Hendrick Motorsports

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Tire carrier Kevin Harris blogs teamwork, fitness key to solid pit stops

Our pit crew and strength coaches emphasize that one of the major components in becoming a successful pit crew is giving 100 percent in our fitness and training program. No one individual performance can bring success. We are dependent upon each other to pull off the perfect pit stop, which can make the difference in Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s success on race day.
 
Strength and conditioning is an ongoing process and really the backbone of our pit stops. Of course, choreographing the stop is critical, but if we’re not in shape, we can’t make it happen. Take my position, for instance. As a tire carrier, if I can’t handle the 70-pound tire when running around the car, then I’m going to be delayed throwing them on the studs, and that will affect our team negatively.

Now that we’re in season, the No. 88 team typically exercises Monday through Thursday between 6-10:30 a.m. in the gym and on the training field. What you may not know is that in addition to building muscle strength in the weight room or increasing speed and agility outdoors on the track, we also are involved in a few other types of strategic training for accomplishing pit stops in less than 13 seconds. The central blueprint of our workouts consists of progression-based training, with emphasis on core strength and injury prevention. The racing season is long so it is vital for the weight and repetitions of our exercises always to be fluctuating. This gives our body enough strength and ample recovery time during the season, which runs from February to November.
            
Our pit crew participates in various types of training outside of the weight room such as swimming, yoga and heat training. Swimming, which is one of my favorite workouts, helps us increase our stamina and most importantly our range of motion. Yoga helps with that, too. When performing our jobs over the wall, we tend to bend in awkward positions. Yoga allows us to maintain our focus, flexibility and range of motion throughout the entire season. Heat training consists of exercises outdoors during the peak of summer so that our bodies acclimate to the hot temperatures we experience at the racetrack. It’s an intense part of the crew’s training regimen, and it’s not always the most fun, but it has become an integral part of our fitness.
             
In addition to being tested weekly at the racetrack, our coaches and trainers here at Hendrick measure us twice a year during pit crew testing. In fact, our first one will be in early May. Posting the fastest time or scoring the highest in any of the events means bragging rights for the individual and his crew. The testing includes standard items like the 300-yard shuttle and vertical jump, but it also includes specialized drills like the lug nut shuttle and post-to-post drill. All of us on the 88 pit crew are very competitive when it comes to the testing, and strive for the best scores in each event. Our goal is to own every column on the record board, which is located in the weight room for all who pass through to see. This is another opportunity for us to be competitive, but truly when it comes down to it, we understand that our aptitude in such a vigorous fitness and training program does not guarantee success if we as crew members don’t share a foundation of mutual respect, encouragement, positive thinking and dedication to flawless pit stops. After all, we are a team.

Kevin Harris

Front-tire carrier

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