Andy Papathanassiou blogs about the new pit training facility at Hendrick
- May 09, 2011
- Team Hendrick
As pit crews train more and more like athletes from other sports, it has become important to upgrade our facilities to keep pace with the fitness requirements we put them through. The big teams all have gyms that contain machines and equipment vital to the organization’s strength and conditioning program. To build a faster pit crew you need to make stronger, quicker crew members. For the modern NASCAR pit crew, this involves a full-time dedicated strength and conditioning coach with a staff to implement daily workout programs that are divided up not only by the time of year and whether you are in season or out of season but programs that also vary by position; tire changer, tire carrier, fuel, jack – it’s that specific and year round.
Hitting the weights in a gym is only part of the answer. Any balanced training program geared toward speed and agility involves running, jumping, moving through space and changing directions, too. While our race day job gets performed on blacktop or cement and our pit stop practice area is made up of these surfaces, that’s not the best place to train the crews in the movements described above. No matter how strong you are, joints and muscles take too much abuse when you move around on such hard surfaces and injuries will result.
Up till now, we’ve had to modify our training and adapt it these hard surfaces. In other words, we were jumping and flying around in the parking lot. The time had come, though, for a change. That’s why we decided to build something you are more likely to find connected to a college or pro sports team than you would NASCAR. We call it the, “Performance Training Facility,” and it is state of the art in NASCAR pit crew training. Our field is the exact same material you’d find on the finest college and pro grounds throughout the United States. We also have a rubberized track surface as well as a large sand pit for balance and leg exercises.
While you might think it’s out of place in motor sports, the reality is that we have the same caliber athletes training the same way so it only makes sense that we have comparable facilities. Upgrading our facilities and our training along with them is a large part of how we’ve brought pit stop times down into the 11 second range. These surfaces are designed to provide the right balance of grip, cushioning and all-weather capabilities that a professional training program needs. We can push harder, cause less wear and tear on our bodies while also minimizing injuries.
This is something we’ve talked about for a long time—the better part of 10 years. Each department here has their wish list of items they want in order to boost their capabilities. An outdoor training facility was always on ours. As good finishes get harder and harder to come by on the track due to tight competition, successful teams look for any way to gain or maintain an advantage over the competition. Here at Hendrick Motorsports, pit crews are one way we try to maintain that advantage and put ourselves in position to win races and championships.
A marker nearby our new center says, “On this field trains the finest athletes in motor sports.” With the creation of our Performance Training Facility, that’s exactly what we’re working to achieve.