CONCORD, N.C. – Ever wonder how an athlete becomes part of a pit crew? The latest installment of "Refueled presented by AdvoCare" offers some insight into that process.
In the fourth episode of "Refueled," viewers will get an inside look at the annual pit crew combine. This event welcomes athletes from across the nation as Hendrick Motorsports looks to build up its pipeline of pit road talent. The full episode can be watched below as well as on Hendrick Motorsports’ YouTube channel.
Pit crews play a vital role in NASCAR. Not only do they change tires, fuel the car and help with adjustments, but they impact whether a driver is in position to win a race and a championship.
"Going back to 2021 and the last pit stop at Phoenix (Raceway)," pit crew development coach Keith Flynn said. "Kyle Larson’s No. 5 team came in fourth place and left in first place with 20 laps to go. That helped us seal the championship that year."
Earlier this month, the organization hosted its 2023 combine, which serves as a way for recent graduates to display their athletic abilities in a different capacity. The background of many pit crew members at Hendrick Motorsports ranges mostly from football to wrestling, as well as various sports played at the top collegiate level.
Leading into the combine, Flynn handles most of the recruitment process. This starts with building and maintaining relationships with colleagues and universities across the nation. Flynn visits different schools while on the road for the NASCAR season with other pit coaches.
"When we go to Phoenix (Raceway), he goes to Arizona State (University)," head pit coach Jon Carvin said of coach Flynn’s recruitment efforts. "When we go to Kansas (Speedway), we’ll go to Kansas State (University). We’ve had a lot of success going to schools in those areas. I get the lucky part and see the guys when they show up here."
Once a list of prospects is established, invitations for the June session are then sent to 20 to 30 athletes, where they will compete for spots in a second minicamp taking place in August. Both parts of the combine are held at the home of the 14-time NASCAR Cup Series champions’ campus in Concord, North Carolina. The first part (as seen in this episode of "Refueled") takes participants through a series of strength and agility drills that measures how high they can jump, how quickly they can move their feet, their stamina and tests their leadership skills.
"The trait that sticks out the most and what I ask for is, the ability to perform when the pressure is the highest," Flynn said. "Those that want to be in the game when the pressure is on the most. Those are the athletes that I look for first. Most of the coaches now know what we do and how it works. The fit factor is probably more important than specific performance tools to measure their athletic performance. We want them to be great teammates and we look for athletes that used to be captains."
The August minicamp will be a three-day session that includes, among other activities, completing pit stops in real time. The organization’s pit department is dedicated to searching for talent that matches its values and team culture. Once the coaches have made their picks, they will offer a five-year contract to the prospects. This ensures that the new additions to the pit roster will have the time to learn the fundamentals necessary to reach the Cup Series level.
In March, Hendrick Motorsports’ "Refueled presented by AdvoCare," debuted. The series looks at the dedication and discipline of the organization’s pit crew athletes and staff. Catch up on the previous episodes below.