CONCORD, N.C. – When Jeff Kerr steps onto the pit road wall, 30-pound jack in hand, he repeats the assignment to himself until the No. 5 Farmers Insurance Chevrolet pulls into the stall.
And for a split-second, he goes into auto-pilot.
With every scripted step he takes, Kerr pounds out the heartbeat for the stop, sets the tempo for his teammates and ultimately dictates the crew’s choreographed approach throughout the stop.
The precise steps taken by the Hendrick Motorsports jackmen -- Nick Covey, T.J. Ford, Kerr and Bailey Walker -- dictate the pulse of the stop. Seconds are critical, and the jackmen draw from their athletic backgrounds and ongoing physical training to lift and lower the car at the exact right moment.
Kerr, a who trained as a linebacker for the Cleveland Browns, knows how important precision is combined with the short, explosive moments of jacking a race car. Prior to the stop, Kerr coordinates with the tire changers and carriers for the No. 5 Farmers Insurance Chevrolet.
Just down pit road, his Hendrick Motorsports teammates are doing the same thing during their stops. Once the car’s nose crosses into the team’s box, the training spent each week in pit practice and strength conditioning is applied. Ford sprints around the No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet, and in a matter of seconds, the 3,200-pound stock car is elevated.
But maneuvering the car isn’t the only responsibility for the jackmen. As soon as the No. 88 Diet Mountain Dew/National Guard Chevrolet is lifted, Covey waits to pull the rear tire before giving it to the rear-tire carrier. Covey lowers the jack once the fifth lugnut is secure on both the front and rear tires, and, using the burst of speed he honed playing linebacker for the University of Nebraska, he sprints for the left side.
On the left side, the movements are the same, as Walker (pictured above) wraps up the stop for the No. 24 Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet. He listens for the sound of the front tire-changer’s air gun hitting the tire five times, while watching for the slight signal from the rear tire-changer indicating the stop is finished. In one fluid movement he releases the car and removes the jack, sending the Chevrolet accelerating back onto pit road to rejoin the pack.
This Thursday’s Sprint Pit Crew Challenge will present a different test for the four Hendrick Motorsports jack men. During the challenge, the jackman must raise and lower each side of the race car and then push one of the 3,200-pound stock cars across a finish line. The jackman is one of the first pit crew members to reach the car push segment of the pit crew challenge and has the difficult task of getting the vehicle moving.
To learn more information about the Sprint Pit Crew Challenge on Thursday, May 17 or to purchase tickets visit www.pitcrewchallenge.com.