Drivers…Start Your Engines!

The four most famous words in racing, Drivers Start Your Engines! It’s time for the 2016 NASCAR Season, with the Official Sweeper of NASCAR GREEN, Elgin Sweeper Co.
Unlike any other sport, NASCAR opens up their season with their biggest race of the year, the Daytona 500. It’s held at the historic Daytona International Speedway, “The World Center of Racing”, where speeds reach up to 200MPH, with tight draft-style racing.
For a driver, winning the Daytona 500 will certainly cement their name in the history books with greats, such as Dale Earnhardt Sr. & Jr., Richard Petty, Mario Andretti, A.J. Foyt, Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon, Kevin Harvick and many more legends.
These race teams spend from the end of the 2015 season, to minutes prior to the command to start the engines at Daytona 500, preparing their cars, drivers, pit crews and pit strategies to squeeze out every last ounce of speed. It’s no different for the Elgin Track Sweeper. Our program is based exactly after that preparation to make sure we are putting the most productive and safest machine on the race track at all times.
Following the NASCAR Championship Race Weekend in November, held at Miami-Homestead Speedway, the Elgin Track Sweeper is shipped to Charlotte area to the dealer, Public Works Equipment & Supply Inc. Their trained and certified team does a complete top to bottom check for any issues, potential issues, updates, replacement of wear items, fluid changes and then test the machine for peak performance. They have an excellent relationship with Charlotte Motor Speedway that allows them to come test the NASCAR sweeper in real race track conditions.
The NASCAR Green Track Sweeper is then shipped to Environmental Products of Florida, the Authorized Elgin Dealer for Florida, Georgia and the Caribbean. Their team in Apopka that works with Daytona International Speedway consists of Nickolas Causey, EPOF East Coast Sales Manager, Buck Reed and Matt Taylor, both Certified Elgin Sweeper Technicians and approved NASCAR on-track operators. Their team does a fantastic job setting the machine up for Daytona International Speedway and operating the machine(s) during hot track conditions.
The Daytona 500 race is actually the last race over a three week period that starts with the road course racing, the Rolex 24 at Daytona. It’s a 24 hour race that the Track Elgin Sweeper is used continually throughout the race to clean the racing surface. Then comes Speedweeks, that includes racing, practice and qualifying for ARCA Series, Sprint Unlimited, Can-Am Duel, Campingworld Truck Series, Xfinity Series and Sprint Cup Series. A total of about 12 days of hot track conditions.
So what does a day include being an Elgin Track Sweeper Operator? At the 2016 Daytona 500 we actually had (2) two Purpose Built Elgin Track Sweepers, specifically Gen 5 & 6 machines. EPOF’s Buck & Matt report to the track approximately six hours before the race starts (green flag). They attend a track safety meeting before reporting to the machines. They then fuel, fill with water and then are instructed to finish off any areas of the track, pit road, etc. that may need attention. After these tasks are completed, mandatory attendance to Safety Meeting with NASCAR. Sometimes a driver starting the race may make a guest appearance to express their gratitude and the importance of the Track Service & Emergency Crews.
Following the NASCAR Safety Meeting, Buck & Matt will return to the Elgin Track Sweepers for prerace preparation. They will get dressed in their fire suits, helmets and put their NASCAR headsets on to wait for radio checks from the tower. NASCAR “Tower” is like air traffic control at an airport. They direct every piece of equipment on the track from ambulances to the Track Sweepers. The operator will hear during radio checks “Elgin Track Sweeper 1 radio check?”, each operator will respond “Loud and Clear Tower” and explain their position on the track. The tower normally gives them track clearance and instructs them to stage the sweepers on the track, in turn 4 and be prepared to make a pass down the front stretch after the invocation and National Anthem.
The race car drivers climb in their cars and shortly after the Grand Marshall, Actor Gerard Butler, for the 2016 Daytona 500 yells “DRIVERS START YOUR ENGINES!” and then you hear 32,000 horse power fired up. By this time the sweepers are staged on track at the end of the front stretch to see the full field of NASCAR Sprint Cup cars pulling off pit road. Each sweeper reports back to their assigned position, safely behind the safer wall.
Daytona is considered a super speedway and restrictor plates are used to limit the speeds that helps keep the cars from going airborne. Restrictor plate racing causes draft style racing with big packs of cars, up to three wide at times. It is very exciting but often causes the “big one”. The big one is a large wreck that causes a huge mess of debris and fluids. The Sweeper Operators stand by in their locations until hearing the tower say “Put it OUT, Put it OUT”, which means a yellow flag and there has been some kind of a wreck. The sweeper operators quickly put the sweeper in gear, safety lights flashing and a game plan is starting to run through their minds on how to respond when commanded by the tower to safely enter the track. We might be dispatched to sweep debris, vacuum water or use the 20,000 CFM blower to clean grass clippings off the racing surface.
Tower commands “Elgin 1, take off, race track direction, stay on the apron, you’ll have four cars coming around you to catch the pace car.” and then “Elgin, all of the debris is in the middle of the back stretch against the wall, near the second caution light, you’ll be clear to go high after the 20 car comes by you, go to work Elgin!”…….. Buck or Matt would respond “Copy that tower”.
The goal in this situation is to always be ready when the tower calls and respond safely. Complete the job as quickly and thorough as possible to make the surface safe for maximum tire grip for side-by-side racing. Knowing all of the drivers trust you and your abilities really puts in perspective of why the Elgin Track Sweeper and trained/approved operators are such a vital part of a race.
This year’s winner on the Daytona 500, is first time Daytona winner, Denny Hamlin with Joe Gibbs Racing, driving the FedEx Toyota.

For more information on Jeff Miles, follow him on Twitter at @TrackSweeper, on Facebook at www.facebook.com/TrackSweeper and Linkedin at www.linkedin.com/in/TrackSweeper

For more information on Key Equipment & Supply Co., follow them on Twitter at @KeyEquip, Facebook at www.facebook.com/keyequipment and YouTube at www.youtube.com/user/KeyEquipment

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