Behind the Scenes: Companies At The Heart of Everyday Life
After the death of legendary driver Dale Earnhardt in 2001, Nascar mandated that all racecars include a data recorder from Inthinc. The 6-inch device works like a black box, recording crash data, such as the force and angle of the impact. Using this information, Nascar recently introduced safer track barriers and redesigned its Cup Series racecars to better protect drivers. Inthinc founder Scott McClellan, an accident reconstruction expert, developed the device. The Salt Lake City-based company, which has $85 million in annual revenue and 400 employees, also makes electronics that help companies monitor their fleets and help parents monitor their teenage drivers.
DECALS AND GRAPHICS
Motorsports Designs, a 55-employee company based in High Point, North Carolina, has been outfitting racecars with graphics and logos since 1982. Founder John McKenzie had been screen-printing in his spare time when he was hired by a Nascar team to make vinyl racing decals. Later, Motorsports introduced vinyl wraps -- seen here on Clint Bowyer's No. 07 car -- which allow teams to change the color and decals in less than six hours. Instead of paint, employees use squeegees to apply eight panels of printed vinyl to the car.
These two-way radios from Racing Radios of Hampton, Georgia, help drivers and their crews communicate during the race. The company provides complete systems, including noise-reduction headsets and driver earpieces, to many Nascar teams. It also supplies equipment to Nascar officials and racetracks. CEO John Thornton founded Racing Radios in 1979 after a Nascar team kept calling his employer -- a company that Thornton now owns -- to fix its radio equipment. Racing Radios has annual revenue of about $10 million and 28 employees.
Fiery crashes are an unfortunate reality of high-speed racing. Simpson Performance Products provides protective gear for more than 40 Cup Series teams, including Clint Bowyer and his pit crew (seen here). Wearing a fire suit in a blaze typically protects drivers from burns for 11 seconds -- or up to 15 seconds if they also wear protective underwear. Simpson can create a custom suit in as little as 24 hours if there's a last-minute sponsorship change. The New Braunfels, Texas-based company, which was founded by Bill Simpson, a former racecar driver, now employs about 200 people.