Fifteen years later, Hendrick built Hendrick Motorsports. The Charlotte-based facility is one of the largest, most sophisticated and successful racing operations in the world. The operation includes the UAW Delphi Team with Jerry Nadeau (no.25) as driver, the DuPont Team with Jeff Gordon (no.24) as driver, and the Kellogg Team with Terry Labonte (no.5) as driver. Hendrick Motorsports also fields two trucks, driven by Jack Sprague and Ricky Hendrick (son of Rick Hendrick), in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series. Combined, Rick's teams have won four consecutive Winston Cup Championships; 100 Winston Cup races, including three Daytona 500s; and the inaugural Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis.
From the outside, Hendrick Motorsports' 12 buildings (250,000 square feet) look like any other racing facility. However, appearance can be deceiving. Hendrick Motorsports has bragging rights to a very unique situation - they build nearly 100 percent of their cars in-house.
Building the Whole Car
"Most NASCAR teams buy the most basic chassis and put a body on it," says Scott Shriver, chief fabricator for Team 25. "Here at Hendrick, we build almost every part of the car completely in-house - including the chassis. We don't rely on various suppliers to purchase it. It's a very unique situation.
"Years ago, each team had to build their own cars," Shriver explains. "That's a tough deal in today's fast paced NASCAR world. We just don't have the time. Now, what bigger operations, like Hendrick, have done is create in-house chassis and body shops. Every team orders a style car from the in-house shop, and then they build it. That's the only way today's NASCAR big teams can successfully operate."
Building a race car has the potential to be a difficult and long process. To keep up with demands - three teams each having approximately 15 cars -Hendrick relies on two separate crews, each of which can build a chassis in three weeks.
In addition, each team has approximately six to seven full-time welding operators, and a few floaters capable of welding. "The floaters are not high-end welders, or full-time welders, but when simple welding is required to finish a job in the mechanic area - such as spot welding some small part - they're capable of doing it," Shriver notes.
Miller Power Sources - Part of the Team
Hendrick doesn't only rely on its organization and skill of its welders to build a chassis, but also on durable, easy-to-use equipment. Enter Miller Electric Mfg. Co. and the Millermatic® 185 and Millermatic Vintage MIG power sources.
Miller designed the Millermatic 185 MIG welding package especially for the racing industry. With 30 to 185 amps of output power, it has the capability to weld steel from 18 gauge to 3/8 in. and aluminum from 16 gauge to 3/8 in. in diameter. In addition, this welding unit provides excellent short-arc performance, as well as the versatility to weld everything from thin gauge materials like car door skins to thick materials like frame rails.
According to Shriver, Hendrick uses the Millermatic 185, "because it is a very good, all-around, easy-to-use machine that accommodates varying skill levels.
"I can take that machine and I can instantly weld from 0.030 inch up to 3/8 inch thick material," Shriver notes. "A very experienced welder can do that quickly, but an inexperienced welder can do it just as well with this machine."
On average, Hendrick welds 4130 and 1018 steel that is approximately 0.050 to .120 in. thick. "Exotic steel is not used because for the most part, these cars are throw-away cars," Shriver explains. "You can spend time and money to build one, and in one lap it could be absolutely junk because of a crash."
Another MIG power source used by Hendrick is the Millermatic Vintage. The Vintage offers simplicity and ease for both welders who have used Millermatic machines over the years and are familiar with how they operate, and for people who want to quickly set up the machine and start welding. The unit provides 200 amps of welding output at 60 percent duty cycle, and is designed to weld materials up to 1/2 in. thick in a single pass.
At Hendrick, the Vintage is mainly used for welding chassis together, welding sheet metal to steel and welding on the bodies. Some welders prefer the Vintage because it features a quick, hot start. Hot start helps the weld puddle form quickly, preventing gun-bucking, wire whiskers and spatter.
"It's a marvelous machine; it works absolutely perfect for what we are trying to do," Shriver says. "I've used almost every welding machine out there. I haven't seen anything better than the Vintage."
Pete Bingle, head fabricator on the 24 car, agrees, "The Vintage is a really simple machine that is easy to operate. What's more, I have three of them and they always work."
Bingle continues, "Everybody likes them; everybody understands them. I get the work done quickly and never have a problem with them. It seems everybody who works here wants to run a Miller machine. We have had other manufacturers' products in the past, and we were stuck using those machines. Then we switched to Miller and everybody was really happy."
In addition to MIG welding, Hendrick also TIG welds, relying on other power sources from Miller Electric.
Hendrick has a fleet of Miller TIG welding machines, including the: Syncrowave® 180 SD, Syncrowave 250 DX, Syncrowave 350 LX, and Dynasty™ 300 DX.
Hendrick primarily uses the TIG process on aluminum parts, such as aluminum brake ducts, spindle ducts, radiators and water tanks. Aluminum is also used for the seats to reduce weight.
Shriver uses the Dynasty for most of his welding - from exhaust pipes to fixing radiators.
"I choose the Dynasty because I can change the balance and the frequency of the AC on it, giving me the most controllable arc I've ever seen," he says.
The extended balance control allows the operator unlimited cleaning or penetration action. This, along with the adjustable frequency from 20 to 250 Hz, allows complete arc control. The Dynasty also requires only one type of tungsten (lanthenated) to operate on both steel and aluminum, which eliminates the need to stock multiple tungsten types and sizes. Shriver benefits from this feature because it allows the operator to fine tune the penetration depth and width ratios of the weld bead needed for welding thin material such as a radiator. [ENDPARA
"A popular phrase in racing is, 'Your last win may be your last win.'" Proving this phrase wrong requires a commitment to excellence not just on the track, but in Hendrick's chassis and body shop facilities as well. "We have had Miller Electric power sources since 1995," Shriver points out. "They have never failed us."