CONCORD, N.C. – A new season brings new opportunities for top-tier athletes to earn a position on one of the four NASCAR Cup Series pit crews at Hendrick Motorsports.
Recruits are brought in from all over the country, especially former football and rugby players. The intense training and team atmosphere from the prospects’ college and professional playing days normally make them the perfect candidates to service a stock car on pit road.
“What we look for when we have the minicamps number one is a prospect’s athletic ability,” Hendrick Motorsports pit crew coach Jon Carvin said. “We like that to stand out because the more athletic, the more they are able to move and show athletic movements, the more likely they will be able to go fast when they learn what they are doing.”
Chris Burkey, another pit crew coach at Hendrick Motorsports, sifts through the prospects with a fine-tooth comb to find the best athletes for his crews. He wants teammates who are always looking for a way to increase performance on and off the racetrack and benefit the team as a whole.
“Being able to compete and being highly competitive for one, and the second thing is being able to let a bad stop go,” Burkey said. “They’ve probably missed a tackle for a touchdown or dropped a ball, it’s just the next play up. You just have to let it go because, obviously, you are going to have some problems during a pit stop. It’s just how you can overcome that, jump back up on the wall, go do it again and be better the next time you go.”
The athletes in minicamp set themselves apart by being capable of being coached when learning their new skill and sport. The ability to start over and be a student is what pit crew coach Keith Flynn likes to see from the final group of recruits at minicamp.
“The thing that makes them stand out the most, to me, is the ability to be coached and take coaching,” Flynn said. “Once we give them a correction we see if they can apply that correction the next one. If we have to give it to them again and again, then that’s not what we are looking for. If they get upset the next time we give them that correction, then we know we have a good one because they are taking it serious and it means something to them to do it correctly.”
John Gianninoto, the fueler for the No. 9 pit crew, helps the new recruits adjust to the new sport from a current athlete’s perspective. Gianninoto aided the No. 9 team clock the third-fastest four-tire pit stop of the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series season of 13.766 seconds, which allows him to give the recruits advice through his experiences.
“I came through the program the exact same way these guys are coming through the program, so I know the ups and downs of it – I can be someone to talk to or someone to lead them along the right path,” Gianninoto said. “What I really try to do is steer them in the right direction, especially at the track. How to act, how to do their jobs, how to go about performing them, and I think that’s one quality that I can give them since I have been in the same exact shoes as them.”
Once the athletes pass through the four-day minicamp, the coaches will interview them for the fit factor and make their selections for the development team for the 2022 NASCAR Cup Series season, setting them up to become a pit crew member for one of the four Hendrick Motorsports teams.