A Simple Philosophy Keeps Action Express On Track

A 2018 Rolex 24 win for the Action Express team at Daytona could trace back to Gary Nelson's simple saying of keeping the wheels rolling.

A 2018 Rolex 24 win for the Action Express team at Daytona fits with Gary Nelson’s simple credo of keeping the wheels turning.

“You have to keep the wheels turning.”

It has always been a way to keep the team moving forward.  Ever since the No. 5 Action Express Racing team took the 2014 Rolex 24 at Daytona with drivers Joao Barbosa, Christian Fittipaldi and Sebastien Bourdais, it’s been a philosophy that works.

In the 17 Tequila Patrón North American Endurance Cup races held since 2014, the No. 5 team has six victories, 13 podium finishes and top-five results in all 17.  This includes kicking off this season in Victory Lane for this year’s Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona, leading a 1-2 Action Express sweep ahead of the No. 31 Whelen Engineering Cadillac DPi-V.R co-driven by Eric Curran, Felipe Nasr, Mike Conway, and Stuart Middleton.

The No. 5 Action Express Cadillac team has won all four season-ending Patrón Endurance Cups handed out so far and won back-to-back WeatherTech Championship Prototype titles with Fittipaldi and Barbosa in 2014 and ’15.  In fact, the No. 31 team took the ’16 WeatherTech Championship Prototype crown with Curran and then-co-driver Dane Cameron.  Between the two teams, they’ve won 13 WeatherTech Championship races since the start of 2014.

It all goes back to keeping the wheels turning.  Truly, it’s a philosophy that Nelson brought from his previous experience as a crew chief in NASCAR.  Nelson won two Daytona 500 races, one in 1982 with driver Bobby Allison and in ’86 with Geoffrey Bodine.  Along with those wins, he scored the 1983 NASCAR Cup Series title with Allison.

“We learned so much in NASCAR,” Nelson said.  “It now gives up a chance to apply it now to get everybody thinking big picture. We can take a pragmatic approach of what to do now and how it will affect you later.  I think I’ve made it as simple as I could by saying, ‘You have to keep the wheels turning.  If the car stops, if the wheels stop turning, you have to get them turning again.'”

Nelson was always one that looked at the fine details of notorsports but had a way to simplify down to its basic details to get it to run.

An old saying in basketball may hold true racing.  “If you get an elbow in the ribs, you still have to make the shot. ”

“So many things can distract you, but if you have this core value to keep the wheels turning, you’ll do better in endurance racing,” Nelson remarked.”

It’s a core value the Action Express drivers have bought into as well. By and large, Fittipaldi, who is looking for his fifth straight Patrón Endurance Cup in the cockpit of the No. 5 while transitioning to a new role as the team’s sporting director, uses the same phrase.

Nelson recalls one time when a driver momentarily lost sight of this credo during a race.

“We had a driver one time spin out and the car sat for what seemed like forever to me, but it was a short time,” Nelson said. “When the race was over, I asked him, ‘Would it not start or what was the matter?’  He said, ‘I was just so upset, ‘cause I had spun out, that I had to compose myself.’

I said, ‘No! No! You don’t do it that way. You can’t do anything about what happened, all you can do is move forward from where you are. Sitting there trying to figure out how this bad thing happened is wasting your time. Get going. Get the wheels turning.’”

The Action Express Team will hope to keep it simple and “keep the wheels turning” as they move on to Round 2 of the IMSA Weathertech Sports Car Championship season on March 17th for the 12 Hours of Sebring.  Ultimately, Nelson and his team will look to improve one spot after a second place finish in this race in 2017.

Stephen Conley

If it races, I'll write about it, talk about it or shoot it with a camera.

I began pursuing a career in motorsports journalism immediately after attending college at Kent State University. I have hosted multiple Motorsports talk shows, worked in Country Music radio, and now i spend every day on the air in the morning with 1300 and 100.9 WMVO and in the afternoons watching the roadways around Central Ohio for 93.7 WQIO.

The excitement and the fans make everything I put out there worth while, it's been an exciting 15 years having covered everything from the Daytona 500 to the Rolex 24 and you can find me at pretty much any event run at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

What I like to bring is a look behind the scenes, a look at what and who makes the sport grow. From the guy that welds pieces back at the shop to the host in the tv booth.

Everyone has a story and I like to tell it. My main focus here at TPF is looking at the men and women behind the microphone and cameras.

My life long goal is to become a member of MRN or PRN Radio and bring the races to you. I hope that what I share now is enjoyable and gives you a unique look in to the world of motorsports.

See you at a track soon

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