CONCORD, N.C. – Last month, Hendrick Motorsports hosted a pit crew combine as the organization aims to addition some fresh talent and athletes to the roster for future seasons.
Since 1984, Hendrick Motorsports has earned a record of 14 NASCAR Cup Series championships. While every team member plays a vital role, the pit department's unique approach to recruitment helps the organization continue to maximize growth and success.
The organization structures its annual pit crew combine similarly to the National Football League's combine - a showplace for college athletes looking to solidify their draft prospects to the professional level. Just like NFL coaches, Hendrick Motorsports’ pit coaches scout amateur athletes near markets where the NASCAR Cup Series races in the hopes of finding future pit crew members.
The Hendrick Motorsports combine event first started in 2012. It was previously held three times a year in different locations before moving to the Hendrick Motorsports campus in Charlotte, North Carolina. Combine participants go through extensive strength and agility drills to test how high they can jump, how quickly they can move their feet, how well they work together and how well they listen to instruction. From there, cuts are made and prospects are invited back to campus for a second minicamp prior to the hiring decisions by the coaching staff.
The combine serves as a way for college athletes, who are unable to debut at the professional level in their respective sport, to use their athletic abilities in a different way. The background of pit crew members at Hendrick Motorsports includes collegiate competitors from some of the top programs in football, baseball, wresting and a variety of other sports.
"First and foremost, they need to be able to have a very high level of athleticism," Hendrick Motorsports pit crew coach Jon Carvin said. "It’s becoming more and more important, especially moving from five lug to one lug. The time it takes you to get from point A to point B, the faster that you can do that, the more we’re going to like that. You have to be able to bend – we don’t play standing straight up and down. We play really close to the ground, realistically on the ground. We’re looking at how their knees bend, how they bend, their strength, and agility."
Coaches are not searching for the type of athlete that can immediately change a tire in six seconds, but for athletes with strength, athleticism and the work ethic that is necessary to succeed in the action-packed world of NASCAR.
A recruitment invitation of the premiere athletes who tryout in Charlotte has been extended to the U.S. Army because of their growing relationship with Hendrick Motorsports over the past several years. Once the selection process is complete with the new class of pit crew members, the organization shares the list of remaining candidates with the Army to help them find people with similar skill sets.
"I really enjoyed the fact that they were here with us, and I think they liked it too," Carvin added about the Army's participation. "To see what we do, get a taste of how we go through our days and what is important to us, because really it’s not just about what you can do athletically."
A second minicamp is set for early August. Prospects will continue the recruitment process with three days of skills and practice tests that will include running pit stops in real time.