Pistone Takes Multi-Car Formula to the Extreme
Multi-car race teams dominate the NASCAR landscape and Mooresville, N.C., businessman Nick Pistone is taking that successful formula to a new extreme during the Summer Shootout Series at Lowe's Motor Speedway.
When Pistone, grandson of auto racing legend "Tiger Tom" Pistone, started Nick Pistone Racing, he had no idea how quickly the company that prepares and maintains race cars would grow. This summer, Pistone and his staff of six full-time employees are fielding 25 Legends Cars in the series of Tuesday night races.
Pistone, 28, has been involved in racing since he was a child, but when he began setting up Legends Cars in 1997 for his brother Chase; he saw an opportunity.
"I used to drive race cars all the time and I have been racing since I was about 10," Pistone explained. "But it came to a point where I was either going to race or make money; and I'd rather make money."
He started Nick Pistone Racing in 2001 and today the company is housed in a 1,200-square-foot facility. It offers a long list of services to Legends Car competitors including: race car storage, transportation to and from the track, chassis set-up, repairs, weekly car maintenance, tire preparation and driver coaching.
"I started with a few drivers and when they started winning championships, I got more and more until I had 40 Legends Cars in the shop," Pistone said.
A Summer Shootout competitor, or in many cases the competitor's parents, can hire Nick Pistone Racing to maintain and prepare their Legends Car for the entire 10-race series.
"They bring the car to my shop and we take care of everything, including bringing it back and forth to the track," said Pistone. "A family pays me and then they don't have to worry about anything; all they have to do is show up. Instead of paying a little less to run mediocre, they pay me a little more to run better."
Following each round of the Summer Shootout, Pistone and his crew take all the cars back to their shop and begin preparations for the next week.
"If there's nothing wrong with the car it could take only 15 or 20 minutes to go through it and check everything," he said. "If the car is wrecked, we will fix it. But if it's completely destroyed and we have to strip it and put it back together, that's additional money."
Pistone tries to cater to the individual set-up needs for each of his drivers. "Some set-up guys will put one set-up on the car and they expect the driver to race their set-up," Pistone said. "Then, if the driver can't do it, they think he can't drive. But I set up each car specifically for the driver. We have one basic set-up and then we tweak it a little bit until the driver gets used to it."
In a sense, Nick Pistone Racing is a victim of its own success and Pistone says his company will cut back and maintain only 10 cars during the 2008 Summer Shootout. "This year we have been struggling because we have too much to do," he said. "It's getting to the point where I'm pretty stressed out. For the first time, I've actually canceled a couple of contracts and given people their money back so I could downsize."
A contributing factor to the success of Nick Pistone Racing is the unique opportunity drivers have to move up the racing ladder within the same company. In addition to Legends Cars, Pistone and his crew also prepare and maintain Limited Late Models, Late Models and Late Model Trucks.
"A lot of other teams, all they have are Legends Cars," Pistone said. "But my company is more step-by-step. People can bring me their Legends Car and their kid, and I will teach them how to drive a Legends Car.
Then, they have something else to move up to such as late models." Pistone also says he's been fortunate to work with talented drivers over the years.
"I've had a lot of good drivers and it is fun teaching the kids to drive," he said. "I enjoy working on the race cars and going to the tracks, but I especially enjoy winning."
Paddy Rodenbeck, John Gottsacker, John Stancill, Jordan Anderson, Jake Crum, Bailey Freeman and Dean and Stephen Abbey are among those driving NPR-prepared cars in the Summer Shootout Series which runs each Tuesday night through Aug. 7.
The series features three classes of Bandolero racing, four divisions of Legends Cars and the Thunder Roadsters. Admission is just $7 for adults. Children 6-12 are admitted for $3 and kids under 6 are free.
Tickets are available in advance at the speedway ticket office and at Gates 4 and 5 the night of the event. Parking is free. Spectator gates open at 5 p.m. with preliminary action at 5:30 p.m.
Feature racing begins at 7:30 p.m. For information, call the Lowe's Motor Speedway ticket office at 1-800-455-FANS.