Justin Fiedler

If you ask most sprint car people what they think of NASCAR, they will say words to the effect of, “We watch for Larson and Bell – and that is about it”. There seems to be little fan crossover and for a lot of sprint car fans they have an almost perverse sense of pride in not liking NASCAR. A more pragmatic view is that whether we like it or not, sprint car racing and NASCAR working together is a ultimately a good thing. This is not a NASCAR story, rather it is an opportunity to learn from a guy not named Christopher or Kyle who has a vested interest in both NASCAR and Dirt Track Racing. Justin Fiedler’s “day job” is in NASCAR working for Richard Petty Motorsports’ NASCAR Cup Series team, whose driver is Erik Jones. When not busy in the Cup series garage, his spare weekend time is spent crewing with the Brandonbilt Motorsports Xfinity team and its driver Brandon Brown and Sheldon Creed in the Camping World Truck Series. Because he just can’t seem to slow down, he has started a website, Dirtrackr.com. The website includes a fast paced, brief daily podcast offering a quick round-up of racing news. Dirtrackr.com is also a stat geeks dream  – and who doesn’t like stats?  

Sprint car fans were first introduced to Justin Fiedler via the excellent Open Red Podcast. Right from the start the podcast has proven extremely popular and an important part of any sprint car fan’s week outside of the racetrack. The original hosts Ross Wece and Justin Fiedler had a great chemistry that made for great and informative listening. The two hosts never seemed to take themselves too seriously, yet any sharp listener could detect that there was more to than met the ear.

In the case of Justin, we quickly learned he was the guy working on the WoO website and was a NASCAR over the wall guy. Over the wall guys are usually ex-college athletes, expected to perform at an extremely high level athletically and technically. Aren’t all website guys geeks and nerds working in their mother’s basement? It seems Justin has managed to meld the worlds of athleticism and geekdom, NASCAR and dirt while remaining a terrific podcast host. 

We hope you enjoy our look into the fascinating world of Justin: 

TDP:

Please tell us your racing origin story and how you ended up working on a Cup Team and while simultaneously working for the World of Outlaws: 

JF:

Even though I grew up a NASCAR fan, Dale Earnhardt specifically, the first races I ever went to as a kid were at a dirt track. The long defunct Medford Speedway in Southern Oregon was my first experience seeing racing. My dad drove tow trucks in the infield, and me and my mom sat in the stands getting pelted with dirt clods watching the races. I spent many Sundays after that watching NASCAR races with my dad, and traveling to local races when we could. In the early days of the NASCAR Truck Series, we got to see them in Oregon and Washington at Portland Speedway, Portland International Raceway, and Evergreen Speedway. We also hit up other Northwest tracks watching the traveling Northwest Tour, and my first NASCAR Cup race as a fan was Phoenix in 2000 where we got to see my friend Kevin Hamlin run with the Southwest Tour, along with a full weekend of trucks, Busch, and Cup. Kevin went on to become a development driver for Chip Ganassi Racing and is currently the spotter for Alex Bowman at Hendrick Motorsports. Along the way, I got to work on Kevin’s website and watch him win two Northwest Series titles. Later, I went to college at the University of Miami in Florida starting in 2002. I was setting myself up to work in sports in a marketing role, getting a business degree with a minor in sport administration. In between my sophomore and junior years at Miami, my parents sold all their stuff, packed up, and moved from Oregon to North Carolina because my dad wanted to get into NASCAR. He had been driving truck in Oregon, and he used those skills to become a transporter driver for one of the teams. When I graduated from Miami in 2006, my dad was driving a team transporter and working on a pit crew in the truck series as a catch can man. I figured at the time if he could do it, I could. I wasn’t ready to join the 9-5 office crowd, so I moved from Miami to Charlotte and went through a local area pit crew school. I worked nights at a FedEx terminal and spent my days learning to be a tire changer and tracking down deals. My first full racing season was 2007 and my first opportunity in the Cup Series came in 2010. I’ve been playing in traffic on the weekends ever since, and I’ve been a part of some incredible teams and wins, and two championships. As for working for the Outlaws, that started in 2013. I was changing tires on the weekends and working at a local newspaper part time doing advertising and a little writing, when a friend that worked for World Racing Group reached out about their need for a web guy. I taught myself how to build websites when I was a kid, and while I never thought it would turn into a career, that knowledge and experience got me in the door at WRG. In the seven years that followed we completely reworked the entire digital footprint of the various series and sites like DIRTVision, sometimes multiple times. I’m incredibly proud of the work we did, and the people we got to do it with were some of the best you’ll find. On top of that, me and Ross started the Open Red podcast almost on a whim and grew that into a fantastic little show that was well over a million downloads when I left the company in 2020.  

The Fiedler Men L-R Justin, Father Steve, and Brother Aaron

TDP:

I believe your wife is rather accomplished as well, can you brag about her for a second? 

JF:

My wife Gloria was a high school and college English teacher for nearly 15 years between Florida and North Carolina. She has a master’s degree in creative writing, has a published novel (With All My Love, I Wait), and tons of other publications on her resume. One of her earliest publications is actually in the “Chicken Soup for the NASCAR Soul” book. She wrote about going on road trips and falling in love with MRN Radio’s NASCAR broadcasts as she kept up with my career and tried to learn the sport. These days she continues to write and publish, and has started her own small business in the teaching space. 

This book is so not TDP – but it is Justin’s wife Gloria’s Novel.

TDP: We all know about Open Red. What were your “In the trench” duties with the WoO – ie the not fun stuff – but work that would ultimately improve the fan experience but was more of a slog. 

JF: For me, it was all fun stuff. If you saw it online from 2013 to 2020, I either did it, or hand a big hand in it. Even today, the code I wrote still runs a lot of the sites, and the playbook we put together years ago for social media is still being used and improved upon. For example, when you see the night’s heat race results, or feature lineup pop up on Twitter, that’s a little app I built to speed up and streamline the night for all involved. No more photos of printed sheets of paper. Over my time, we redesigned and redeveloped the two World of Outlaws sites on multiple occasions. DIRTVision was reimagined multiple times as well, and I built the original free video vault, did four or five redesigns, and implemented all the technology to create monthly subscriptions. We also did a bunch of early work around the Outlaws’ digital marketing efforts, helping sell tickets and DIRTVision in better and more impactful ways. One of the sites I built that I’m incredibly proud of is the system that allows for the DIRTcar Racing folks to output their weekly regional and national points. They enter in race results, and the system compiles everything and spits out points for eight different weekly racing divisions. It’s something the public will mostly never see, but it took me two years to get right and it helps out not only the DIRTcar internal team, but also the thousands of weekly racers competing at DIRTcar sanctioned tracks. I had my hands in nearly every aspect of the business at WRG, and there was always something new and different to work on. There were lots of long days and nights, and it wasn’t always rainbows and butterflies, but everybody was pulling in the same direction. It was fun to be able to affect change in a real way. 

TDP:

How do you personally perceive dirtrackr.com – a side project, an income source, part of a bigger plan? 

JF:

DIRTRACKR is really just a place for me to experiment and build. If it turns into something larger and makes me rich, cool. If not, no big deal. I’m going to keep doing it anyway. I’ve learned a lot in in the year plus it’s been around, and will continue to fiddle and experiment. When I’m not changing tires, it’s my avenue to continue adding value to the dirt racing community through the various podcasts and all that the website has to offer. I love dirt racing and the people involved, and DIRTRACKR is my excuse to stay involved on a daily basis. It probably consumes more time than it should, but it’s okay because I’m having fun.  

TDP: 

You obviously have a good knowledge of Social Media and we see dirtrackr.com numbers steadily growing. Are you satisfied with your rate of growth? 

JF:

When you build something, I’m not sure you’re ever completely satisfied with how quickly it’s growing. It is growing nicely, but obviously I’d like it to be getting bigger, faster. That’s part of the experimentation process though. I’m dabbling in a lot of different areas between the site, podcasts, and social media, but I’m not putting a heavy focus on any of them. I’m also still trying to figure out what exactly I want to accomplish and the voice for everything. Things are evolving and improving all the time, but I’m in no rush. If that is one thing I’ve learned working in the digital space for the last eight years, it’s that things take time and you’ve got to be ready to grind.  

TDP:

When we watch a sprint car or midget race it is usually fairly easy to see when a driver is up on the wheel and doing crazy stuff. In NASCAR it seems like the driver’s talents are much more hidden and it obviously looks easy from the 30th row of the Grandstands. What are the indicators that us dirt fans can use when watching a NASCAR race to see who is really hanging it out? 

JF:

I think that NASCAR racing might look easy from the stands because that’s just how good the drivers are, especially towards the pointy end of the Cup Series. Being smooth is fast, and the easier it looks for a certain driver, the better they are. Getting sideways, over driving, and being out of control will send you to the back real fast. That’s what’s really fun about guys like Christopher Bell and Kyle Larson at the Cup level. They have found ways to be really aggressive, which often pays off in dirt racing, and yet still be incredibly smooth with their cars. I think the future is very bright with the awesome mix of talent you find in NASCAR right now. 

TDP:

How do you think the NASCAR Bristol on Dirt experience will work out? 

JF:

I’m not sure. I’m guessing we’ll see something similar to what we’ve seen at Eldora in the past years with the truck series. 250 laps seems like a lot for a dirt race, and the track will have to be prepped in a certain way to handle that many laps. I appreciate the series and the track trying things, even if it doesn’t work out. At the very least, it will be something to see, as it was 20 years ago when the Outlaws came to Bristol. 

TDP:

Back in the day a NASCAR pit crew was far from specialized. Today with fitness training, video tape analysis of pit stop practices etc. the job is anything but an afterthought. Our questions related to that are; 

A: Is there always somebody younger and stronger coming up looking for your job? 

JF:

1000% yes. And just like any other sport, those younger guys often come at a cheaper price, so there is incentive for the teams to try and promote those guys. But when you look around pit road, there is a reason that the top teams all have very experienced guys. Nobody grows up doing pit stops like you do playing baseball or football. It takes time to learn and understand how to operate effectively on pit road in big situations. No matter how much you coach a young guy up, some things just have to be experienced. On the flip side though, I love working with the younger guys and teaching as much as I can. If I can help move somebody along faster, I’m all for it. I’m not going to do this forever, and I want to pass on as much of my knowledge and experience as I can. 

B: How much time do you spend on physical fitness/week or day? What is the training regimen? 

JF:

We usually practice two or three days a week, which also includes training and meetings. With our team pitting all three series, the coaching staff is very aware of how many reps a week we get, and they try and work with us to keep us feeling good. We’ll do somewhere north of 300 race stops this season, and if you factor in practices and drilling, you’ll be approaching 1,000 stops for the year. The season is long, and pitting race cars is very tough on the body. We need time to rest and recover so we can be at our best come the weekend. The actual training varies by team and coaching staff, with different philosophies at play. I’ve done everything from hard core strength training, to Crossfit-type workouts, and more. After 15 years myself, I spend a lot of my time stretching, working with lighter weights, foam rolling, using a massage gun, and trying to stay loosened up. Avoiding injury is the biggest key.  C: Is burn-out at all a factor in the job? Absolutely. 38 weekends a year we are on the road working. You hardly have a chance to catch your breath before you are back on a plane to the next race. That’s why you’ve got to maximize those rest and recovery days. Being a successful pit crew member is all about managing the ups and downs of the season. It’s never going to go right 100% of the time, so how can you mentally handle those days and weeks when things go south. You have to have thick skin and a short memory. 

Justin and The Kaulig Team after winning Last Year’s Atlanta Xfinity Series Race with AJ Allmendinger.

TDP:

Are you enjoying the condensed NASCAR weekend schedule? Why or Why not? 

JF:

From the perspective of a pit crew member, it’s not different for us then it was previously. We still show up and do the same work on the same days. Set the pit box up, glue wheels, pit the race, tear down, go home. Last year was brutal with some of the midweek races and double headers that happened. We went stretches where we were pitting 8 races in 10 days. Things are very different for the road crews and shop crews, but not pit crews. We are masked up and there are less fans around, but for the most part, it’s been business as usual.  

TDP: Are you satisfied with where you are now in the sport? If not, where do you hope to position yourself? 

JF:

In terms of NASCAR, yes. I work with a fantastic team, and I make a very good living. It’s hard to ask for much more than that. In dirt racing? I don’t really know what that means. I don’t have aspirations to really do anything specific. I love the product, I like the digital space, and I like building things. If that gets me somewhere in the future, cool. If not, I’ll still be here doing what I’m doing. 

Justin Rockin’ a Greg Wilson Tee while son August goes with Lightning McQueen.
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