Keeping The Fuel Flowing
Benjy Grubbs likes to park at the corner of Carolina and Laburnum avenues so he can beat the traffic during race weekend at Richmond International Raceway.
What else would you expect from a guy whose job is helping his driver beat the traffic during the race?
Grubbs, a 1989 graduate of Varina High, knows the ins and outs of the track and the sport as he returns this weekend as the gas man for Jamie McMurray’s No. 1 team. He’s missed only two races at Richmond since 1983, when his parents took him to a race and got him hooked.
“I have a lot of support and friends here,” he said. “I can be standing out in (my mother’s yard) getting ready to go to the racetrack, and two or three people will come by and blow the horn or wave. “That’s just cool.”
Grubbs has been able to combine two passions into at job: welding and racing. His weekday job is as a fabricator for McMurray’s team with Earnhardt Ganassi Racing. His race-day job is fueling McMurray’s car.
Grubbs has been in NASCAR since 1998, first with Darrell Waltrip’s team, then with Matt Kenseth’s, where he was part of a Cup Championship in 2003. He added gas man to his duties in 2000.
He also has been part of crews with David Stremme, Dario Franchitti and Aric Almirola.
He joined McMurray’s crew last year, just in time to be part of wins in the Daytona 500 and the Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis.
Grubbs said he had tears in his eyes standing on pit wall watching McMurray come across the line at Daytona. Grubbs had been without the gas-man job most of the previous year because Almirola’s team folded.
“To win both of those races in the same year, all that history, and to get to kiss the bricks, that is something I thought I’d never do”, said Grubbs
If the choreography in the pits goes well Saturday night, Grubbs will do this: dump most of two cans of gas weighing 95 pounds apiece into McMurray’s car in about 12.5 seconds.
It’s a job that has become even more vital this season. NASCAR went to a self-ventilating gas can and eliminated the catch-can man, which has added responsibility and pressure to the crew.
Grubbs said the car holds about 18 gallons. Each can holds 12 ½ gallons. When the crew goes over the wall and starts working on the right side of the car, he can get eight or nine gallons into the tank.
Then he must disengage for a couple of seconds and retrieve the second can while the crew changes to the left side. Those seconds weren’t lost with a catch-can man because he kept the first can plugged in while Grubbs when for the second.
“This year, gas has come into plan more than before,” said Grubbs, who wears fire-proof long johns, fire-proof socks, fire-proof shoes, a double-layer suit, an apron, a head sock under his helmet and a helmet skirt for protection.
Grubbs, 40, said he’d like to continue his race-day job as long as he isn’t a liability to the team.
“I just thought I’d be a race fan,” he said. “to get an opportunity to come back here and do something like this…You see people when you’re walking in (to the track) and they’re waving because they know who you are. It's pretty neat feeling."