Tuesday, April 24, 2012

NASCAR to be featured on BBC America's Top Gear with Richard Hammond

Top Gear host Richard Hammond tackles the
task of moving a stack of tires on pit road - not an easy task.
Credit: © BBC Worldwide/Oisin Tymon
BBC America's Top Gear hosted by Richard Hammond will air a special story about the life of NASCAR.  

In the episode, Hammond explores the history of NASCAR, and tells the story of how the sport evolved into what it is today. After explaining its roots, Hammond visits Texas Motor Speedway on race weekend to dive into the different elements and intricacies of a NASCAR racecar. The episode airs for the first time on BBC America next Monday April 30th at 8:30 p.m. Eastern.

Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon, and Juan Pablo Montoya are the three drivers that will be featured in this episode.
Credit: © BBC Worldwide/Oisin Tymon
Montoya has experience in Formula 1 racing in Europe and he has a reputation for not speaking after a race. Hammond was warned by the guys at the Top Gear office that even if he gets to interview Montoya,  he may not get more than a word out of him, but Hammond discovered that Montoya was anything but quiet, “the guy was just so effusive and enthusiastic. He sat me in the car and talked to me about how it works and how it feels. He was literally hopping up-and-down with enthusiasm, to the extent the guys in the office at Top Gear could not believe what he had given us.

Hammond also got an unexpected heartwarming welcome when he arrived in Texas. "The moment when I stepped out of the car arriving, I was made so welcome," Hammond said of his visit to The Great American Speedway. "That's largely because at the very essence of the sport, in the very center of it, there is an awareness on the part of the drivers and the teams, all of them, all they want to do is drive. That's all they're there to do. They realized long, long ago, to facilitate that, they need to put on a good show so people can come and watch it because it costs millions of pounds a year to do this."

Hammond went to say the people he spoke with were very informative, and before he knew it, I ended up being filmed in the pits with cars coming in during the race.

Hammond continued, “I don’t think there is any more Motorsport in the world at that level where you'll see spectators wandering around the pit lanes where the drivers sleep at the track the night before the race. It was absolutely unique, and I had a wonderful time. I loved it. I want to come back and do it again.”

The spirit of the sport is what impressed Hammond the most. In F1, and in Europe, the ambiance is much calmer, “it's very remote, very distant,” Hammond said. “You're kept at arm's length. And these guys were so welcoming.

The biggest surprise to Hammond was, “drivers of the likes of Jimmie, just who wandered around the crowds and talked to people,” he said with enthusiasm, “That is unheard of in other Motorsports and really revealing of an attitude that says come along and watch. And they know they need to put on that show.

Johnson was also in attendance for Tuesday’s press conference and he spoke of his experience working with Hammond. “It was great to see them out. I'm a fan of the show, and I was very happy to see the film crew, and to know how in depth Top Gear is with their program and the fact that they were going to take our sport and showcase it to the level that they do was exciting to me. I was excited to be a part of it.”
The valuable lesson Johnson learned during the filming was, “We were trying to shoot our piece while the teams were warming the cars, and with the audio required, we had a hell of a time just trying to find a quiet spot to get it done to show him around my race car.

“You can’t win,” Hammond interjected, “It’s loud, man. It’s incredibly loud.”

“They are loud,” Johnson agreed.  The engines have 800 horsepower, it’s not exactly going to be quiet in the garage area when mechanics are working on 43 cars around the same time.

Hammond got to experience a lot at the track in Texas, from hanging out in the pits near a car coming in. He had a job blowing the brakes dust off the wheels, and he got to drive a car, “which was staggering,” he said, “It took me to a whole new realm.” He compared it to  the helicopter he gets to fly back home, “when you roll that car into the bank -- bearing in mind I'm a complete novice -- even at the speeds I was rolling, to feel it settle down as you drive through another dimension, I felt more like I was in my helicopter than a car. It felt unlike anything else I'd ever driven. It was astonishing.

How would Hammond compare getting in a NASCAR that weighs 3,000 pounds, has 800 horsepower and has little traction control? 

“It was like climbing inside a dragon and shutting the door. I love cars built for purpose. I love cars that need a driver to do it.” Hammond continued to say, “In the case of a NASCAR, it's so focused. It has a job to do. As long as you're up to it, it will do the job.” 


  1. I love seeing Hammond's reaction and can't wait to see the episode. Top Gear BBC has seemed to look down their nose at NASCAR in the past so I can't wait to see if Hammond is able to sway the thoughts of Clarkson and May.