Cole's Corner

StarCom Racing ready to get dirty in Bristol with dirt Hall of Famer Charlie Langenstein

By Cole Cusumano

Chances are if you’re invested in the NASCAR Twitter community, you’ll agree it’s difficult to find someone with a better social media presence than Charlie Langenstein of StarCom Racing. The mechanical supervisor has played an integral role in both the team and sport’s growth in a digital age where online prevalence is hard to come by within the sanctioning body.

Langenstein’s bid with Twitter only began in October of 2019 as a convenient method of acquiring racing results and news, but you would never guess based on his engaging activity. Whether he’s sharing photos and stories throughout his illustrious career or in-depth behind the scenes content from StarCom’s shop, the New Jersey born mechanic is a must-follow for any NASCAR fan.

“I really didn’t have a formula or recipe for how I was going to do it; It just took off,” Langenstein told NEWS FROM THE PITS. “There’s a lot of these drivers that I worked with in the past, and I’d tell little stories that happened here and there.

“It’s been a good experience, but I didn’t go into it with any set plans.”

Although initially unaware of the magnitude of his impact established in each post, Langenstein now recognizes the weight behind his words (and photos) published on social media and has fully embraced an interactive element. He’ll regularly communicate with race fans across the globe and admits to inviting some to the shop and becoming friends with them over time.

While he may currently be best known for his status as a NASCAR social media titan, there’s much more that meets the eye behind your phone or computer screen.

At 60 years old, Langenstein has compiled one of the most decorated careers in all of motorsports, earning a lifetime’s worth of achievements. Instilling versatility when rising through the ranks of go-karting, the DIRTcar Series and IndyCar as both a mechanic and competitor paid dividends, as he’s forever immortalized in the Northeast Modified Hall of Fame and New York State Stock Car Association Hall of Fame. 

In 14 seasons with Hendrick Motorsports, he was part of Jimmie Johnson’s run of five consecutive championships, after winning his first NASCAR title with the late Rob Moroso in 1989. During this tenure, Langenstein received the prestigious Papa Joe Hendrick Award for his outstanding leadership, and this has carried over to StarCom. 

“It’s a building process,” Langenstein said in transitioning to the team founded in 2017. “I lean back on my experience quite a bit and try to help build what we’re doing here. There’s still a lot of things here that I implement here the way we did at Hendrick (Motorsports) that was proven.”

Thanks to Langenstein’s leadership, he’s transformed the cultural norm of smaller teams working egregious hours into ending each day at 5 p.m. at StarCom by inspiring his crew to operate vigilant and timely. The entire shop has rallied behind his method of operation and this prompted everyone to turn to him this weekend for the Bristol Motor Speedway dirt race.

With a team-wide lack of experience on dirt, the crew will be relying heavily on Langenstein’s esteemed, Hall of Fame-caliber background. So much in fact he’ll be attending only the second race of his career since joining StarCom in 2017.

“I don’t want to say I’ve taken on a whole leadership, but I think for [Bristol Dirt] I am,” Langenstein said. “With that being said, I’m going to do whatever it takes.

“The biggest thing is these cars aren’t designed for dirt. You’ve gotta do a lot of tricks to them to get maximum performance on dirt, but you also have to stay within NASCAR’s rules and a lot of [their] rules don’t favor dirt direction.”

Langenstein admits they weren’t able to really push the boundaries like he anticipates the bigger teams will do, because they don’t have an allowance for paying fines. While larger organizations set funds aside specifically for penalties, they have to be smart in allocating money into a car that will only be run once.

Aside from preparing the No. 00 — which Langenstein feels very confident with — he’ll play an instrumental role in the weekend by providing input to both Quin Houff and crew chief George Church, who both have no experience at dirt tracks. The duo have been receptive to Langenstein’s early advice and respect his background immensely.

“Our biggest thing is we want to get [Quin] comfortable and get the car to turn, because if it doesn’t turn that opens up a whole other animal of problems,” Langenstein said. “There’s ways of driving these cars and there’s ways of driving on dirt, and I believe I can help him that way. I think I can almost pump him up and maybe get some more speed out of him, too.

“There’s an art to driving dirt.”

Contrary to the untrained eye, the objective is to keep the car as straight as possible when competing on dirt, and that all begins with setting the car going into the turns. Langenstein says in order to do this, the driver must stab the brake and this kicks the rear-end of the car out.

This is one of many tips he’ll relay to his driver before the Food City Dirt Race.

After a relatively clean race (minus a pit road speeding penalty) that resulted in a 33rd-place finish in Atlanta last week with “probably the best car we’ve ever had” according to Langenstein, he believes the No. 00 team may have their best shot a quality finish this weekend with the Camaro prepared for the Bristol dirt race.

“I just hope [fans] don’t think we’re going to wave a magic wand and shine, but I think we’ll run respectfully,” Langenstein said. “I think we’ll be okay with my presence being there. There’s some things I know about tires that these guys don’t know about, and the geometries and stuff that work on dirt, so we’re going to utilize a lot of that.”

Langenstein watched every modified event run at Bristol leading up to the NASCAR Cup Series race and expects the track to take rubber similarly to the way the super late models put some down, but with rain descending on the .533-mile track, it’s going to be a completely different surface

Luckily for Houff and StarCom Racing, the mechanical supervisor prepared for this scenario given his expansive knowledge in dirt racing. Not only can Langenstein be the key to the team’s success at the first dirt race run in the Cup Series since 1970, but he could be the answer for both theirs and NASCAR’s growth with his social media influence.

Follow along with Langenstein on Twitter (@wrenchtwister00) and be sure to tune into the Food City Dirt Race from Bristol Motor Speedway on March 28 at 3:30 p.m. on Fox.

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