Heat workouts propel pit crews
- Jun 20, 2008
- Team Hendrick
SONOMA, Calif. (June 20, 2008) – In late May, Hendrick Motorsports’ pit crews basically ditched the gym, but it wasn’t for a day off.
It was to start preparing for the summer months. Since then, every over-the-wall member of the Nos. 5, 24, 48 and 88 teams, outfitted in adidas ClimaCool gear, has been lifting, running and training outside in the elements. Trainer Mark Morrison starts the process in late May so that when the teams visit a place like Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, the crew members can keep working despite the rays blasting down from the 90-degree sun or the heat radiating from the track.
They can stay focused on their jobs—the car will be lifted, the tires changed, the tank full of fuel and so on.
That mental toughness will come in handy this Sunday at the 1.99-mile road course where the demand to perform perfectly under pressure will be even greater. That is because during the 219-mile NASCAR Sprint Cup Series event, the pit crews likely will have just two chances to work on their team’s Impala SS. Mishaps—even small snafus—can have huge consequences.
“It’s a hot, long day (at Sonoma). And the biggest thing is you’ve got two chances to pit,” said Tony Eury Jr., crew chief for the No. 88 AMP Energy/National Guard Chevrolet. “You can’t have a mess-up. It’s got to be 110 percent with no screw-ups for those pit stops because track position means so much. You’ve really got to be on your A-game.”
When it comes to pit-stop practice, the members focus more on perfection than speed. Caleb Hurd, gasman for the No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet, has been with the team for seven years. He said the team prepares for Sonoma by practicing three live stops a day. During that time, each member focuses on making certain adjustments correctly, under pressure.
“The mindset of the team is to slow down and make sure the wheels are tight and the car is as full of fuel as possible,” Hurd said. “If you have to come back in for an unscheduled stop at a road course, it will take away any chance of winning. Trying to pick up an extra .25 seconds in the pits is just not worth it.”
When the crew members return from the West Coast, Morrison will be ready with the next step in their heat workout plan. He said that by the time the Sprint Cup Series visits Indianapolis Motor Speedway in late July, the crews should be adapted.
“We physically prepare to endure the whole season, and our training is year-round so we can stay strong for the last 10 races,” Morrison said. “We stay mentally focused and decrease injuries through strength and conditioning so our guys can better their positions. A jackman, changer, carrier—whatever position they are—can get better and extend his career.”