Jan 6, 2018 - 8 months ago
By Supply Post
The racing team uses the two Kenworth T860s to transport these two trailers.
In the world of auto racing, precision, reliability, and durability are buzzwords for success. For Michael Shank Racing, those words encompass all aspects of his team – from the two Acura NSX GT3 cars the team races, to the Kenworth T680s used to transport the racecars to racetracks across the country and everywhere else in between.
“When it comes to racing, everything has to be the best,” said Mike Shank, who began his career as a racecar driver in 1989, before transitioning into team ownership in 1997. “We have the best car technology from Honda, and a crew that takes our cars to the next level. It’s what competitive auto racing is all about.”
Michael Shank Racing and Acura NSX
With the latest season under the team’s belt – it competes in the IMSA WeatherTech Sports Car Championship – the team is already preparing for next season, which kicks off January 26-29 at the Rolex 24 at Daytona. “We’re building off a successful season, where we had two wins and four podium appearances,” said Shank. “We’re excited for the 2018 season.”
The IMSA circuit consists of 12 timed races, held throughout the United States. Some are endurance races – like the 24 hours at Daytona where two drivers trade out time behind the wheel, and the 12-hour Florida marathon at the Mobile 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring. Shorter races also take place and can last from 1 hour 40 minutes to 2 hours and 40 minutes. More than 30 cars typically compete, representing 17 different brands. The GT3 sports cars are based on production car models.
According to Shank, the team will soon be headed to Sebring for testing and development, then to Charlotte for wind tunnel testing. The four cars (two in each transporter), along with parts and mobile shops, are transported by two Kenworth T680s equipped with 76-inch sleepers.
“When we decided to get new transporters, the key criteria were safety and reliability,” said Shank. “Plus, I wanted a truck with a sweptback aerodynamic look that would really mirror what our team was all about. In racing, perception is reality and everything is judged and looked at closely. We’re supported by sponsors and a car manufacturer, so we need to be well-organized, clean and very professional. What Kenworth and the T680 brings us reinforces all of that – the truck has the look and performance we need. Plus it’s a comfortable environment for our drivers, who often sleep in the rigs when they’re en route to the track.”
While Shank is the conductor in the orchestra of high performance racing, he once drove a Class 8 transporter when he was a rookie racecar driver. “Back then, we did a little of everything. I would drive the transporter on occasion,” he recalled. “The technology changes in trucks have been something, and what Kenworth has done with the T680 is just ridiculously good. I’ve ridden in the T680 and if you didn’t know it was a truck, you wouldn’t believe it. It’s such a smooth ride.”
Getting the keys to one of the T680s is Ralph Lohr, who has been with the team for 17 years. He helped in the spec’ing with Steve Black, a salesman with Kenworth of Columbus. The latest T680 features the PACCAR MX-13 engine rated at 500 horsepower and a 13-speed transmission. The trucks feature a wheelbase of 236-inches – enough space to allow for a generator, fuel tank and air compressor to be mounted ahead of the kingpin. The trucks run 79,500 pounds fully loaded. When Lohr is not piloting the truck, he’s one of the crew in the pits – in charge of refueling.
Lohr began his career as a mechanic in Columbus, Ohio. Because he worked on diesel engines, he got his CDL so he could test drive trucks. He also happened to know Mike. “My career in racing began when Mike had an emergency, and needed a driver to take a car to a track,” recalled Lohr. “So I helped him out. The rest was history. He asked me to stay on and I’ve been working with him ever since – driving one of the trucks and working with the crew.”
According to Lohr, the trucks don’t accumulate a lot of miles – about 30,000 a year – but they are counted on to meet strict schedules. “Everything is scheduled like clockwork,” he said. “We’ll typically arrive at a track and stage the trucks near the entrance on a Tuesday night, if testing begins on Thursday. On Wednesday morning, the gates open and we’ll go to our designated spot in the paddock. By 1 p.m. we’re unloaded, have the garage set up, and the pit lane ready to go. Then, after the race, we’ll pack up and roll out to our next destination.”
Lohr said the road is easy when piloting the Kenworth T680. “The T680 really gives you a great feel for the road and the dash layout is excellent – you can see all the gauges at a glance. We also went with the VIT (premium interior) package. It’s really top of the line and the sleeper is comfortable with plenty of storage. I’ll sleep in the truck whenever we’re on the road. And, I like the rotating table for paperwork and for quick meals.”
The truck has been noticed by other race teams. “I’ve had other drivers from competing teams come over to take a look,” he said. “They like it. I think we have the sharpest transporter out there. The trucks get noticed – and in racing, getting noticed is what it’s all about.”