There is little time for Chris Carrier to enjoy his return home.
The Bristol native will be one of the busiest men in the NASCAR garage this weekend. Working with Turner Scott Motorsports, the veteran crew chief will be on the pit box for newcomer Ben Kennedy in tonight’s UNOH 200 for the Camping World Truck Series. On Friday, he will be helping the Turner Scott Motorsports team in the Food City 250 for the Nationwide Series.
The 53-year-old, who has five wins as a crew chief in NASCAR’s three national series, calls working with the young drivers a little different than being in the pits with a veteran.
“You’re trying to find what they’re looking for, to feel comfortable and find confidence,” he said. “It is at times, hard going back and forth from a guy who has won races and knows exactly what he wants and can tell you before you get it out of your mouth, and going to a guy who’s waiting on you to say, ‘We’re going to do this and tell me what it does.’ But, I like being a guy who can teach somebody something where they can draw from my experience.”
One young driver whom Carrier meshed particularly well with was Nelson Piquet Jr., the son of three-time Formula One champion Nelson Piquet. The younger Piquet , who made 28 Formula One starts before starting a career in NASCAR, teamed with Carrier to win two Truck Series races.
Despite their vastly different backgrounds, Carrier said there was an instant chemistry.
“Any success between crew chief and driver, it boils down to how much trust goes back and forth,” he said. “It can be natural or it can happen. For us, it came natural. He saw pretty quick I was going to be honest with him and I was going to do things a common-sense way and not reinvent the wheel. He found confidence in that.
“It doesn’t matter young or old, from the country, from the city, from Brazil or from Tennessee, what type of racing background you have, the foundation is trust and if you can build that, you have a good chance for success.”
Carrier is most famous for his success with the Bristol-based Ed Whitaker Racing Team and driver Harry Gant. There was a respect for Gant, whom even in his 40’s, Carrier said was the toughest driver in the garage area.
“He was tough physically, the way he was raised and his lifestyle,” Carrier said. “He worked all his life, knew what a hard day’s work was. He had that physique and his physical conditioning, his strength came to him natural. He never ate a special diet, did a special workout, but he got a workout with what he did for a living.
“He ran 75-80 late model races a year for so many years and that kind of lifestyle toughens you up. He’s the only guy who could run a 500-mile race at Dover or 500 laps at Bristol, run up front all day long in July and August, and could run to the rental car after the race. Everybody else was trying to get their breath and he could run 500 more laps.”
Carrier was determined to make a living in NASCAR from the first time he attended a race at Bristol as a 10-year-old boy. He still remembers it was 1970 and that Charlie Glotzbach won the race and Richard Petty finished second.
He explained it as knowing deep down that was what he wanted to do.
That passion led to a career in motorsports where he worked with a number of drivers including Johnson City’s Brad Teague.
“I’ve worked with drivers from one end of the spectrum to the other as far as abilities, talent, attitudes, personalities and education,” he said. “There have been young guys who didn’t know beans from apple butter and I’ve been very fortunate to work with people like Harry Gant, Dale Earnhardt, Alan Kulwicki, Butch Lindley and Morgan Shepherd in his prime. I was fortunate the car owners like Ed Whitaker and Charlie Henderson had good cars which good drivers wanted to drive. That was an advantage for me to learn from some of the best in the business.”