Corvette Racing Profile: Dan Binks, Crew Chief
It's 5:15 a.m., and Dan Binks is already on the job. He's been up since 4:30, and he can't wait to get
to the office. His "office" is the headquarters of Corvette Racing, the command center where
Chevrolet's championship-winning race cars are designed, constructed and maintained.
It's said that races are won and lost in the pits. Binks, the crew chief for the No. 3 Compuware
Corvette C6.R, knows better. Races are also won and lost in the shop. Which is why he's hard at work
"I've been in racing for 35 years," said Binks, "and when they throw the green flag, I
still get excited."
Binks, a 41-year-old resident of Brighton,Mich., has traveled a long and winding road to Corvette
Racing since he began working on his father's sports cars as a youngster in San Diego. He's won 13
championships and 75 professional races with machines that span the spectrum of motor racing, from IMSA
GTU and SCCA Trans Am sedans to NASCAR trucks and exotic GTP prototypes. He joined Corvette Racing in
late 2002, and since his arrival, the No. 3 Corvette has won 11 American Le Mans Series races (including
consecutive victories in the Sebring 12-hour race) and back-to-back drivers championships for Ron Fellows
and Johnny O'Connell in 2003-04.
Binks is a big man, and the "Big Daddy" nickname that's lettered on his pit helmet is
appropriate on many levels. He's a coach, quarterback, chief mechanic, psychologist, cheerleader,
administrator, guidance counselor, car restorer and vintage race car driver. And those are just a few of
"The chemistry at Corvette Racing is incredible," said Binks."We're all racers, and
everybody wants to win . We have 20 guys running two cars, and we're competitive in everything we do.
That's what makes us good. Sure, I want to see the No. 3 Corvette in the winner's circle. But at the end
of the day, the most important thing is to have a Corvette win."
Team manager Gary Pratt selected Binks and Ray Gongla, crew chief for the sister No. 4 Compuware
Corvette, for their key positions when he recognized that they share common goals and philosophies.
"They have the passion to race, and all three of us think alike as far as what we expect from
the team," said Pratt. "There aren't any big egos. I like a flat organization chart, where
everyone knows they can contribute, instead of having layers of hierarchy. Dan and Ray believe in that,
Both Binks and Gongla are hands-on crew chiefs, going over the wall during pit stops to change the
inside tires on their respective cars.
"I'm getting older, but I still love the pit stops," Binks laughed. "It's like being on
a football team, and when you do a great stop, there are high-fives all around. I must have done a
thousand pit stops, but I still get butterflies when the car's coming down the pit lane."
It's no surprise that both Corvette crews were among the finalists for the 2005 Klein Tools Pit Stop
Challenge. They drill relentlessly at the shop, and rehearse pit stops every day at the track. Quick pit
work played a decisive role in the team's 1-2 finish at this year's 24 Hours of Le Mans when seconds
saved in the pit lane offset the quicker lap times of Corvette Racing's rivals during the long day and
night of racing.
Between pit stops, the two crew chiefs act as spotters for their respective drivers, monitoring the
race on a bank of television screens. They watch for traffic,warn the drivers about incidents, and keep
their heads in the game.
"Drivers have good days and bad days, and when they're having a bad day you need to pump them up
and help them feel good," Binks said. "There are other times when you have to calm them down
because they're taking unnecessary risks. It happens with the pit crew as well; if we have a bad pit
stop, we just have to get through it.
"Time seems to go faster in the pits," Binks observed. "You're keeping track of the pit
windows, trying to organize the tires and fuel for the next stop, and then suddenly the competition does
something unexpected. You might have to change your entire plan."
A crew chief's relationship with his drivers is built on mutual trust and respect. Binks knows he is
literally responsible for his drivers' lives.
"This is a dangerous business," said Binks. "My relationship with Ron and Johnny is
phenomenal. Guys who drive hard and guys who work hard on race cars get along. At this year's 
Sebring race, a carbon front brake rotor disintegrated and Johnny smashed into a tire barrier at 150 mph.
We worked on his car and sent him back out, and he radioed to the crew, 'Every time you guys fix this
thing, I'm amazed.' To have the trust to go flat-out after an impact like that is remarkable. It takes a
while to get to that level, and I think everybody on this team trusts everyone else totally."
The drivers feel just as strongly about Binks.
"A driver needs complete trust in his crew chief, and I certainly have that with Dan," said
Fellows. "I not only have faith in the level of preparation, but also in the job he does spotting
for us in the pits. To do that for hour after hour without a break is probably tougher than
driving. He takes it very seriously.
"The effort that Dan puts into motivating the crew, his enthusiasm, and his work ethic energize
the entire team," Fellows continued. "He will do anything, stay up all hours, to make the car
right. That's a testament to his dedication and his desire to win. His record speaks for itself, and I
wish our paths had crossed a lot sooner."
Ironically, Fellows and Binks were once fierce rivals. During Binks' long association with driver
Tommy Kendall that produced IMSA and SCCA Trans Am championships, he was frequently at odds with
"The rivalry was extremely intense, even bitter at times," Fellows recalled. "It was an
odd sight the first time I saw Dan Binks working on my car because he was the face of Tommy Kendall. I
must admit it took a little time to get used to seeing Binks in a Corvette uniform."
Initially it was an awkward situation for Binks as well.
"We raced against Ron for years in Trans-Am, and we beat Johnny for the IMSA championship by one
point in 1993," Binks remembered."We raced those guys hard, maybe a little too hard sometimes,
so it took some time to get everyone comfortable with each other. When you see how see how hard Ron and
Johnny work, it's impossible not to like them."
After working long hours at Corvette Racing, Binks relaxes by working long hours on his own automotive
projects. He restores classic Volkswagens ("I wanted to have the nicest '51 split-window VW in the
world, and I've probably got one of the best"), and drives vintage race cars. On weekends when he's
not racing the factory Corvettes, you can find Binks wheeling a Riley & Scott prototype, a historic
Trans-Am Mustang or a classic Lola T70 around a race track at speed. He's also brought his encyclopedic
knowledge of road racing to television, providing expert commentary for the SPEED Channel at the SCCA
"When I was young, I wanted to be a race car driver," Binks laughed. "I raced awhile on
my Visa card and quickly figured out that wasn't going to work. Now I get to drive some very cool cars. I
have to pinch myself because I'm a very lucky guy.
"I never imagined that I would be in this position," Binks acknowledged. "The first
time we took the Corvettes to Le Mans, I called an old friend and said, 'Can you believe Dan Binks is
standing in the pit lane at Le Mans?' For a kid from San Diego to be able to work at Corvette Racing and
compete against the best in the world is unbelievable. It's the fulfillment of a lifelong dream."