The Southern 500 on Labor Day Weekend is a tradition unlike any other in NASCAR, an event so unique it was difficult to imagine it getting any better. Then, along comes Throwback Weekend and suddenly what’s old is new again. Now, every September, fans get the opportunity to see history come alive on the egg-shaped track that Harold Brasington opened in 1950.
The idea of taking something treasured and enhancing it and thus achieving a whole new level of perfection isn’t exclusive to Darlington Raceway, however. Ingersoll Rand has been part of NASCAR’s fabric since the 1950s, and in 2015 — the same year Throwback Weekend became a reality — Ingersoll Rand became the official power tools of NASCAR.
It was in a sense a reaffirming of Ingersoll Rand’s place as a leading innovator in garages across the nation, including those in NASCAR. Before discussing the here and now, however, let’s go back to the beginning for a moment, when Ingersoll Rand made an immediate impact on the sport with – fittingly — the impact wrenches Howard Hurd brought to Daytona in 1959.
“He was known as Mr. Impact Wrench,” Buz McKim, NASCAR Hall of Fame historian, said of Hurd, Ingersoll Rand’s field manager assigned to NASCAR. “Guys in the garage would say I bet this will work if I do this. Howard would come around and say this WILL work if you do this.”
Hurd had the science of Ingersoll Rand behind him to instill such confidence, and it didn’t take long for the Ingersoll Rand line of tools to become fixtures in garages. Tools such as the Ingersoll Rand 405 Thundergun helped revolutionize the sport, spurring innovators such as Leonard Wood to dramatically cut down pit-stop times and improve track position for their drivers.
Hurd worked with teams to come up with ideas such as using hydrogen instead of oxygen in the air guns to help cut down the moisture factor and improve performance. It was this type of collaboration and willingness to adjust on the fly that captured the imaginations of the innovators in the garage.
However, the desire to get an edge, to make things even slightly better than before and gain an advantage over other competitors, didn’t stop at the NASCAR garage. Soon folks working on their cars in their own garages or driveways wanted to have Ingersoll Rand tools to help them gain the same advantages that those at NASCAR tracks were enjoying.
“If a company has a major presence in the sport, the fans are going to support them,” McKim said of NASCAR fans and their intense brand loyalty. “They know they are getting first-class equipment and they know it’s going to last. They want to be able to do their job on their car in their driveway as good as guys at the track.”
In the 1970s, Ingersoll Rand introduced its twin-hammer technology, and the 231 series became the best-selling impact wrench of all time. It seemed everywhere one looked, and especially if you were one who looked under the hood of a car regularly, Ingersoll Rand tools were there to help get the job done.
Fast-forward to today, and that spirit of innovation lives on. While IR’s classic 231C is still the leader in its category, Ingersoll Rand has also introduced new and exciting products for the race fan or automotive professional to use to get the same power that the technicians at the track are afforded. The Street-Legal Thunder Gun, in the familiar Ingersoll Rand yellow paint scheme, is now available to the consumer and able to deliver 650 foot pounds of torque in reverse. With 10,000 rpm, it provides pit crew power, speed and durability for shop tasks.
Ingersoll Rand also introduced a line of cordless products that provide unmatched power in a package that is easy to get around. The powerful brushless motor and impact mechanism on the 20V W5132 3/8″ Impact are tuned to deliver plenty of punch with 550 ft lbs of reverse torque.
So whether you’re working on cars as a hobby on the weekend or as an automotive technician during the week, Ingersoll Rand has something to help you gain a winning advantage that’s not unlike the ones the pioneers in NASCAR had some 50 or so years ago. How does one achieve such long-lasting success?
“The thing about Ingersoll Rand, they built a great product right off the bat, and they could be modified, too,” McKim said. “And to me as a fan, Ingersoll Rand was the first brand name that I recall as far as pit equipment.”