In a money-driven sport with hundreds of corporate sponsors, Jimmy Hurd is just as valuable of an asset as there is in NASCAR. Without Hurd, NASCAR stars like Jimmie Johnson or Tony Stewart can forget about getting a lightning-quick tire change in the pits with the Ingersoll Rand ThunderGun™.
Without the ThunderGun, Johnson and Stewart might as well pull into the pit stop and get a burger, some fries and a Coke before they head back out on the track. The ThunderGun is the fastest out there — just 15 seconds or less in pit row and drivers are back on the open road with a fresh set of tires.
The Hurd History
There are innovators and there are entrepreneurs. Howard Hurd, the grandfather of Jimmy Hurd, just happened to be both. So how did the ThunderGun come to be the fastest impact? It all started when Howard was a distributor for Ingersoll Rand. In the 1950s he would take his family to Daytona for vacation in his Ingersoll Rand Volkswagen Minibus. In 1957 there were several wrecks and NASCAR did not carry the right tools for teams to perform repairs. They noticed the Ingersoll Rand van and reached out to Howard for help. By the end of the trip, Howard sold all of the tools he had in his van, paying for the entire vacation.
Howard went back the next year with some extra tools and again sold everything he had. NASCAR founder, Bill France Sr., approached Jimmy’s grandfather and asked him if he would come back to the grand opening at the Daytona track in 1959 and become the tool distributor for all NASCAR race teams.
The Wood Brothers Racing Team from Stuart, Virginia, bought impact tools from Howard and asked him to go to the next race in Martinsville. They wanted him to soup up the impacts to make them faster. Howard modified the impact into what it is today, and the Wood Brothers crushed everyone in the pit stops. Word got around quickly and soon every team was using the ThunderGun. Next year will mark 53 years of service for all the teams using the 403 ThunderGun in NASCAR
Jimmy Hurd started going to the races with his grandfather at a very young age. He took over his grandfather’s business and has become a mastermind of the tool himself. Jimmy’s shop is in the heart of NASCAR country, located in Mooresville, North Carolina. Conveniently, nearly 90 percent of the NASCAR teams are located within a 50-mile radius of his shop.
Some teams bring their impacts in to Jimmy every race for precautionary or preventive reasons, while a majority of the teams bring the guns in every three to four races. Most of the maintenance required includes small tasks like replacing O-rings, bearings or gaskets.
“With big corporate sponsorships, the last thing they want is for the gun to tear up,” says Jimmy Hurd. “They are sponsoring you for $40 million and getting the tool serviced might cost you $100. If the tool clunks out because it wasn’t serviced, that may cost the sponsor millions for losing the race over what could have been a simple fix of preventive maintenance.”
During the week, teams will use pit practice guns to conserve their ThunderGun until race day. The practice guns can go through the equivalent of five to six races per week. That makes for a lot of wear-and-tear on the gun, and makes up a majority of those Jimmy rebuilds on a regular basis. Jimmy concentrates on both practice and race day guns during the week at his workshop and also provides that service on race day at the track for teams.
If you see someone sprinting down pit road as a race is getting underway, chances are it is not some crazy spectator, but rather Jimmy Hurd dropping off a ThunderGun he had to repair last-minute.
Jimmy Hurd is one of the fastest gunslingers out there, often taking a 45-minute rebuild down to six to 12 minutes per gun. He has a knack for knowing exactly what the problem is right away, which comes with nearly three decades of experience. All said, Jimmy works on average of about 50 to 100 guns a week.
Tough Day on the Job
Teams have several tools they use and can send in upwards of 15 tools to get serviced. Every week, Jimmy will rebuild them and send them back for the team to do a test before the race.
One day Jimmy received a phone call that an Indy team did a pit stop and sent the $4 million Indy car back out on the track. While on the track the wheel popped off, causing the racecar to crash, and to make things worse, the driver also broke his leg in the accident.
“They wanted to know what I was going to do about it because I was the one responsible for sending back a bad tool,” Hurd said. “All the tools were brought back in and I really didn’t know what was going to happen. So I ran the serial numbers and that tool (that was allegedly liable for the crash) was actually on the test rig. They had never actually sent the tool in for service, and it had been out of service for six months.”
The Indy team apologized. No harm, no foul; just a very stressful situation.
Ingersoll Rand and Jimmy Hurd’s Partnership
Jimmy Hurd has been surrounded by Ingersoll Rand tools his entire life. Although it can be stressful at times, Jimmy thoroughly enjoys his job, working with race teams, and being the sole distributor and service provider of the Ingersoll Rand ThunderGun.
“The quality of Ingersoll Rand tools stands out and is superior to others,” Hurd said. “I consider myself a tool man and I always look at what competitors are putting out there and what they’re doing. Nothing compares to the products Ingersoll Rand supplies. When I need to make changes, Ingersoll Rand allows me to do that without any questions asked. The people that surround me at Ingersoll Rand support me 100 percent and in turn I support them 100 percent.”
232TGSL ThunderGun™ Street Legal®
As close as you can get to the real racing tools serviced by Jimmy Hurd and used by almost 100 percent of NASCAR pit crews. It features 625 ft-lb of torque in reverse, with 10,000 rpm to deliver power, speed and durability.
To see all of our industry-leading impacts, check out www.ingersollrandproducts.com