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TOWING & RECOVERY The Independent Voice of the Towing Industry February 2013 FOOTN TES ® W R X NE OU R Y O 6 FO LB O e Page TO Se Keeping Industry Pros on Their Tows www.trfootnotes.com Bigger! It’s Not Classified Anymore The Secret Is Out!! Now 25% Glenn Baumann has been hauling racing cars for mare than a quarter century Bigger & Better! See Page 21 > All Classified Ads 25% Larger > All Classified Ads In Full Color* > Photoclassifieds In Print & Online** Our Classified Ads Are All New In Tow Truck Trader *at no added cost **for one low rate SPOTLIGHT In This Issue: In The Towing Parts & Accessories For March: Road America purchased this 2005 Ford wrecker that had been used at a Southern dirt track. It includes a new Whelen light bar and a 4700-pound Ramsey winch. The extended boom permits complete lifts of the racing cars. Sales & Promotion Advertise Now! Call David Abraham 877-219-7734, Ext 1 Volume 23, Number 10 x $3.95 ©2013 Causey Enterprises, LLC. All Rights Reserved. The Speed Doctor BY JOHN GUNNELL PRST STD U.S. POSTAGE PAID PEORIA, IL PERMIT NO. 315 Revved and ready for fast recoveries at the track RA Safety Director Carson Wilkinson must monitor various teams that do clean-up, medical response, firefighting, and towing. Glenn Baumann is his point man for recovery work. Baumann has been in towing for 32 years and has worked for 26 years at RA. He opened an auto repair shop in the early 1980s and in 1983 bought his first wrecker, an old Chevrolet one-ton single with dual wheels and two-wheel-drive. In the spring of 1986 he bought a brand-new Chevrolet one-ton wrecker with four-wheel-drive. That June he got a call and was asked See THE SPEED DOCTOR, page 3 Towing & Recovery Footnotes P .O. Box 64397 Virginia Beach, VA 23467 ® Glenn Baumann is in charge of tow-ing operations at the Road America track in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin. Road America (RA) is an irregularly-shaped four-mile road course that hosts every-thing from club events with cars that are basically street vehicles to NAS-CAR and open-wheel racing featuring professionally-built racing cars that go up to 200 mph. The course has high-speed straight-aways, curves, wicked corners, a tricky section called The Carousel, and a speedy section known as the Hurry Downs. With up to 140 “hot” days per year,
The Speed Doctor
Revved and ready for fast recoveries at the track
Glenn Baumann is in charge of towing operations at the Road America track in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin. Road America (RA) is an irregularly-shaped four-mile road course that hosts everything from club events with cars that are basically street vehicles to NASCAR and open-wheel racing featuring professionally-built racing cars that go up to 200 mph.
The course has high-speed straightaways, curves, wicked corners, a tricky section called The Carousel, and a speedy section known as the Hurry Downs. With up to 140 “hot” days per year, RA Safety Director Carson Wilkinson must monitor various teams that do clean-up, medical response, firefighting, and towing. Glenn Baumann is his point man for recovery work.
Baumann has been in towing for 32 years and has worked for 26 years at RA. He opened an auto repair shop in the early 1980s and in 1983 bought his first wrecker, an old Chevrolet oneton single with dual wheels and two-wheel- drive. In the spring of 1986 he bought a brand-new Chevrolet oneton wrecker with four-wheel-drive. That June he got a call and was asked if he wanted to take a three-day vacation and get paid for it. “I almost hung up on the guy,” he recalled.
That call was from a man who had the contract for towing at RA at the time. He knew that Baumann had just bought the new, twin-line hydraulic wrecker and wanted him to come work at the track. Baumann wound up putting a boom extension on the wrecker and working on his first race weekend. On Sunday night, when the contractor came to pay him, he said, “I’ll see you in a couple of weeks.”
That’s how Baumann’s race-car towing career started. It was just five, six, maybe seven weekends a year then, but when he sold his towing business a few years ago, he started driving for a different tower who had the RA contract. Then, a few years later, the track bought two trucks and Baumann became the in-house operator.
The Road America trucks include a red 2005 Ford F450 and a 1997 Nissan UD. The Ford has a Recovery Solutions wrecker; the UD carries a Jerr- Dan 19WSRB rollback deck. The track bought the trucks as used vehicles.
Wilkinson and Baumann brought the Ford back from Kentucky. It was originally set up for a dirt track, but RA made some modifications to it, such as a longer boom. The Ford’s four-wheel-drive “works nice when we have to recover something out of the pea gravel,” Baumann explained. “Four-wheel-drives will back in and back out if you’re careful. Two-wheel-drives get stuck, then we have to pull them out.”
On weekend with smaller venues, only one or two of these tow trucks are used, but at a bigger event, like a NASCAR weekend, there will be six to eight trucks on call. Carson Wilkinson hires the extras from other towers, most of them local towers who have decent equipment.
When the wrecker goes out on the track, the racing cars are usually picked up with a complete lift. That way, Baumann and his crew can keep the car parallel behind them and get it off the track quickly. They use many different towing hooks. “The stuff we do on a racing car, you just don’t do on a street car,” Baumann pointed out. “Here we have roll bars and things like that to hook to. If we do any street car lifting at club events, we use the rollback. Then it’s pretty similar to working on a highway. But the racing car stuff done with the wrecker is sort of unique compared to the highway stuff.”
Race-track towing can have its exciting moments. “Once I was going through Turn 14, backing up the wrecker, and the truck started side-sliding a little,” Baumann said. “I slowed down and an Indy car passed me like I was standing still. I mean, it just blows your mind how they can handle the corners.”
The Hot Tow
A “hot tow’ is when a truck goes out under flag slow-down conditions, but the cars are still moving. “In some venues — such as an Indy car race where the cars go 200 mph — the racing drivers think of 150 mph as slow,” said Baumann, “but it doesn’t seem slow to us!”
The track safety crew handles flat towing of racing cars with a tow strap, but if there’s an accident, the wrecker has to go onto the track and the traffic is either slowed down and bunched up with the pace car or black-flagged to a stop.
Hot towing doesn’t happen a lot, but when it does it can be exciting. Once Baumann had a helper in the back of the wrecker stabilizing a damaged racing car. He had a rope on it to keep it from swinging sideways. As they drove through the backstretch at about 40 mph, the Indy cars came flying by. Baumann’s sidekick thought one car was coming right at the back of the wrecker and jumped up on the deck of the truck. The racing driver got right up to the corner and cranked the steering wheel, darting the car around the wrecker. “The next thing I knew he was in front of me,” said Baumann. “We couldn’t even see what color the car was.”
Baumann said the drivers are very good and he believes that it’s a lot safer doing recovery work at a racetrack than on a highway. He pointed out that everyone is going in one direction instead of traffic going both ways. In addition, everyone is a trained driver.
“On the highway you have untrained idiots,” he said, “so it’s just much more dangerous towing on the highway.”
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