In addition to featuring some of the fastest cars in the world, NASCAR also sports some of the quickest mechanics known to man. But as it turns out, many of these fleet-footed gearheads aren’t mechanics at all.
Since around the time of Jeff Gordon’s mid-1990s dominance, NASCAR teams have been recruiting athletes to help make pit stops more efficient. But what started as one team’s secret weapon, has developed into a sport-wide strategy, according to KNSD-TV.
“Almost 90 percent (of crew members are) athletes now,” Phil Horton, pit crew coach for NASCAR’s Drive for Diversity Crew Member Development program, recently told KNSD-TV. “Whereas when I first got in to it, it was mechanics. We taught them how to do the pit stop part of it so they knew the mechanical but not the athletic side of it.
“Now we bring in athletes; they know the athletic side of it but not the mechanical.”
Horton reportedly holds workout combines for prospective crew members, and focuses heavily on bringing in football players.
“We have a template for which position we use,” Horton said. “We have wide receivers and defensive backs; those normally translate in to tire changers and carriers.”
Furthermore, NASCAR for years has been recruiting heavier players to perform pit tasks that require greater strength. One such player is former NFL tight end Asa Watson, who worked as a jackman for Roush Fenway Racing in 2015, according to ESPN. Watson is the brother of Baltimore Ravens tight end Benjamin Watson.
Despite the steep learning curve these athletes face with regards to mechanical know-how, their impact during the race makes it worth teams’ while.
“When I got in to it pit stops were about 15 seconds,” Horton said, via KNSD-TV. “We changed the way they started doing the indexes and that dropped it down into the 13s, and now they’re in the 11s.”
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