Most of the big-budget efforts that head off to Daytona are run by people whose full time gig is racing, but one team will have to return to their regular desk jobs after it’s done. The Honda of America Racing Team (HART) is crewed primarily by workers at Honda’s American headquarters in Marysville, Ohio.
That’s right: their tire changers aren’t people who fly all over the country to work with race cars full-time. They’re Honda engineers, who have to de-stinkify themselves after a full day’s worth of endurance racing and get back to a normal desk job like the rest of us after it’s done.
HART team leader and driver Chad Gilsinger explained the origin of the team in an email to Jalopnik:
The team started in 1989. A group of engineers went to an SCCA club 24-hour race at Nelson Ledges in Northern Ohio and thought, “we should do this with Honda products.” A few of the guys (Kurt Baker was one of them) made a proposal to turn a couple Honda Civics into race cars to help associates learn about our products and to carry on the racing tradition of Honda. Management agreed to a small budget, a couple cars, and the rest is history.
It’s such a fundamentally old-school idea—have the guys behind your cars take them racing—that I have to respect it. HART has been working up to progressively bigger races from that humble SCCA race, which is no small feat when your work life isn’t 100 percent dedicated to racing. They’ve taken many of the fan-favorite Honda and Acura cars—Civics, Preludes, S2000s, Accords, Integras, RSXes, and the NSX—everywhere from grassroots series like SCCA and NASA up to pro series like CTSCC, Grand Am and World Challenge.
Next year, they’re tackling the four flagship enduros on IMSA’s calendar with a GTD-class Acura NSX GT3: the full North American Endurance Championship of Daytona, Sebring, Watkins Glen and Road Atlanta. HART supported the Michael Shank Racing team last year to get a feel for the NSX GT3, and now they’ve got their own NSX to race this year.
The first of those NAEC races is no slouch. Two Formula One drivers are doing the 24 Hours of Daytona for the fun and challenge of it—sharing a track with this list of normal workin’ dudes at Honda, via Gilsinger:
- Kurt Baker – Team Manager – Quality Project Leader at Honda of America Mfg.
- Andrew Salzano – Crew Chief/Team Leader – Steering Test Engineer at Honda R&D
- Tyler Chambers – Lead Mechanic/Tire Changer – Powertrain Test Engineer at Honda North America
- Chad Gilsinger – Driver/Team Leader – Vehicle Dynamics Test Engineer at Honda R&D
- Ryan Breed – Pit Setup/Team Budget Controller/Fueler – Vehicle Quality Engineer at Honda of America Mfg.
- Jim Coughlin – Pit Crew/Tire Changer – Chassis Engineer at Honda of America Mfg.
- Dan Burgess – Equipment Lead – New Manufacturing Strategy Engineer at North American Engineering Center
Honda factory driver Ryan Eversley will be joining them for the four races, and Gilsinger told Jalopnik that more of his coworkers will be joining them to run the NSX GT3, too. Gilsinger said that this team getting to run Daytona is a dream come true, via “the power of dreams,” no less:
If you would have asked me 20 years ago, I would have told you there is no way I would be able to participate in the 24 Hours of Daytona. That’s for big time teams and professional drivers. Well, with the help of Honda and the dedication from a group of guys who love racing, we will be able to do something I only dreamed about.
There is a reason Honda has a slogan “The Power of Dreams:” if you have a dream and you believe in that dream it will come true. It may not come easy or may not happen exactly when or how you want it to but if you put your heart and soul into it, you’ll finally get there.
This is definitely our fun underdog team to watch next year, as I’m sure they understand and share our intense dislike of too many Excel spreadsheets and reply-all’d email chains.