CONCORD, N.C. – As the 2024 NASCAR Cup Series season revs up, the Hendrick Motorsports pit department is ready to settle some unfinished business on pit road.
Following the end of the 2023 season, the department has honed its focus to build upon its competitive edge and amplify its performance to continue to be a dominant force on the pit road. The skill set of all four Hendrick Motorsports pit crews was prominently displayed throughout the 10-race playoffs as each team placed in the top-five positions of the M-pact score used to determine the Mechanix Wear Most Valuable Pit Crew Award. The Championship 4 finalists of the No. 24 and No. 5 teams ranked second and third, while the No. 48 was fourth and the No. 9 placed fifth.
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During the offseason, the department shifted its focus to each pit crew athlete and the areas they needed to work on to make the unit stronger. That has continued since the team returned to training in January.
"We’re working in a part-part-whole type of mentality to work on each part of the stop and that will continue our success in the total stop," said head pit coach Jacob Claborn. "Coach (Keith) Flynn probably said it best, if we do the same thing we’re going to fall behind. So, we’re going to continue to push and continue to improve in every detail of the stop."
As we've seen in recent years, everyone is getting faster on pit road and the margin between teams is getting tighter and tighter. Every second matters and no movement can be wasted.
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The 2024 schedule brings with it its challenges. Starting with the DAYTONA 500, the Cup Series has 23 straight races before the Olympic break in late July. To keep the teams fresh will require a different strategy in preparation for the upcoming season.
"With our season in general, it’s focusing on one day at a time, building for the team and not allowing it to get stale," Claborn continued. "We’re starting the season being very cognizant of the kind of reps our athletes are getting to a point where they are getting hungry to do more. We want that mentality of I can do another and get better - well you can do that tomorrow too, though."
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Not only are coaches keeping tabs on the workload their team members are taking, but they also continued the "Everything You Got" series that was completed in last year’s preseason. The series took place on Tuesday and Thursday throughout January, where pit crew athletes focused on competition and comradery through sweat on the turf field at Hendrick Motorsports. Workouts were done both individually and in their respective teams to build stamina for the season.
"That built a really good foundation for us last year and my hope is that it builds a really good foundation for us this year," Claborn said.
As Hendrick Motorsports celebrates its 40th anniversary, there is plenty of anticipation for the upcoming season. The team has set its sights on winning races in pursuit of the organization’s 15th Cup Series championship. Does this milestone anniversary add an extra layer of pressure for those over-the-wall crew members?
"We certainly understand the significance of it and we acknowledge that," Claborn noted. "Ultimately, we have to focus on the job in front of us. To put together a successful 40th (anniversary), we need to do our job. While that is incredibly important to us and we are proud of that, we want to focus on what we can control, which is the pit stop every time the car comes down."