In Depth: Craftsman Tech Garage

(Aug. 20, 2010)
Talented, tenacious Brewer leads team
that makes Tech Garage compelling

By Steve Sampsell
Despite the seemingly made-for-TV hair and smile, the gold bracelet and the crisply pressed shirt and black slacks, Tim Brewer remains a grease monkey at heart.

He knows everything from aerodynamics to drive trains, spring rubbers to track bars—and he capably shares that expertise with viewers every week during his Craftsman Tech Garage segmentn NASCAR coverage produced by ESPN.

“If they turn up the volume instead of changing the channel when they pick up the remote, we’ve done our job,” Brewer says. “And we take great pride in making that happen.”

In 60- or 90-second segments during Cup and Nationwide Series races, Brewer accurately pinpoints technical matters or provides under-the-hood insights that make racing easy to unerstand and more enjoyable for viewers at home.

Just as important, with Brewer, 55, it’s always “we.”

Ever the leader, he takes pride in “Team Brewer,” the ESPN production crew and staff that work with him from week to week. Brewer has shaped a team for success—just as he did when he was a successful NASCAR crew chief—on the basis of his personality and tenacity.

“We’re in this together,” Brewer says. “They’re racing fans, too. They know a lot, and they tell me what’s working and what’s not. We really do work together.”

During his career as a NASCAR crew chief, Brewer helped drivers such as Cale Yarborough, Darrell Waltrip and Bill Elliott to 53 career victories and two Cup Series championships—with Yarborough in 1978 and Waltrip in 1981.

Both championships came with teams owned by Junior Johnson, for whom Brewer worked for 12 years, beginning in 1977. He had started his career as a NASCAR crew chief as an 18-year-old with Richard Childress Racing in 1973.

During more than 30 years in the sport, he also worked with drivers such as John Andretti, Davey Allison, Geoffrey Bodine, Neil Bonnett, Bobby and Terry Labonte, Sterling Marlin and Mike Wallace, among others.

Brewer started several teams that found consistent success. A native of Winston Salem, N.C., his genuine, upbeat personality played a big role in his career and kept him connected in the sport.

When he moved to ESPN in 2007 and subsequently took over the Tech Garage, those connections provided the complementary parts—literally—that fuel Brewer’s competitive fires.

He wants to win as much as a TV personality as he did as a crew chief, and that means he’s always looking for an edge or working a connection. Those connections help him stock the Craftsman Tech Garage with custom-made, state-of-the-art bells and whistles, as well as genuine parts and pieces, to provide fans an inside look at the sport.

His latest prized acquisition is a complete drive train—from the engine with cutaways that show the action of the pistons to a rear axle that spins as the engine turns. It’s worth $12,000 and it’s the only one of its kind.

Along with two Chevrolet Cutaway Cars (one specific to the Cup Series and one for the Nationwide Series), the Tech Garage includes an engine from Richard Childress Racing and one of every possible part from every major supplier in the sport.

When something happens on the track, Brewer and his team can quickly explain what happened, if necessary.

Also, Brewer’s team of “runners” on raceday has a knack for getting broken pieces from action on the track and quickly delivering them back to him in the Tech Garage. He can then display the piece on TV and explain what broke and why.

“Oh, it’s always competition,” Brewer says. He knows Fox Sports, with analysts and former crew chiefs such as Jeff Hammond and Larry McReynolds, covers half of the Cup Series season and produces its own hands-on tech segments during broadcasts with a cutaway car of is own. As it was when he was guiding a race team, Brewer wants to do better than them.

“I know what Larry Mac and Hammond have, and I always want to have something better,” Brewer says. “It’s a good feeling when they call, and we all talk, and they’re jealous about what we have.”

Try as they might, though, they’ll never have the most important piece—Brewer himself.