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Fans are used to seeing the finished No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet on the track each weekend; however, this is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to what goes into creating a winning car. This week, we will be giving you as much access as possible to give you a better picture of the amount of preparation that goes into each race weekend. We hope that you'll gain an even greater level of appreciation for the folks who put in hours and hours of work each week at Hendrick Motorsports to get Jimmie Johnson's machine race-ready.
When we asked car chief Ron Malec to break down the steps of creating a car, he said it all begins with building the chassis. This is followed by some fab work, and then the chassis is certified by NASCAR, ensuring that it meets the regulations it has set forth. Once it is given the green light by NASCAR, it comes back to the 48/88 shop, where the actual body of the car is hung. This is the first step where it will actually begin to look like a car.
Then, after the body is fit to templates (which helps NASCAR ensure that no teams gain unfair advantages by having varying body shapes), it is taken to be painted. The majority of Jimmie Johnson's cars are painted instead of wrapped. When you take into account the primary car and the back-up car that is taken to each track, plus a third car for Chase races, you reach a grand total of approximately 75-80 cars that are painted every year. You can get an idea of what this process is like in this video from earlier this year.
Once the car is painted and decals are applied, it's then taken to fab shop assembly, and then to the mechanics for mechanical assembly and set-up. This is where they tailor the set-up for each individual track.
Depending on how far away that race week's destination is and when track activity begins, the car will leave on the hauler typically on Wednesday or Thursday to be transported to the track. Once it arrives, it is taken off the truck and goes through NASCAR inspection, which is about a 2 hour process. Then, the travelling crew will put a couple more hours into getting the car set up for the first practice session.
All in all, a car that is using a newly built chassis, this process can take about six weeks, and has been touched by about 100 hard working employees.
While this is a very simplified explanation of this process, we hope you learned a thing or two and feel free to ask us a question in the comments below, on Twitter, or on Facebook, and we can hopefully find an answer!