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How One Former NFL Player is Enjoying Life in a NASCAR Pit Crew

Whether it's on the gridiron or the racetrack, former NFL safety Josh Bush knows what it takes to be a winner.  

By Andrew Woodin
Markus Wheaton of the Pittsburgh Steelers stops Josh Bush of the Denver Broncos after an interception during the first half of play at Heinz Field.

Good luck trying to throw Super Bowl winner Josh Bush off his game. Topping out at 5 feet 11 inches and 205 pounds, the former Denver Bronco who used to trade barbs with legendary quarterback Peyton Manning might not even warrant a second glance, but that suits him just fine.

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While he may have hung up his cleats after hoisting the Lombardi trophy a little over seven years ago in 2015, Bush is now using his unrelenting drive in his new career path. Only now, instead of squaring off against some of the best wide receivers in the NFL, Bush — who played for the New York Jets and Buffalo Bills as well — carries an air gun and spends his days jumping in front of cars, none other than NASCAR’s Next Gen Chevrolet Camaro ZL1.

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Since 2022, Bush has belonged to Trackhouse Racing’s No. 99 pit crew for Cup Series driver Daniel Suárez. As the tire changer for Suárez, who recently placed second in Atlanta at the Quaker State 400, there’s an immense amount of pressure on Bush to perfect his game. Luckily for Bush — whose tenure as a professional football player has required countless hours of excruciating, bone-breaking training while forging a bulletproof mental toughness — keeping a steady, even keel when there’s so much on the line is just another day at the office.   

Daniel Suarez, driver of the #99 Trackhouse Motorplex Chevrolet, pits during the NASCAR Cup Series All-Star Race Qualifying Pit Crew Challenge.

“I think that just comes from experience, just being confident in who you are and putting the work in,” Bush told The Charlotte Observer. “I had a coach that told me, be humble in your preparations and be confident in your ability. So, I just try to prepare. When it comes to that moment, I’m not too high, I’m not too low. I’m just the same guy.”

Coupled with his athletic prowess, that insight Bush gained early on from his coaches is what has helped propel him into a successful NASCAR career, one that began after his friend Austin Dillon convinced him to join Richard Childress Racing as Dillon’s tire changer.

Still, success wasn’t automatic. Despite making first-team All-ACC (2011) as a defensive back for Wake Forest — a role that saw him end Russell Wilson’s NCAA record of 379 passes without an interception — and notching 44 tackles during his NFL career, Bush struggled to get into gear early on, but he relied on his determination to power him forward. He poured over “game day” race footage and burned the candle at both ends to expedite his improvement because, to Bush, cementing his place on a NASCAR pit crew wasn’t just a job: it was an opportunity to reinvent himself.

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“Teams, that’s where I found the best friends in my life,” revealed Bush. “Playing on different teams, being a part of an organization. It just gives you some sort of purpose.”

Bush isn’t alone at Trackhouse Racing with his line of thinking. Of the five team members on the No. 99 pit crew team, one played college basketball while four former footballers experienced playing time at either the college or pro level. Former jackman Shaun Peet, who now helps coach the Trackhouse pit crew, played minor league hockey.

“Getting up to play the game isn’t hard,” Peet told The Charlotte Observer. “Getting up when there’s no game left to play, that’s what’s hard. I got to be part of something else, and it gave me purpose and gave me a reason to get up every morning and work hard and lift weights and do all the things that had brought me a certain level of success to that point in my life.”

A NASCAR Cup Series pit crew team, excuse the pun, functions as a well-oiled machine, with each role depending on the others in order for the operation to run smoothly. Considering Bush’s tire carrier, Jeremy Kimbrough, played in the NFL for the Washington Commanders from 2013 to 2014, he and Bush have been able to feed off each other’s football experience to synchronize their movements, shaving off precious tenths of seconds whenever possible to give Suárez a shot at capturing the checkered flag. Pit crew fueler and former Rutgers football player Mila Rudanovic boils that down to the vital nature of athlete-to-athlete communication.

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“I like to say that athletes know how to get along with other athletes,” Rudanovic told the Observer. “You understand, this guy is gonna work for me. I’m gonna work for him.”

“We can say the hard things to each other and not feel some type of way because that’s kind of how we’ve been brought up,” Bush said. “But you don’t have to be a college athlete to do this if you show that you can work hard and be consistent.”

Though stock car racing doesn’t involve the physical battle encapsulated in a 17-game NFL season, Bush must stay sharp and in sync with his teammates over the course of 38 weeks during a NASCAR Cup Series season. Bush might be less at risk of broken bones these days, but the mental demand of racing in NASCAR’s top flight is equally as arduous.

“I’ve kind of had to put my mind in a different place with that whole thing because it’s like, coming from football you’re trying to win every game, and you expect to win every week,” Bush said. “Now, it’s like almost giving yourself a chance to win is a win. You want to be in the top, running in the top, doing great pit stops. For the most part that’s a good day.”

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In the NASCAR Cup Series, the driver is obviously the face of the team, but that person can only fulfill that one role. It’s a team sport and, as such, Bush has no false illusions that he can power Trackhouse Racing’s No. 99 pit crew team to success by himself. Instead, as Peet notes, Bush embodies what it means to lead by example and stay focused despite whatever chaos is developing around him.

“In this sport, you cannot win alone,” Peet said. “So, what you see is, guys and girls picking each other up, trying to get them to the finish line so that we succeed together, and I find that increasingly rare outside of this race shop.”

“We talk all the time about how success doesn’t reward the wrong person,” continued Peet. “Josh is a perfect example of that. I think a lot of the things that made him successful in the NFL (carry over). He’s taken that skill set and applied it to this and ... it’s no surprise he’s been successful.