fails then a backup engine is installed instead.  The engines are generally kept as an assembled and QC'd package for best control over reliability, etc., by not touching it at the track.  There isn't much need for tools to pull a head, for example.

70

This is awesome.

71

KeithCharvonia the pam is used to spray on the inside the rims or inside the fenders etc.. so the rubber does not stick to those areas.

72

This is definitely one of those aspects I have always been curious of, but never expected to be party to so I kind of just accepted it. Thanks for having that curiousity to share with the rest of us.

73

cabodino Last time I saw someone using their laptop in their Eclipse they had to rip apart the block and replace the piston rings they fried.

74

@Kenny You don't need to think about it. It just comes naturally. How do you know 13 comes after 12? Do you have to think about it? No, because it's a language.

We don't think about it either.. we know 7/16 comes after 3/8 naturally.

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I really enjoyed that. Thanks for sharing. I remember organizing bolts in trays like that when I was working with a pit crew for our Dirt track car's. Cheers and thanks again.

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