The checkered flag had barely ceased waving when a Cat® excavator rolled onto the track following the Cheez-It™ 355 at Watkins Glen International on August 9. And the man behind the 335F’s controls wasn’t your typical machine operator—it was Joey Logano, winner of that day’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race.
“The track is being completely redone, and the work has to be finished by the time the snow flies, which can happen pretty early here in upstate New York,” says Dan Robbins, Territory Manager with Cat dealer Milton Cat. “The racetrack team wanted to make a big deal out of it, so as soon as the race was over, they had the winning driver come out and take the first bite.”
Milton Cat’s Binghamton, New York, branch, where Robbins is based, is located just 90 minutes from “The Glen,” as the racetrack is affectionately known. The dealership often rents machines and power generation equipment to vendors who set up displays for race weekends and also hosts customers in the Caterpillar hospitality tent.
For this year’s race, Milton Cat had another assignment—determine the equipment needed for the ceremonial “ripping,” get it onto the track quickly and safely, and make sure the winning driver could operate it. Robbins and his colleagues selected the 335F excavator along with a 950M wheel loader.
“We delivered the equipment three days before the race and made our way down to the track with about 10 laps to go,” Robbins says. “As soon as the race was over, the police cleared the crowds out of the way, and we moved the machines to the start-finish line.”
Fortunately, Logano didn’t need much of a tutorial to operate the 335F. The 2015 Daytona 500 champion has some experience with heavy equipment (and a past career as a Zamboni driver).
“Joey’s father worked in the construction business, so he’s familiar with big machines,” Robbins says. “When they said ‘go,’ he took a big chunk out of the track just like a pro. Fans were yelling at him to get his reaction, and he yelled back, ‘This is great—better than driving!’”
The next morning, real work on the track began in earnest, and not surprisingly, it’s no ordinary paving job. Michigan-based Cat customer Ajax Paving Industries, the lead contractor spearheading The Glen’s repave, must use special equipment and the end result must meet NASCAR specifications. The work is scheduled to be complete in early to mid November.
“They’re essentially ripping up the entire track and starting over from scratch,” Robbins says. “There’s Cat equipment all over the place.”