Brodie's Brickyard: Insight into Kostecki's US adventure

12 Aug
A long read on Kostecki's journey back to NASCAR
14 mins by James Pavey

Penned by Supercars reporter Chad Neylon, this article is a complete journal of Brodie’s movements in the lead up to race day. It gives Supercars fans an access all areas pass to learn what it takes to make your NASCAR debut. The race is scheduled to start at 4:30am AEST on Monday, and will be shown live on Fox Sports and streamed on Kayo.

The Brickyard.

A Goliath arena built to test the world’s fastest and bravest.

It’s 2.5 miles of pure American tarmac with well over a hundred years of history. If these bricks could talk…

Indianapolis is an almighty place to make your NASCAR debut.

The equivalent of beginning a Formula One career at Monaco or starting your Supercars journey at Mount Panorama.

That idea sits just fine with Brodie Kostecki, after all; that’s exactly how he started his Supercars career, on debut at the 2019 Bathurst 1000.

Not much phases this young bloke. Just look at how he dealt with the pressure from Supercars legend, Jamie Whincup, during the early stages of the 2020 race.

But when the 25-year-old West Aussie suits up tomorrow for Richard Childress Racing (RCR), the team that made Dale Earnhardt an American deity, surely he’ll feel a twist of nerves deep in his stomach, even if the steely poker face he wears shows no signs of trepidation.

Joining him under the shadows of Indy’s famed pagoda will be former F1 stars, Jenson Button and Kamui Kobayashi, sportscar ace Mike Rockenfeller and of course NASCAR’s newest sensation, Shane van Gisbergen.

Illustrious company indeed, all with decades more racing experience. But Kostecki has one advantage over them all: He grew up here.

The pathway to this incredible opportunity was not paved on Aussie go-kart tracks but on American speedways.

Now he’s back in the USA and I’m lucky enough to be tagging along with his traveling team, which includes his manager Nathan Cayzer and his race engineer from back home at Erebus, George Commins.

Charlotte, NC

The week-long preparations begin with the crew at RCR in Charlotte and is something of a homecoming for Kostecki.

“I lived here in Charlotte, North Carolina from 2011 to 2015 with a six month stint back home in 2012.” Kostecki tells me.

“I went to Lake Norman High School, which is a local school here in Mooresville. There was a lot of drivers that raced Late Models and some that I raced against.

“It was actually quite different to how it is back home, where you don’t meet too many other kids who race. I reckon about 30 per cent of my school’s population raced something.”

His junior career started in a USAC Ford Focus midget where he won two championships. This included an extremely successful run of 27 race wins in a single year, eight of which came in succession.

As a teenager he continued racing in other developmental series, making it as high as the K&N East series, where he raced against battle hardened short track experts and drivers who did make it through the ranks to NASCAR, including NASCAR Cup Series race winner Cole Custer.

He was on the pathway to NASCAR but as we now know, Brodie’s pathway through life saw him return to Australia and ultimately into the Supercars world.

Back in Charlotte, NC, Brodie knows his way around town.

This city is Stock Car heaven. Real NASCAR heartland.

Nearly all the big teams are based here, each with their own world class facility.

Team Penske, Joe Gibbs Racing, Hendrick Motorsports, Richard Childress Racing, the list goes on and on.

Our first stop off the plane is to the GM Tech Center in Concord, NC, north of Charlotte.

The GM Tech Centre simulator

The home of Chevrolet’s NASCAR development, this brand-new facility is located less than a mile from Charlotte Motor Speedway and shares a driveway with Hendrick Motorsport.

We pull up out the front and are hit with the instant heat and humidity. It’s summer here and this time of year is prone to wild storms.

Walking through the glass doors we are met with the sweet relief from the air-conditioning as well as a friendly group of engineers and crew members from RCR, all keen to get to work. They waste no time.

Within minutes of greeting each other, Brodie is sliding through the driver’s side window of car 33 and his new crew start the exacting process of pouring him a new seat mould.

Ergonomic contentment achieved, we are then whisked down a series of fluorescent corridors where the paint has barely dried. Everything feels new, clean, clinical.

We walk into a control room. More friendly engineers, eight of them in fact. Then into an open space, which is big enough to be a large garage or a small hangar.

Filling the space in this room is a giant semi circle that looks like a skateboarding half pipe, tipped on its side.

In the middle sits a series of rails and a NASCAR cockpit, void of bodywork or wheels.

From the ceiling hangs a hub of nine projectors.

This is the Chev simulator.

Ready to help run the session is Justin Alexander, Brodie’s crew chief for his one-off NASCAR cameo.

Justin was recently the full-time crew chief of NASCAR star, Austin Dillon. Together they won the 2018 Daytona 500. He had a stint at Hendrick Motorsport where he worked with Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon. Say no more.

They get to work. Brodie pumps out a 20 lap stint of the very course he will be racing at in nine days.

He is instantly up to speed and is soon rivalling the times set earlier by his RCR teammates, Kyle Busch and Austin Dillon.

From there he just kept getting quicker and quicker. Stopping regularly to give his engineering team detailed feedback.

At the conclusion of the three-hour session, Alexander is impressed.

“His feedback is phenomenal, incredible.” the veteran crew chief mused.

“On par with some of the best I’ve ever worked with as far as road course racers go, if not the best.

“We’ve done a lot of simulator work today and made a lot of good adjustments to the car based on his feedback.”

“They [Supercars drivers] just have so much more experience doing this type of racing in a similar type car. Our guys get to do it four or five times a year, you guys do it every week.

“So he does have a lot more experience and hopefully he can make the transition to be fast in our cars.”

Next came a couple of days of rest and recovery as we tried to shake the jet lag. Our house on the shores of Lake Norman the perfect place for it.

Monday of race week and Brodie is back to work. A medical test at 10:00am, followed by a brief trip up the highway to the RCR workshop at midday.

The team has an unexpected surprise for Brodie, his #33 Camaro has been wrapped in its sleek black and green MobileX livery. It looks mean.

This is also the first time he sees his name written over the doors. It’s now officially his car.

He musters a grin and has no shortage of appreciation for the team but he is by no means overwhelmed.

Moments later the boss himself walks in, Richard Childress. He’s a former racer-turned-team owner and a member of the NASCAR Hall of Fame.

His reception is warm and he’s happy to see Brodie as he reaches out to shake his hand.

Kostecki on Corey LaJoie's podcast

What he says next is evidence he’s still very much involved in the running of the race team.

“Hey Brodie, I heard you were fast in the sim," Childress beams.

Childress is very keen to impress on me that putting Brodie in his car was something he wanted to do long before Shane van Gisbergen won in Chicago. He’s as competitive as ever.

Soon we are back in the car as grey storm clouds build overhead and by 3:00pm, Brodie is back in the Chev sim. More laps.

What happens next is something I won’t forget any time soon.

As Brodie is in there braking, steering, tweaking an alarm starts to sound.

Over the space of five seconds the alarms get louder and start blaring from more and more locations within the room.

I’ve never heard this kind of alarm before. Is it a fire alarm? Is something wrong with the sim?

Then I realise the alarms are coming from our mobile phones, so I grab mine.

A voice comes from one of the engineers, ‘Oh, it’s a tornado warning!”

I read the warning: Take shelter now in a basement or an interior room on the lowest floor in the building.

I look up to see if anyone is worried but the engineers just go right back to the numbers on their screens. There’s plenty of thunder but that was about it.

We told Brodie about it when he got out an hour later.

Tuesday and now things are starting to ramp up at RCR.


Further preparations, which means Brodie’s first pit stop practice with the team. This is critical to success or failure. The pit speed in NASCAR is 72km/h, not far off twice the speed of pit lane back home.

To add further complexity, the NASCAR pit crews leap into action as the car comes to a stop, so hitting your marks takes on even more complexity.

It’s probably the one thing Kostecki is most apprehensive about.

From RCR we head south to Charlotte and to the NASCAR Hall of Fame.

Here Brodie is making an appearance on NASCAR’s official podcast, Stacking Pennies.

The show is hosted by NASCAR driver Corey LaJoie, who serendipitously was Kostecki’s crew chief some 10 years ago when he was running in K&N East.

Predictably they are happy to see each other and the two share plenty of laughs during the recording, ending with the young Erebus driver recounting the tale of how he was given his nickname, Bush.

Jenson Button addresses the media

Wednesday brings more medical checks, more pit stop practice and more sim work at the GM Tech Centre until preparations in Charlotte and now complete.

Now it’s time to head to Indy.

Thursday afternoon the team members meet at a local private airport. This is where the teams depart from before each race meeting.

On the runway sit a series of 50-seat private jets.

We walk out on to the tarmac and drop our bags straight into the cargo hold of an Embraer ERJ-145 Twin Jet.

Indianapolis, IN

In the blink of an eye we are on the ground in Indianapolis and walking to a lot full of waiting hire cars.

The RCR crew members traveling with us are amused at our reaction to this new world of travel. They look at us incredulously when we tell them we fly commercial back home.

When you fly to 38 races a year with only one weekend off in the middle, you quickly understand why this form of domestic travel is a must.

Brodie’s first stop in Indy is the hauler parade, for an autograph session and a Q&A on the main street of Speedway, Indiana.

(L-R) Kostecki with Rick Allen, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jeff Burton

He is greeted by the Indianapolis Motor Speedway president Doug Boles and happily answers his questions on stage.

The only interruption is from a fan offering Brodie an ice-cold Miller Lite. He politely declines with a chuckle but Boles takes him up on the offer and takes a swig while Kostecki answers his questions. It’s easy to like the racing scene here.

Friday morning and we’re finally at the speedway.

We pull up in the vast gravel carpark and have to crane our necks to see the full length and height of the giant grandstands that flank the outside of the track. It’s just massive.

There’s no on track action today but the team are putting the #33 through tech and Brodie is getting a handle on his surroundings.

With both IndyCar categories combined with the Xfinity Series and the NASCAR Cup Series here this weekend, the infield is a sea of perfectly aligned haulers, glistening in the Indiana sunshine.

The NBC on air team are all keen to meet Brodie and hear his thoughts on racing at the Brickyard, so he’s told to go to suite two.

Inside is Dale Earnheardt Jr., Jeff Burton, Steve Letarte and lead announcer, Rick Allen. They’re seated at a table talking with Toyota factory driver Kobayashi.

When it’s his turn, Brodie sits with the guys and discusses his thoughts and feelings. Dale Jr. is keen to hear how his buddy Paul Morris is doing back in Australia.

After 15 minutes they thank him and it’s time to go, he’s about to be replaced by Rockenfeller who has just walked into the room.

Kostecki on track

We head out to dinner that night in downtown with his crew chief Justin. As always, the discussion centres around racing.

Saturday at the speedway. Finally it’s time to go to work.

We meet in the hotel lobby and the topic on everyone’s lips is the weather. There’s rain present and storms are rolling through the area.

Brodie has organised to go on a track walk of the circuit with the RCR crew, a concept that is completely new to his hosts.

You can’t walk on a speedway and so they’ve never done it before.

The rain and lightning subsides and off they go. The only other team I saw out there was the 23XI guys with Kobayashi.

Media commitments are next.

He takes centre stage on Level 4 of the expansive media centre. Again following Kobayashi.

It feels like at every turn the Japanese driver is already there.

He fields the questions from the journalists, all keen to know more about right foot braking and this 'heel-toe' technique.

Brodie tags out after 15 minutes and Button replaces him.

A fan meet-and-greet at the Chevrolet activation stage is followed by a special photo opportunity at 11:15am.

Waiting for us on the yard of bricks on pit road is van Gisbergen and Scott McLaughlin. Everyone has come together to celebrate these three Antipodean drivers making it from Supercars to the Brickyard.

The three guys are happy to see each other but it’s a brief catch up.

A huge media pack has gathered for the moment and they are quickly walking away from each other with one thing on their mind. Practice and qualifying.

Unlike Supercars events back home, the NASCAR schedule cuts right to the chase. Drivers have only the one 20-minute practice session before launching straight into qualifying, where they have only the one set of Goodyear tyres. It’s intense.

The weather has cleared up and the track is now dry.

Three Supercars stars, united at IMS

Kostecki straps into his MobileX #33 Camaro for his first ever lap in a NASCAR Cup car.

And while he is new to driving this car he immediately knows something doesn’t feel right as rolls down pit road.

“We had a throttle hang, which means it got stuck at about 50 percent, which was pretty scary for my first time,” Kostecki recounted once the session was completed.

There goes that one practice session then. Now he has to enter qualifying and somehow pull out that perfect lap without any practice.

The good news? The team has fixed the throttle issue.

There’s no time for Brodie to get up to speed, he needs to hit it first time.

In Brodie's group, which includes van Gisbergen, the top five drivers will progress through to the final qualifying session and a chance to compete for pole.

He rips on to the famous front straight, racing in the reverse direction to the Indy 500 and attacks the lap just like he did well over 200 times in the simulator.

Incredibly his lap time is quick enough for seventh quickest. But it’s not quite enough.

The team re-pressure his Goodyear tyres and decide to send him out for one more attempt.

Damage to the #33

The best of the tyre is gone after that first push lap but remarkably, Kostecki improves but only to sixth, one spot behind van Gisbergen who is holding the last transfer spot to the final session.

Kostecki goes one last time.

He wheels it up onto the speedway from the infield course and the rear snaps out. He scrapes the wall with the left rear corner of his Camaro and the front side of the car follows, swiping the barriers.

Brodie slips off backwards down the escape road, coming to a stop on the grass. The car is drivable but his session is done. He misses the transfer by just one spot, despite coming into this qualifying session completely blind.

He climbs from the car disappointed but he has proven his point. He’s fast.

The damage, while not too extensive will force a switch to RCR’s backup car. A move that comes with a hefty penalty.

“We’ll have to start from the rear of the field tomorrow but the good thing is the car is really speedy,” Kostecki says.

He finishes the day with one last autograph session at the RCR merchandise hauler and smiles for selfies with the fans. He’s already put qualifying behind him and his focus has well and truly switched to tomorrow.

As for those pre-race nerves tomorrow as he removes his cap for the American national anthem?

“Pre-race I’ll try not to think too much into it. I’ll know I have a job to do when I get in there. I’ve done as much prep as I can, so I know going into the race I’m as prepared as I can be.

“I just have to make sure I execute during the race and limit the mistakes, there are going to be some and we’ll just see where we end up in the end.”

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