Author: Dave Anderson, Product Manager, Miller Electric Mfg. Co.
NASCAR Truck Series Team Races the Versatile Millermatic 185 Around the Track
When NASCAR Craftsman Truck Driver Jack Sprague speeds around the race track, the last thing on his mind is the quality of the welds holding his winning race truck together. But, as he races past the checkered flag, he knows he has the support of one of the most successful racing operations in the world.
Jack Sprague, driver of the #24 Quaker State/Slick 50 Chevrolet, has won several races in 1996, including the 1996 DeVilbiss Superfinish 200, Sears Auto Center 200, and Desert Star Classic. After Sprague joined Hendrick Motorsports in 1995, he finished the season with five top 10 finishes, a pole position and a fifth overall finish in the 1995 Super Truck point standings.
In addition to the NASCAR Craftsman Truck team, Hendrick Motorsports fields three NASCAR Winston Cup teams. Combined, Hendrick Motorsports teams have won over 60 major races. Included in these victories are two Daytona 500s and the inaugural Brickyard 500.
The team is owned by Rick Hendrick, president and CEO of Hendrick Automotive Group, one of the world’s largest automotive dealership operations. A life-long racing fan, Rick Hendrick’s enthusiasm for racing is evident in the caliber of crew and equipment, which includes Miller Electric welding power sources, found on the Hendrick Motorsports complex.
Managing a Truck Team
One of the reasons why Hendrick Motorsports decided to participate in the NASCAR truck team was its lower cost. However, as truck racing has become more popular, it has also become more expensive. It now costs an average of $50,000 to race a truck for one weekend.
“One way we keep costs down is by purchasing the most reliable, cost-effective equipment,” says Dennis Connor, Truck Series crew chief. “Through careful planning we’re able to make wise purchasing decisions.”
One of those decisions was to purchase Miller Electric’s Millermatic 185. Miller designed this MIG welding package especially for the racing industry. With 30 to 185 amps of output power, it has the capability to weld stainless steel and aluminum. In addition, this welder provides excellent arc performance, as well as the versatility to weld everything from thin gauge materials like car door skins to 3/8 in. thick materials like fender aprons.
Rebuilding the Chassis
Hendrick’s Truck Shop was first introduced to the Millermatic 185 when it was asked to test this welding power source for a year. A loyal Miller user, Butch Lamoreaux, chassis engineering fabricator, was happy to accommodate.
“Whenever I need a new welder, I go straight to my Miller distributor, David Absher of Holox,” he says. “It was the best thing we could have done. Right away we knew the Millermatic 185 was the right choice for our applications.
“The fact that I can go from welding sheet metal to bumpers with easy adjustments to the parameters is a great feature when refabricating a race truck,” Lamoreaux continues. “I go from welding thick to thin so quickly, I don’t have to spend a lot of time on adjustments. I set the heat range on the highest level and wire speed at mid-level, and it will weld 1/8 in. with no problem and with one easy adjustment go right back to sheet metal.”
These time-saving features certainly help when Lamoreaux and his crew work with very tight deadlines. In fact, occasionally time is so tight, fabricators work through the night to get a truck ready for a race. In addition, the welding operators at Hendrick Motorsports are able to use a single wire.
“I consistently use .030 wire,” says Lamoreaux. “It works on sheet metal, bumpers, everything.” This versatility saves the Truck Shop time and money.
Lamoreaux offers some examples of situations when the Millermatic 185 had to come through for the truck team.
“In Flemington, the truck was wrecked in practice. However, with the help of the Millermatic 185, we fixed it and ran it in the race,” he says. Just because time is short, quality cannot be compromised.
“The Millermatic 185 provides perfectly clean, strong welds with a single pass,” says Lamoreaux. “And, we used the machine every day during the 1996 racing season without a problem.”
Starting from Scratch
Although Hendrick Motorsports builds its race cars and trucks from the ground up, it must follow NASCAR regulations. NASCAR regulates the types of metals which can be used in NASCAR race cars and trucks. For example, the basic cage has to be .095 tubing. In fact, the NASCAR circuit sonic checks the tubing in the vehicles to make sure that the proper thickness is being used.
To ensure component quality, Hendrick Motorsports fabricates its own components used in its race cars and trucks. For example, the upper and lower control arms, trailing arms, rear end housing assembly, chassis, front, snout and rear clip are all fabricated at Hendrick Motorsports.
In fact, this racing organization includes a research and development department in addition to the traditional chassis shop and engine shop.
To meet the welding needs of all its shops, Hendrick Motorsports relies on 65 Miller welders. In addition to the Millermatic 185, Hendrick Motorsports also owns Syncrowave 250 and Syncrowave 351 AC/DC TIG welders, used for TIG welding brackets and chassis components in the shop or to repair the aluminum air cleaners or steel exhaust systems at the track.
Hendrick Motorsports also relies on its Millermatic 130 MIG welders and CP series of MIG welders. Of all the welders available the Miller CP series of MIG welders stands out for high production work. Hendrick Motorsports runs its CP series of welders at 100 percent duty cycle.
“The CP series is the best for high duty cycle,” says Lamoreaux. In addition, this piece of equipment is known for its premium MIG arc and tapped slope. These features provide precise arc and puddle control, giving us good bead aesthetics.
At the Races
Racing teams bring welding equipment wherever they go. When the Hendrick team is hundreds of miles from its Charlotte-based Truck Shop, equipment reliability is critical.
“If you only have five or ten minutes to make a repair during a race, you have to know that your welding power source is going to work,” says Connor. “Every second counts.”
Connor depends on the versatility and high-quality welds provided by Miller equipment. Each Hendrick racing team brings a Syncrowave 250 TIG welder and Millermatic 130 MIG welder to the track for on-the-spot repairs.
“Just about everybody at the races has Miller equipment,” says Connor. “The versatility of each power source make them the perfect choice for the racing market.”
Information courtesy of Miller Electric