CONCORD, N.C. – Matt Skeen grew up in Stone Mountain, Ga., and attended Gardner Webb University, where he played football and majored in Health and Wellness. During the summer after his junior year, Skeen accepted an opportunity to become the summer intern at Hendrick Motorsports. This introduction to racing marked the beginning of Skeen’s journey in the industry.
After graduation in 2007, Skeen spent some time with another NASCAR Sprint Cup race team before returning to Hendrick Motorsports in February 2008 as a trainer. Now five years later, he is a member of the strength and conditioning staff that helps prepare the organization’s Sprint Cup pit crews for race day. The training varies for the Hendrick Motorsports pit crews, and last Wednesday Skeen shared a typical day involving heat training:
3:30 a.m. – Skeen’s alarm clock sounds. It’s time to wake up. He has just enough time to eat a quick yogurt parfait and head out the door.
5 a.m. -- Skeen, an assistant coach, arrives at Hendrick Motorsports and joins the strength and conditioning staff to begin their usual Wednesday tasks -- setting up ropes, tires and weights used for the various heat training workout sessions.
5:40 a.m. – Once all of the equipment is set up for heat training, Skeen and his fellow coaches head back to the office to process any orders for Gatorade or Met-Rx products that may be running low.
6 a.m. – Practice begins for Hendrick Motorsports’ Nos. 48 and 88 NASCAR Sprint Cup pit crews. Skeen conducts a 30-minute daily warm-up session with the teams. These calisthenics are known as active stretching, and the crew members complete them to prevent possible injuries during heat training.
6:45 a.m. – Heat training -- a grueling 30-minute station-timed session -- begins on the Performance Training Facility for one team while the other group lifts weights inside. Once the 30-minute session is up, both teams switch and complete the other workout. During each session, Skeen and the other coaches motivate each pit crew member to perform to their best ability.
9 a.m. -- The Nos. 48 and 88 pit crew members are done with workouts for the day, but there are still three more teams for Skeen and his fellow coaches. The next group up is the development pit crew members.
9:15 a.m. -- Strength building is critical for the development pit crew members, so Skeen and the coaches often keep this group in the weight room. Skeen watches for proper form and that the athletes get the necessary reps at the appropriate intensity. Occasionally, this group also will jog out to the field for additional training.
10 a.m. – Three teams down, two to go. Hendrick Motorsports’ Nos. 5 and 24 Sprint Cup pit crews arrive for their practice sessions.
10:30 a.m. -- Once the Nos. 5 and 24 pit crew members have completed their warm-up exercises, Skeen joins one group for a jog out to the Performance Training Facility in the mid-day heat. Skeen audibly coaches the teams as they follow the same plan their Hendrick Motorsports teammates endured during the morning session. After 30 minutes, the teams switch spots, and Skeen focuses on helping the final group of the day.
12:30 p.m. -- Skeen takes advantage of this one-hour lunch break to complete a workout of his own and then grab a quick bite to eat.
1:30-3:30 p.m. -- Skeen and the other coaches take this time to complete the routine administrative paperwork and begin preparing for tomorrow’s workouts. When that’s finished, the day is over.