From The Frontline To The Finish Line: What I Learned From One Performance Team


When I think NASCAR, I think about Dale Earnhardt and the No. 3 car. I imagine fast cars grouped together with speed and adrenaline racing around a noisy track.

Recently, I had the opportunity to visit the Richard Childress Racing (RCR) campus in North Carolina, the home of the No. 3 car once driven by Dale Earnhardt. I went on this trip with my company, Afterburner, where our team was the keynote speaker at their 2018 organization-wide kickoff luncheon.

I have never (yet!) attended a NASCAR race or even seen a race car up close. I was not sure what to expect walking into the RCR facility for the first time the morning of Afterburner’s presentation. Now that I have peeked behind the curtain, and inside the trailers, I want to share with you my insider experience.

As we arrived, the parking lots were full but stepping inside the building, everything was quiet and still. Now, I didn’t think they would have the race cars flying down the halls, but this calmness was already different from the loud, fast picture I had of NASCAR painted in my mind.

I was with Afterburner team members Hoop and Elroy, who would take the stage later that day during lunch, and our RCR host who coordinated our arrival. I walked in first through the side door of the main building and was met with more doors and halls. As I began to walk in the second door, around the corner walks a man on his way to a different part of the facility. He saw us and stopped to talk welcome us. The smile never left his face. We shared our excitement to be there and he told us he was looking forward to our presentation to come later that day. We talk with him for a few minutes then go our separate directions to get ready for the day.

The first stop we made was the auditorium. It was set up with banquet-style tables where the 500 RCR team members would later fill the seats during lunch. We ran through our presentation sound check and assured the room was prepped for the keynote later that day.

Now that we were all set for the keynote, for the rest of the morning, the Facilities Manager showed us around their garages and facility. What an incredible experience!

We walked through the long halls until we came through a door opening up into the garage floor. I never imagined the garage could be this big. The floors, walls, and ceiling were all completely white and shining with all the lights – it seemed like it went on forever! Every person we talked to taught us something new about what was happening to the cars at that unique point in production. We learned about the equipment and tools they were using to create these powerful race cars.

There were a few things that stood out to me about this organization.

Richard Childress Racing is one team made up of many different teams. At Afterburner, we often talk about how we are One Team and how everyone from Marketing to Operations, Consultants executing in the field to the team in HQ plays a critical role in achieving shared success. I saw this same mentality from RCR the second I walked into their facility and it shows through everything they do on all levels of the organization. Each person we met touring the facility greeted us with such passion around what they were working on. They all took the time to explain what they were working on and how it fits into the big picture of the RCR mission.

When I met the RCR team I was expecting to meet a performance team. What I really met was a team that understands performance. RCR is not just a performance team, but a team that understands performance. As the different RCR team members working in different functional areas shared were telling us about their specific job, it always came back to RCR’s mission and the upcoming Daytona 500 race. Every person knew how their specific role fit into RCR’s mission and what they needed to do to drive the RCR team towards success.

Every aspect of my time at RCR showed me over and over that they were a team that is a family.
From something as simple as the banquet-style room set up for the luncheon to their daily work that we caught a glimpse of while touring the facility and seeing how the cars were built from the ground up. The manner in which they talked about their team members and shared their robust history while giving us a private museum tour where their rich culture and history lives on. Being on the RCR team mean you were part of the family.

My experience at RCR gave me a peek behind the curtain of NASCAR and what goes into getting teams ready for race day. From the first man I met smiling in the hallway when we arrived, to our final tour of the museum, I saw the passion of the RCR team grow and showed me the many ways this performance team understood performance. My initial meeting with the man in the hallway was unplanned but he set the tone for the rest of my experience.

The man we had met in the hallway was Richard Childress, RCR’s namesake owner and CEO. The passion he started RCR with is the same passion we were met with walking into the building that morning, it was the passion he spoke with to his team, and the passion that every member of the RCR family and team carry with them from the frontline to the finish line.

UPDATE: Congratulations Austin Dillon on winning the Daytona 500!! Read more about Austin Dillon’s Daytona 500 victory in the No. 3 car here.

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