Okuma and Richard Childress Racing: True performance partners

Features - Okuma

Winning the Daytona 500 this year and other big races requires top-quality equipment at RCR.

May 7, 2018

Richard Childress Racing Manufacturing Manager Rocky Helms
Photo courtesy of Richard Childress Racing

For today’s manufacturers, business as usual often means meeting tight deadlines, while promising the highest levels of machining accuracy and quality. Though most modern manufacturers must walk this tightrope – one where they must continuously deliver superior parts and components at the speed of light – it might be fair to say that no shop faces the manufacturing challenges and turnaround times that Richard Childress Racing (RCR) does.

A crew chief might request a part from RCR Manufacturing Manager Rocky Helms in the middle of the week. Then Rocky and his team have to deliver it before the race on Sunday. That’s not a lot of time for part ideation, design, cutting, and testing – but somehow, some way, they do it almost every week during race season.

While Rocky and his team are dedicated to process, they are also reliant on Okuma machines. Currently, RCR has 18 Okuma machines and counting, mostly because the equipment offers the accuracy, speed, and dependability RCR needs to deliver before race days. In fact, the Okuma-RCR partnership dates back to the turn of the century.

“We have two machines here that were the very first ones put in in 2001,” Rocky says. “They’re 17 years old, and they run just as good today as they did the first day they were here.”

The swift service and support that Okuma supplies is just as critical to his operation.

“No matter how good the piece of equipment is, the harder you run it, the longer you run it, and the more you’re asking of it, you’re going to have things come up,” Rocky says. “Our deadlines don’t usually get the option of moving, so when you do have something happen, it’s nice to call and not end up in a three-week wait to get somebody to come fix it.”

While every manufacturer wants to avoid downtime, they understand that it’s inevitable. What matters most is ensuring that any downtime is as short as possible – which is why Rocky has so many Okumas in his shop. He trusts the build quality, but also knows when a problem arises he can jump on the phone with Okuma to troubleshoot an issue himself, or have someone on-site quickly to solve the problem.

Another benefit of the Okuma-RCR partnership is the Richard Childress Racing/Okuma Technology Center, which is where they work together to create components that stand up to the tough conditions of NASCAR racing. Of course, even having that advantage isn’t going to take away those tough deadlines for Rocky and his team any time soon.

But days like Feb. 18, 2018, make all the long hours and tough turnarounds worth it. That’s when Austin Dillon, driver of the No. 3 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 for RCR, won a fairly big race you’ve probably heard of. Did it motivate Rocky and his team?

“Yes,” Rocky says. “Winning the Daytona 500 helps a lot.”

Okuma America Corp.

Richard Childress Racing