Create a free profile to get unlimited access to exclusive show news, updates, and more!
While the drivers often shine on “Race For The Championship,” they’re surrounded by a group of top-tier athletes that make up their respective pit crews. They may not receive the same acclaim, but there are many fans of motorsports who get in on the action through pit work, one of the most important aspects of racing.
However, despite the fact there are more opportunities in a pit crew career, there’s also quite a lot of work involved. In fact, if you’ve already graduated college and weren’t in some kind of athletics program, the chance that a NASCAR pit crew career is in your future is cut down dramatically.
As “Life In The Fast Lane” star Paul Swan, who previously played college football, previously told USAInsider, this is the work of athletes, not just car enthusiasts. Each day they’re in the gym conditioning their bodies to run these repetitive drills that will ultimately add or subtract precious seconds from a pit stop.
However, there’s more to a high school and college athletics background that makes it necessary for NASCAR pit crew work. Adam Merrell, the director of motorsports at the Performance Instruction & Training school, which works to send athletes to Cup Series teams, told USA Insider that a background in sports typically means someone is familiar with being coached. This alone often puts them head and shoulders above those who aren’t.
“One of the biggest things we ask them is, are they coachable? Sometimes people take that as ‘Did they play sports?’ and if they did, that helps, but are they coachable at a job they have? Do they take constructive criticism? That’s probably one of the biggest things we see that helps or hinders the progression,” he explained.
“If they’ve been coached and can take constructive criticism, that’s a huge thing. Unlike some sports, this is a lot of repetitive movement, there’s not a lot of variation. You’re pitting the same-sized car every weekend, the stops are pretty much consistent,” he continued. “So there are variations that occur but a lot of grinding of the same movements and a lot of people struggle with pulling a tire to the right 1,000 times a week. We take that monotony through coaching and make it better and more efficient.”
Typically, PIT and similar schools, as well as NASCAR teams, will look to high school and college athletics programs to recruit potential talent. However, if you’ve put in the work, are interested in NASCAR pit work, and still haven’t crossed paths with a recruiter, it’s time to be proactive.
As with getting into professional driving, networking is key. There are several avenues for people who are interested to get more involved in their local track. Purchasing a pit pass gives people not only a behind-the-scenes look at what the job is, but it provides opportunities to get to know people who could put in a good word for you with the right people to open doors.
Merrell noted that, in addition to world-class training, the biggest appeal of pit crew work is the networking opportunity it provides, calling it “a really good ice-breaker.”
He added that most of their students come from word of mouth among existing teams within NASCAR.
“About 70 percent of those pit crew on Sunday did come through here first and then they moved onto those Cup teams, some with an athletic background, some without,” he said. “We have a really good network with those cup teams. We’ve been doing this since 2000 so they’ll reach out to us.”
In short, it takes a lot of work and adherence to a specific lifestyle in order to make it as a NASCAR pit crew member. A background in athletics, the ability to be coached, and a talent for networking with the right people are all key factors just to get your opportunity. From there, it’s all about being willing to put in the hard work.
“I always tell people, if they’re uncomfortable sweating a little bit, getting out in the evening, this is probably not the job for them,” Merrell concluded.
USA Insider is your source for all things USA, from behind-the-scenes access to breaking news, information about USA’s original shows, and much more. Sign up for USA Insider and be the first to get extras and updates on your favorite shows.