By Chris Owens – On a typical Friday afternoon at Darlington Raceway, you would find @DannyEfland getting ready to do battle with 39 other drivers and the track known as Too Tough To Tame.
This year, however, hours before the start of the VFW Sport Clips 200, Efland was lounging around behind one of Richard Childress Racing’s Nationwide Series haulers for driver @CaleConley. Efland, a former driver in the series, has found a new home in the sport he loves. He’s currently the team engineer for the part-time No. 33 team.
While it might not be behind the wheel, Efland has found a spot in the sport working for a top-level organization.
An opportunity that arose from a partnership Efland already had in place with RCR. As a driver and owner in the series, his small team would buy cars and parts from the company. That evolved into a full-time job outside of the cockpit in 2014.
“The opportunity came where I was kind of at a point in my career and in my life that I needed a little bit of a change,” Efland told POPULAR SPEED.
“I got to talking to them (RCR) over the winter and they offered me a job on this new 33 team. It’s not really new, but all the individuals that are a part of it are new. This is really just a part-time team and they were putting together some new guys and I came into the picture.”
“It’s a pretty smooth transition though, because it’s racing and a lot of the same things I’m doing right now as a team engineer are the same things I had to do as a small team driver / owner,” he said. “Now I have a lot of smart people around me to learn from and lean on and a lot of cool equipment to work with at the shop and at the racetrack and a little bit bigger budget, which I’m not use to.”
While Efland has bounced around in the Nationwide Series, he’s been one of the little teams that could. Just two years ago, he brought home a career best 14th place finish at Darlington driving for Go Green Racing.
While he’s competed in the last four Nationwide Series races, in 2014 he’s watched from the sidelines while on top of the pit box for Cale Conley. Watching the field take the green, especially at Darlington, is the toughest thing he’s had to do.
“Darlington will be the toughest track I’ve been to this year as far as emotional struggle. Darlington is far my favorite racetrack as a driver,” he said. “I think it will continue to be my favorite track as a driver, as an engineer, as a team owner, crew chief, whatever. Down the road, I think this will always be my favorite racetrack.
“This weekend is the first time I’ve been here in the last five years that I haven’t been in a car. It’s going to be a different mindset going into the race. I’m looking forward to the race; I’m excited about it. I’m definitely going to be envious; it’s going to be tough watching them take that green flag, knowing I’m not behind the wheel.”
With a new face like Cale Conley entering the series, it’s always crucial for a driver and team to gel as quickly as possible. That’s one thing Efland feels has happened between he and Conley after just two races together.
Conley was strong out of the box at Bristol, posting a solid 11th place finish in his debut. Staying out of trouble for any rookie is tough, but doing it at Bristol is an accomplishment. Which even took Efland by surprise.
“It was quite a challenge for him but I think he really took Bristol by the horns – he was smart about it. He didn’t just go out there and show everybody what he had, he listened to everybody and took their advice and went out there and did a heck of a job,” Efland said. “He’s doing a heck of a job. He’s got the potential to go a long way”
It’s tough for a driver to sit on the sidelines and watch as other drivers do what you love, Efland acknowledged that, but says he’s content with where he’s at in his career. He still gets the urge to climb aboard and see what the piece he’s working on has at the racetrack.
As a driver, you have to be able to communicate with your crew. On the opposite side of the radio now, Efland has to listen to what his driver is telling him and parlay that into changes the crew chief can use. The easiest thing for him would be to jump in the car, but he knows that’s not how it works. So he’ll continue to improve his communication skills with the team.
“I’ve had the thought cross my mind, maybe I should just jump in there and go out and see what it’s doing and maybe I could figure out how to adjust it from there,” he said. “That’s been difficult, but it’s all a part of it and I’ve learned a lot about that side of things.”
With his newfound role at RCR, Efland noted he’s not going to hang up his helmet just yet. You might see him behind the wheel of a car during a test session or two. But as far as racing, he’s solely focused on making his current job work so his own driving career will have to wait for the moment.
“If the right things fall into line you never know what can happen. I’ll never give up hope there. Right now I’m planning on just focusing 100% on my job because I think in order to be successful in racing, you’ve got to be successful at the job you’re currently doing,” Efland said.
“Currently I’m a race team engineer, so I want to make sure I’m 100% of that and then anything extra would be great.“
EMAIL CHRIS AT email@example.com
FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @ChrisOwens62