This season, we’re taking you in the pit for an exclusive look at the OneMain Racing team. To get things fired up, let’s meet the captain of Elliott’s team, crew chief Kevin Meendering.
From the short track to the pit box
Kevin spent most of his youth at local short tracks. “I grew up around racing and working on cars,” he said. “My dad and uncle worked on race cars and I spent a lot of time at the shop and track with them. After I moved to North Carolina, my older brother started racing and I helped him until I turned 16 and was able to start racing myself.”
During his senior year in high school, Kevin took an internship in the chassis shop at Hendrick Motorsports. When he started pursuing a mechanical engineering degree from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, his internship turned into a part-time job. After graduation, Kevin accepted a full-time position at Hendrick and spent the next 14 years with the company. “My engineering degree has definitely boosted my career,” Kevin explained. “It’s helped me understand the cars and the tools better.”
The Dynamic Duo
It’s important for any crew chief to build a good relationship with their driver. When Kevin signed with Elliott’s team, he was a rookie crew chief joining a veteran driver. Kevin credits a lot of their success to clear communication and mutual respect:
“Elliott’s great to work with and has a ton of experience. When he talks about what needs to be done to the car, he describes it in a way that’s easy to understand. He lets me know what he wants, and it helps me do my job. The more experience we build together, the faster we’re able to get up to speed.”
Gearing up for a winning season
With Homestead and Daytona only three months apart, the crew doesn’t get a true offseason. “There’s really no downtime for us,” Kevin said. “We never stop preparing.”
Rule changes can take up a lot of shop time between seasons. In fact, the 2018 rules package was released on November 1, 2017, and Kevin’s crew started preparing the cars for next season right away. “There’s usually a lot [of rule changes], and adapting to the new rules is the biggest job of the offseason,” Kevin explained. “On top of that, we also have to go through all of our track equipment, refurbish it and get it ready for the upcoming season. Just like any other sport or job where there’s competition, there’s no time to sit back and be complacent.”
Predictions for 2018
Kevin and Elliott made it to the Championship 4 during each of their two seasons together. They also won the regular season championship both seasons. So, what does Kevin have in mind for 2018? “Our main goal is get back to Homestead and win the championship. We came up a little short the past two years, finishing second, but we’re going to do all we can to be the champion this year.”
The POWERSHARES QQQ 300 at Daytona is only a couple of weeks away, so their next run at a championship starts soon. In the meantime, check out some of Kevin’s career stats and keep an eye out for our next blog!