CONCORD, N.C. – Thirteen seconds.
Just 13 ticks of the second hand. What can you do in that time frame?
Maybe you can start your morning coffee or find your car keys. If you’re a pit crew member for Hendrick Motorsports, that’s plenty of time to make a four-tire stop with fuel and adjustments. On average, the Nos. 5, 24, 48 and 88 crews attempt to rattle off stops in less than 13 seconds. That precision translates into spots on pit road and has helped contribute to 200 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series wins for the organization.
Before the stopwatch starts, six athletes perch atop the pit road wall, poised to leap in front of their driver’s Chevrolet. These six crew members have 13 fleeting seconds to complete their assignments, win spots on pit road and put their driver in position to contend for the victory all at the same time.
Fans, cheering wildly for their favorite drivers, have come to expect swift, precise stops with the evolution of the sport. And as a result, most pit crew members now generally have a background in collegiate or professional sports. Here, three of these current athletes began their motor sports careers as one of about the 50 pit crew hopefuls vying for a spot in the Hendrick Motorsports developmental team.
But on race day, the time spent training is a distant memory. It’s about application, and seconds are critical.
As the nose of the race car passes the line of the neighboring pit stall, the crew vaults into action. The jackman, front-tire carrier and changer are off the wall and sprinting around the front of the Cup Chevrolet to reach the right side, arriving even before the race car growls to a halt. The rear-tire carrier and changer chase the car into the stall coming around the back to the right rear tire, while the gas man immediately engages the fuel can on the left side of the car.
Fans watch the explosive, yet precise movements, probably not knowing about the four days a week the pit crew members dedicate to lifting weights, running drills and practicing live stops. The Hendrick Motorsports teams train with strength and conditioning coaches to complete a creative workout regime that often includes yoga and swimming to remain in peak physical condition for each of the 36 points-paying races each year.
When the last lug nut is secured on the left side, the jackman releases the car and the driver accelerates off pit road.
The six crew members begin preparing for their next trip over the wall.
This week, HendrickMotorsports.com will break down each pit crew position leading up to the Sprint Pit Crew Challenge on Thursday, May 17.
Before the spotlight shines on all four Hendrick Motorsports pit crews at the Challenge, fans can watch them practice at Concord, N.C. campus on Tuesday, May 15 beginning at 7 a.m.
Pit stall position for the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race on Saturday, May 19, will be assigned based on performance during the Pit Crew Challenge event. To learn more about the event or to purchase tickets visit www.pitcrewchallenge.com.