Over the Wall: The Job and Workout Regime of a NASCAR Pit Crew Member

New Hampshire is quite an idyllic place in the fall, full of trees with changing leaves, mild weather, and sleepy small towns; until the baritone crackle of NASCAR V8’s roll into town that is.

Twice a year, the NASCAR circus comes to New Hampshire to race at the Sylvania 300. However, unlike most other tracks, New Hampshire Motor Speedway special is the fact that is a 1-mile oval. Because of this, the racing action is condensed as opposed to the larger tracks like Talladega. Imagine putting 50 angry bears into one boxing ring, and letting them loose, that is what NASCAR racing on a short oval looks and sounds like. While here as guests of Sylvania, Bullz-Eye.com had the opportunity to find out the type of physical dexterity needed to be on a racing team as well.

Many people might think NASCAR and fitness should not be in the same sentence. Images of beer bellies and Cheetos fill their heads as they think of some man named Bubba screaming himself to near cardiac arrest for his favorite driver. However, that belief isn’t true.

Behind the scenes of every NASCAR team, there is a group of dedicated individuals that work on and off the track to achieve a race win. These individuals are the pit crewmembers. I spoke to TJ Fleming, front tire carrier of the Menards 88 truck in the Camping World Truck Series, on just how a pit crew member prepares for his job.

For those unfamiliar with racing, think of a pit crew like an offensive line, and the driver as the quarterback. Although the quarterback shoulders pressure from the media and responsibility for executing plays, it’s his offensive line that protects him so he can be effective. Just ask Jay Cutler of the Bears on how important a functioning offensive line is.

A pit crew does the same job. The driver goes out and collects the attention and race wins, but without his crewmembers, he would never have a chance to reach the podium. A pit crew keeps their driver competitive by completing a driver’s pit stops. During a pit stop, tires are changed, gas is refueled, and a car may be slightly repaired (usually with the delicate tools of hammers and duct tape). The faster a driver can get in and out of the pits, the greater his chances of winning. To get out fast, a pit crewmember must be well trained and in good shape.

Changing a tire may not seem like an activity to train for, but you probably have never had to change a tire in less than 30 seconds in front of a screaming crowd with a race win on the line. Not to mention, these tires way anywhere from 45-75 lbs. each that need to be lifted and fitted in a moments notice after sitting on the wall waiting for a driver to pit. Like an offensive linemen, you need to immediately and quickly spring into action to get the job done.

The person I spoke to about the importance of fitness for a crewmember was T.J. Fleming. T.J. and his teammates are responsible for keeping Matt Crafton’s truck competitive on the track in the Camping World Racing Series. Instead of cars, the Camping World Race Series features pickup trucks hauling ass on the racetrack that you would normally find at Home Depot hauling lumber.

Unlike NASCAR pit crews, whose teams have more money and resources, he and his crew pull double duty both working on the truck at the shop, and themselves in the gym. Since his job requires double duty, his workout regime focuses on all around strength. If you want to stay in shape like a crewmember, focus on these lifts:
• Squats
• Romanian Deadlifts
• Core Training
His exercise regime focuses around functionality, not necessarily what makes you look like a greased Guido.

Off the cameras, and out of the spotlight, is where pit crewmembers do their jobs. Pumping gas and changing tires is easy during a daily commute, but doing it quickly and effectively in a racing setting takes and hours of preparations. Without their help, the wins won’t come for the driver and neither will the spotlight or attention. Just like without an offensive line, your quarterback is just an expensive smear on the football field.

  

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