|Transport driver Tim “Flounder” Frantz, left, is a key component for the NASCAR Nationwide Series M&L Racing Team considering that he makes certain the No. 70 driven by Shelby Howard gets from one point to the other. On the right is Kenny Freeman, a Southern Nevada off-road racer whose company Race Fuel Energy Drink sponsored the car for the Sam’s Town 300 during the weekend of March 4-5 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
You might say that 44 year-old Tim “Flounder” Frantz is a true example of the unsung heroes of NASCAR. As the transport driver for the No. 70 ML Racing NASCAR Nationwide Series Race Fuel Energy Drink Chevrolet driven by Shelby Howard, Frantz may be the most important cog in an auto racing team.
In short, if Flounder is late or doesn’t show up, in the words of team sponsor Kenny Freeman, “You’re racing a rental car.”
Or as Flounder likes to day, “If I screw up, we’re not racing and we’re all in deep do-do.”
Frantz has been with ML Motorsports based out of Warsaw, Ind., since 1998. He doesn’t seem to mind the mileage he drives in a year’s time (during a part-time seasons in 2010, the ML Motorsports International Lone Star 18-wheeler racked up about 45,000 miles many times during some very challenging weather conditions.
“When we were in Mississippi and Louisiana last spring, we went rain and snow,”
he remembered. “They about six inches of snow last year and the people down there didn’t know how to take all that snow.”
The closest bad call came last year on the way to Daytona in 2010.
“The truck in front of me blew a tire and the car in front me just locked up his brakes,” Frantz explained. “We had to go into the center median to keep from running over the car. Oh yeh, I was scared, for sure. I thought we were going to smash a car.”
While the hours are long and the challenges are many, you won’t find a happier man in the pits of a NASCAR race than the native of Warsaw.
“This is not a job to me, but rather a wonderful opportunity that many others would love to have,’ he said. “In fact, there are many others waiting to take our places even with the rigorous schedule that we keep.”
The traveling show that race car drivers and their teams follow are undoubtedly a family on bunches of wheels.
“We’re almost like a dysfunctional union,” he laughed. “We will help each other out, but we’ll also do whatever we can to beat one another on every weekend. On the road, if one of the drivers of our competitor’s transport needs help, we all have connections to help one another out whenever we can. We’re definitely a family although we’re certainly a dysfunctional functional family at the same time.”
Frantz has great things to say about the team driver Shelby Howard, a 25 year-old of Indianapolis.
“Our team manager Tony Barnes was in on getting Shelby along with our team president Ed Mullen and team owner Mary Louise Miller,” he explained. “Shelby was talented and somebody they thought we could grow with; and the fact that he was a native Indianan was important, too. Shelby has continued to get better finishes and we have progressed as team because of him.”
In particular, Frantz lauds the efforts and support of Mary Louise and her husband, Dane, providing the essential elements for what is believed to be the only NASCAR Nationwide team in Northern Indiana.
“They are very humble people,” Frantz explained. “This is just something that they enjoy and we are all lucky to have them.”
Because he’s from the cold country, Frantz especially likes heading off to the warmer climates like Daytona (he has spent his birthdays on Feb. 15 at Daytona since the team was formed) and Las Vegas.
“It’s still cold at home and appreciate getting away where it’s warm,” he said.
No matter where he’s at, Frantz has a long list of duties to keep him busy.
“I am in charge of getting the dry cleaning done,” he said. “Then, I also need to get the groceries for the semi, clean, stock and make sure we have all the parts that are needed for each track.”
And as though he doesn’t already have a lot to do, Frantz also maintains the radios and makes sure the scanner is in working order. For a man who was handling various duties for an Indiana Oldsmobile-Cadillac dealership back in 1997, he has landed his dream job.
However, even with the hectic schedule, Frantz doesn’t need to reach out to find something specifically to relax.
“I am doing what I enjoy and would prefer not to do anything else,” he said. “I couldn’t sit on bank fishing because it’s too boring. As transport drivers, we’re the first to get to the track and the last to leave.
“But I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
CONTACTS: Mike Henle, The Idea Company Public Relations, Race Fuel Energy Drink, 702-279-3483; Jennifer Weaver, ML Motorsports, 574-376-0656; Kenny Freeman, Race Fuel, 702-232-6296.