CONCORD, N.C. -- To keep the Hendrick Motorsports pit crews on top of their game, Gene Monahan, an athletic trainer for the organization, leans on his 39 years of experience as the head athletic trainer for the New York Yankees.
While motor sports and baseball are two completely different sports, the attention to detail in training made Monahan’s transition to the racing world smoother than he anticipated.
“The thing about it that made it interesting, not necessarily easy but fascinating, was that a lot of the things we dealt with in baseball, we do deal with in racing,” Monahan said. “Racing is a matter of tenths of seconds when it comes to pit crew work. These guys train all week long and they train hard – they have to train harder than baseball players because they have to be quick and agile and very, very strong. But the overlapping coming over here from baseball, it didn’t take me long to assimilate that.”
Monahan started his career as bat boy for the Yankees’ minor league teams before being offered a position to learn the ropes as an athletic trainer for the Major League team. His love for baseball came from his roots in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, making him originally a Pirates fan. However, Monahan found a new favorite when the Yankees moved their spring training facility to Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, his hometown at the time.
“I wrote a letter and luckily got a job as a bat boy for the minor league team and then I worked there for a little bit,” Monahan explained. “A clubhouse guy quit halfway through the season and I took over that job, as well. Then they asked me if I wanted to intern and learn how to be a trainer for the spring training next year and the year after that. I said sure and then that got started.
"So, I spent 10 years in the minor leagues, working my way up through the Carolina League and the Eastern League and the International League. Then, after 10 years in the minor leagues, I went to New York as the head athletic trainer in 1973, the year Mr. Steinbrenner bought the team, and it was a great ride.”
Monahan was a part of seven World Series victories with the organization and retired to North Carolina in 2011. He came out of retirement for Hendrick Motorsports to help aid the pit crew and the development of a strength training room on campus.
“I wasn’t here (in North Carolina) a year and Hendrick Motorsports came a knocking,” Monahan said. “I had two or three interviews with Marshall Carlson and the boss, Mr. Hendrick, and we set up the program off of the weight room area at Hendrick Motorsports by the chassis shop and the motor shop, and it developed really nicely.”
Monahan continues to help the pit crews become faster and stronger in the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series season. This year, three Hendrick Motorsports pit crews have clocked the fastest average four tire pit stop inside the top-five placements, with Kyle Larson and the No. 5 crew leading the pack with the fastest average stop this season at 13.6 seconds.
The 75-year-old trainer is in his 10th season with the organization and has no plans of slowing down. He recognizes that he has worked at the top level of two professional sports and credits his dedication to where he is today.
“I go through the countryside because I live in Mooresville (North Carolina) and every day when I go over to Concord, I literally pinch myself saying, ‘You are working for the best organization in the history of racing, and you worked all your life in the best organization in baseball and all of sports; this is unbelievable,’” Monahan said. “I am just very fortunate and I tell kids this when I speak to youth groups that no matter what your dream is, if you work really hard at it and dedicate yourself and take some good advice and stick to it, you can make all of your dreams come true. These are two huge dreams I never could have thought of.”