Long and Winding Road Ends... On a High Note

Ron Lemasters | 3/20/2018

Las Vegas News Phoenix TMC

During the West Coast Swing, JRM hauler drivers were joined by drivers from TMC Transportation, a team partner and the largest employee-owned flatbed carrier in the nation.

MOORESVILLE, N.C. (March 20, 2018) – By now, you know that the early season Western Swing for the NASCAR Xfinity Series has come and gone. If you happened to be one of the transporter drivers for JR Motorsports, it probably seemed like it would never end.

If you were one of the drivers who helped JRM’s transportation department manage the out-and-back trips to Las Vegas and Phoenix, it was probably a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

TMC Transportation, the Des Moines, Iowa-based flatbed trucking company whose black-and-gold logo will appear five times this season on the No. 5 Chevrolet driven by Michael Annett, supplied six top-notch drivers for two of the three cross-country trips, has been an invaluable asset in getting from Point A to Point B and back...30-plus hours at a time. TMC is the largest employee-owned flatbed carrier in the nation.

The most recent race, at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif., was manned by JRM’s transportation department—Matt Weaver, Chris Waddell, Brian Finney and Jeff Miles, along with Steven Kenahan, Troy Cole, Daryl Matthews and John Pounds.

Each of the six TMC drivers who participated in the first two trips - Joe Searfino, Rob Hoffman, Johnny Kaczmarczyk, Eddie Parrish, Jim McDaniels and Joey Stipp - were hand-picked from a large fleet and each reveled in the ability to horse a multi-million-dollar rig over the open road. The fact that the transporter was covered in decals and drew lots of attention had nothing to do with it, of course.

“It was awesome,” said Searfino, who drove home from Las Vegas. “It’s a dream come true. I always wanted to be a truck driver in NASCAR, and it was a dream to drive one home from the West Coast and see everybody looking at you when you pass them by.”

Hoffman, who drove Michael Annett’s hauler when he competed in the ARCA Racing Series, is a veteran of the grind. He also got a trip to Sin City out of it.

“I hadn’t been to Las Vegas in at least 20 years, and getting to drive the haulers home was awesome,” Hoffman said. “I liked being at the track, getting that close up to all the action.”

Driving the big NASCAR transporters can be a little intimidating, especially if the majority of your over-the-road driving for TMC is done with a flatbed trailer, but Hoffman handled it just fine. He normally hauls steel—120,000 pounds at a time. “That’s all I haul, and it’s heavy,” Hoffman, who covers Ohio and northern Indiana for TMC, related.

 Kaczmarczyk, a first-timer, was quite impressed with the opportunity.

“It’s my first time doing the NASCAR run,” he said. “I had an awesome time and got some experience with the trailers. It’s a heck of a responsibility, you’ve got to be on your toes with a couple million dollars on the line in one of those.”

Kaczmarczyk, in his third year with TMC, is a line-haul driver in and around the home base of Des Moines, doing general hauling of everything from drywall to excavators. He ran with some experienced partners on the way back from Las Vegas. Hoffman was Driver of the Quarter in 2014, which is quite an honor, and Searfino is a million-mile safe driver (which means no accidents or tickets over that distance).

The crew from the Phoenix trip was also very experienced. McDaniels was a part of the West Coast surge last year, and returned this year for more. Now an in-house driver for TMC, McDaniels was happy to have the opportunity to log some road miles in one of JRM’s Freightliner Cascadia tractors. “I do like that 13-speed transmission,” he allowed. Asked his advice for anyone who wants to drive NASCAR haulers for a living—a question that is asked more often than anybody thinks—McDaniels was blunt: “Be younger than me!,” he cracked. “You just have to stick with it, do your job, plan your day and do the best you can.”

McDaniels was paired with two first-timers in Parrish and Stipp, and both were amazed at how much work goes into getting to the track and back.

“Amazing,” said Parrish, a coast-to-coast driver himself. “I’ve never seen anything like this. All four teams come together, they work together, they work non-stop. I’m just blown away at how hard they work. They don’t just climb in a truck and drive; they’re right there with the pit crew too.

“For the people who think all they do is drive around from race to race, it’s not. Brian (Finney, truck driver for Tyler Reddick’s No. 9 Chevrolet team) was working on the car, handing tools, running to get stuff, and I got to help him. We had to prepare Tyler’s backup car.”

Parrish said he thought the JRM drivers had a harder job than he does, even though he hauls coast to coast throughout the year. “I was completely impressed,” he marveled. “It was a life-long dream of mine, as it was my father’s. He never got to do this, so right now he hates me!”

Likewise, Stipp said the glamour of doing this job is a bit...overstated.

“People’s perception of a hauler driver is all glamorous...until you go out there and do it and see what they do behind the scenes,” he said. “This is a dream for me, I feel honored and privileged to do this. I’ve been a Dale Jr. fan for a long time, and Tony Beres asked me the other day, ‘did you ever in your wildest dreams think you’d end up being a hauler driver for JR Motorsports?’ No way. I got to help with qualifying with the 7 team and ran tires for the 5 during the race. It’s not all glamorous. It was a great experience and I really appreciate it.”

Stipp compared his flat-bed experience to what he does, hitting upon the difference between the two types of driving. “We’re not as top-heavy as the NASCAR haulers, but in similar situations, you take a corner too fast and you can put it on its side,” he said.

Tony Beres, who coordinates the integration of the TMC drivers with Weaver and JRM, has been part of the NASCAR scene for a long time, and with his help, the work gets done smoothly and the transportation team at JRM gets a difficult job done with professional assistance.

There’s a bond between truckers, just as there is with many professions, McDaniels said.

“Everybody still has the camaraderie they had last year, they’re a great bunch of guys,” he said of JRM’s truckers. “They all shook my hand when I got here, greeted me, and it was a great time.”

Thanks to its partnership with TMC, a difficult operation came off smoothly and safely, and that’s why good partners are worth their weight in gold.

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XFINITY Series Schedule

  • November 3 04:30 PM ET
    O’Reilly Auto Parts 300*Texas Motor Speedway
  • November 10 03:30 PM ET
    Whelen Trusted to Perform 200*ISM Raceway
  • November 17 03:30 PM ET
    Ford EcoBoost 300*Homestead-Miami Speedway

XFINITY Series Standings

After Kansas Lottery 300*

Kansas Speedway | 10/20/2018
RankDriverPointsBehind
1Daniel Hemric (P)30670
2Elliott Sadler (P)3058-9
3Tyler Reddick # (P)3055-12
4Christopher Bell # (P)3045-22
5Matt Tifft (P)3044-23
6Justin Allgaier (P)3040-27
7Cole Custer (P)3022-45
13Michael Annett562-2505