Ronnie Johncox knows that a race car from his workshop will win the 2022 Daytona 500.
He will also win next week. And all subsequent races, as well as the 2022 NASCAR Cup Series Championship.
It’s not because Johncox is overconfident. That’s because Johncox’s Technique Inc. – headquartered in Jackson, Michigan – will have built the chassis for every NASCAR Cup Series car that hits the track in 2022 and beyond.
Johncox, a retired IndyCar driver himself, plans to attend next year’s Daytona 500 with his employees to celebrate.
âI’ve been to almost every racetrack in America. I’ve never been to the Daytona 500. Just the timing, I guess, or a coincidence, âJohncox said. âEach car coming to take the green (flag), the chassis will have been manufactured here. And it’s my birthday. So it’s gonna be a pretty cool day.
The chassis is the frame or “skeleton” of the car, which includes a steel roll cage with various bars to protect drivers in a crash, Johncox explained.
NASCAR is rethinking the way cars are built. The technique takes over.
NASCAR is revising its methods in 2022 by presenting its âNext Genâ car – designed to look more like the Ford Mustangs, Chevrolet Camaro and Toyota Camry you see on the street.
To save money, many parts of the car will not be built by the racing teams. Instead, NASCAR chose vendors to build the components, and then teams put them together.
Technique charges $ 28,000 for each chassis with everything included. Many teams are paying twice as much to build a chassis right now, Johncox said.
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Each team can buy seven chassis per driver for the season. When they break down, the teams pay Technical to repair or replace them.
They will all be the same, unlike the current setup, where teams pay to design a different chassis for each type of track.
Innovation is so rapid in NASCAR that teams reorganize their executives several times a year to gain a fraction of a second to keep up with the competition, said John Probst, senior vice president of racing innovation at NASCAR.
Engineers will always have the opportunity to prove their worth – tweaking setups, body positioning, speed settings, tire pressure and more to find speed. Johncox compares him to the Cubs at the Pinewood Derby.
âThey all have the same block of wood at the start with the same wheels and the same stakes,â Johncox said. â(The question is), what are they doing to refine this part in order to get the best performing vehicle possible? “
The hope is that the Next Gen car will encourage new teams or new manufacturers to join the sport, as they won’t need to reinvent the metaphorical wheel – or the literal chassis.
âWe want the competition to be focused on the race track becauseâ¦ that’s where our fans see it, feel it and enjoy it,â said Probst. âI don’t feel like we’ve sold too many tickets for people to watch the development happen behind the scenesâ¦ trying to find a performance edge that the fans won’t appreciate, but it will have come at a cost. a lot of money. . “
By making cars more uniform, the best drivers should reach the top, Probst said, not just the teams with the most money to spend.
The biggest challenge is to reframe the mindset, Johncox said. Each piece needs to be exactly the same – to a fraction of an inch, to be fair to all racing teams.
âIn racing, you build the next car to be a little better than the previous car,â Johncox said. âThis project – all cars have to be built exactly the same. And it’s more difficult, in fact.
Technique beat 17 other bidders to win the NASCAR contract. NASCAR and Dallara designed the new chassis.
Technique has been manufacturing chassis parts for racing teams since 2007. Today, about 80% of teams use parts made by Technique, Probst said. Drivers using Technical Parts have won every NASCAR Cup championship since 2007, Johncox said.
The components for the new chassis are built in Jackson, although they are assembled at Technique’s new facility in North Carolina, located across from the racing teams and NASCAR’s research and development center.
Johncox, 52, has homes in Jackson and North Carolina and plans to expand facilities in both locations.
There are 135 employees in Jackson – 25 of whom work only on Next Gen parts – and Johncox plans to hire 25 more. The North Carolina store has 28 employees, many of whom were helping race teams build chassis before their services were no longer needed.
How the NASCAR deal could launch Technique
Johncox started Technique in 1991, just at the start of his piloting career. His father ran a plastic injection molding company in Jackson called Mid-American Products.
At age 12, Johncox started working in the store during the summers and vacations, trying out all the jobs. It was a “good way to grow up,” he said.
âI was growing up in a very blue collar industrial manufacturing environment in a tool room with skilled toolmakers,â Johncox said. “My mom might not have appreciated the vocabulary I learned there – but nonetheless, it was the best education of my life.”
He attended his first race at Michigan International Speedway at the age of 4 – idolizing Gordon Johncock, two-time Indianapolis 500 winner and distant relative of Hastings. Johncock’s great-grandfather and Johncox’s great-great-grandfather were brothers who emigrated from England together.
âHe was my hero growing up,â Johncox said.
Johncox went on to earn a commerce degree from Michigan State University, but started racing with karts he built in East Lansing between classes.
Johncox made its way to the IndyCar series, but lacked funding from other drivers. The teams with the most money won all the races – the same problem that NASCAR’s Next Gen car aims to solve.
At a crossroads, Johncox knew he had to either invest fully in the race or go all out in his business.
He chose the Technique.
âThe guys I was racing with were badly injured – or worse,â Johncox said. “And you realize, ‘I have a wife and children. I had a good race here. It was great, I loved it. But I shouldn’t be dragging my family across the country in an RV, putting my life on the line every time I hit the trail.
But Johncox has found a way to stay involved in motorsport. He first started building chassis components for Dale Earnhardt Inc. and quickly spread to other racing teams.
While Technique has become well known in auto racing, it also works in automobiles, agriculture, appliances, heavy trucks, motorcycles, and ATVs.
It specializes in prototypes and low volume production with CNC machining, tube bending, laser cutting and more. Companies use Technique in the early stages of design to eliminate bugs. Then once they’re ready to mass produce, they go to a bigger manufacturer.
Where next could the technique be used? The race for autonomous vehicles, Johncox said.
The big automakers like Ford and General Motors already know how to build a car chassis. But other potential new players in the self-driving car game might not.
Take a look at Domino’s autonomous pizza delivery vehicles, for example. Domino’s has worked with Nuro, a Californian robotics company, to make the machines.
When the next tech company is ready to venture into the automotive world, Technique could help bridge the gap, Johncox said.
âYou think Uber, at some point, will be self-sustaining. Google, they’re working on it. Apple is probably working on it,â Johncox said. âWhen they start, they’re going to start with a few hundred or a few thousand of them, then see how it goes, make their adjustments and make it growâ¦ It’s really our biggest strategy here, to have this niche in the development of future vehicles.
Other technological advancements in the Next Gen racing car could also find their way into passenger vehicle production.
For example, about 75% of the frame is robot welded by Technique to increase the precision. Each piece is tracked via a QR code. On the safety side, NASCAR designed the car with energy-absorbing foam blocks in the door panel and moved the driver’s seat more towards the center to limit injury.
âSo many advances learned and developed in racing end up in our passenger cars,â said Johncox. âThe race is always at the cutting edge of technology. “
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