One of the biggest responsibilities as a sprint car crew member is the tire work.
Nobody knows that more than 24-year-old Columbus native Dylan Burge, who said the tire work alone is enough to be one person’s full time job. Finding a matching set of tires to race with is not an easy task for Burge and his Rico Abreu Racing team.
Each tire has to have a certain number of inches of stagger, and it isn’t the same for all four tires. The right rear tire is much bigger than the left rear tire because the drivers are turning left in the oval race track for the entire race. The car gets a new set for every time it gets on the track, whether it be for practice, the heat race, qualifier or feature race. Each new time requires four new tires.
The tire work, along with all the other car maintenance all fall under Burge’s responsibilities. Rico Abreu Racing is a small four-man team with Abreu as the driver and the three others focused on maintaining the sprint car.
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“It’s enjoyable, (and) it’s a lot of work,” Burge said. “It’s fun putting all your hard work into a car and then watching it perform on the track.”
Burge has been with Rico Abreu Racing for about eight months, but he’s been around race tracks his entire life. He was already racing go karts by age 5 and had moved on to spring car racing by the time he was 13. He began working for Keith Kunz Motorsports, a local racing company, when he was 16 and said he learned most of his skill during his time there.
“Mostly what I did was clean the cars up and do all the tire work,” Burge said. “The tires are a big thing. It’s a key factor in racing … Once I started working with Rico, it got a lot more hands on with the car.”
The big bulk of Burge’s focus with Abreu is still on the tires. However, he also keeps up the general maintenance of changing the shocks, changing the oil, putting in new motors and cleaning the grease off the parts before it gets replaced with fresh grease. All of the duties are split between the three crew members.
The biggest concern for the crew on race day is making sure the driver, Abreu, is safe. The first task after unloading the trailer is making sure the fuel is right and doing a bolt check.
“We don’t want anything flying off while he’s racing,” Burge said.
Once the tires are ready for the practice laps, the crew just waits until he’s back off the track to touch up the car for the real deal. Not only is the Rico Abreu team one of the smallest competing teams that are present at their races, but it also one of the youngest teams. Nobody on the team is older than 24, and they’re competing against some people who have been in the game since before they were born.
“It actually kind of drives us even more, I think,” Burge said of being so young. “They’ve been doing it for so long, and we’re kind of like the new kids on the block, so it’s kind of nice to go beat them.”
The team has had a handful of top-five finishes this season and had third-, fourth- and fifth-place finishes during the 10-day speedweek in Pennsylvania. A speedweek is when there basically is a race per day for an extended number of days. The speedweek raced in Pennsylvania consisted of 10 races in 10 days.
Sometimes there can be major malfunctions during the speedweeks. It’s not uncommon to have a major mishap with a car after a race and have to fix it before the next race the following night.
“That kind of thing happens all the time,” Burge said. “We have wings that might get hurt during a race. Sometimes, the front axle might mess up. If we really crash, we might have to change the whole front end assembly.”
Burge remembers when the entire team had to build a car in one day because they crashed during a race. They had to grab the spare car out of the trailer and build a new car before the start of the race. He said all four members are able to build a new car within five hours if they hit it hard nonstop. That type of chaotic environment is what Burge is used to, and it’s been like that for much of his life.
[sc:pullout-title pullout-title=”Dylan Burge” ][sc:pullout-text-begin]
Name: Dylan Burge
High school: Columbus East
Occupation: Crew member for Rico Abreu Racing