Hendrick Motorsports visit now a Florida State tradition

Hendrick Motorsports visit now a Florida State tradition

CONCORD, N.C. – For Florida State University, it seems Hendrick Motorsports is a bit of a good-luck charm.

In 2012 and 2013, the Seminoles appeared in – and won – the ACC Championship Game. And before both contests, members of the staff headed to Concord, North Carolina, to take a tour of the Hendrick Motorsports campus.

So with Florida State once again in the conference title game, it only made sense that a group of Seminoles staff members would head to Hendrick Motorsports once again.

“It's tradition now,” said Jake Pfeil, senior associate director of sports medicine and Florida State’s head athletic trainer. “Every year it's more and more incredible, and every year I bring a few people that aren't necessarily NASCAR fans that don't really understand it. I have been [a fan] my whole life, but every year I bring a few people and when they leave here, they're in awe and then they're NASCAR fans.”

This year, the group included athletic trainers, team physicians, strength coaches, administrative staff and head coach Jimbo Fisher’s youngest son, Ethan.

“He’s a big Dale [Earnhardt] Jr. fan, so he’s loving it,” said Mark Morrison, Hendrick Motorsports’ head strength and conditioning coach.

Morrison provided the connection between Florida State and Hendrick Motorsports, as he and Pfeil were both graduate assistants with the Seminoles from 1997 to 2000.

The two men kept in touch, and Florida State’s latest string of ACC championship appearances spurred on the idea for the annual tour.

"It's a neat tradition,” Morrison said. “Every year I try to add a little extra, just because it's neat to have relationships like this. To have them come visit and every year bring different people, whether it's coaches, administrative people, for those people to see behind the scenes of what we do here at Hendrick is very crucial.”

This year, the new addition to the tour was a chance to climb inside of Earnhardt’s No. 88 National Guard Chevrolet SS. Ethan was also given some memorabilia autographed by Earnhardt.

The entire experience certainly left an impression on the group.

“If you are not a NASCAR fan, this is the greatest marketing tool in the world, because you will leave here an absolute fan,” said Scott Burkhart, a neuropsychologist for Florida State. “There's no way you can't. There's no way you will not go watch a race after you've been through here. It's crazy."

Now the Seminoles will hope to win Saturday night – and get back to the game in 2015 for a return trip to the Concord campus.

“Every year I leave here in awe of something else that I didn’t know before,” Pfeil said. “It’s incredible.”