NASCAR has probably its finest athletes on the pit crew

"Throttle plate." "Bad air." "Shards." "Rook."

Those were terms unfamiliar to Derrell Edwards as he helped lead the High Point University men's basketball team to back-to-back Big South Regular Season titles. w, as Jackman for Joe Gibbs Racing for the . 11 team driven by Denny Hamlin, that jargon is commonplace.

There are certain aspects of the sport that serve as learning experiences for the seven-year-old veterinarian and graduate of NASCAR's Drive for Diversity Pit Crew program, but thanks to the performance nurturing and individualized programming from executive athletic trainer Lindsey Jones and her team at Joe Gibbs, she can at the race Edwards can always be assured that he has all the resources at his disposal to be at his best physically.

We spoke to Edwards, Jones and pit crew trainer Matt Osborn about the perks of recruiting new pit crew members and the steps they take at JGR to ensure their boys are always ready when they jump over the wall .

The intangibles

OSBORN: The intangibles are really important or the things that are kinda hard to measure - it's more quantitative than qualitative. We're looking for great athletes, of course, but the interesting part is when we bring in people like Derrell, who has top-notch college basketball experience, unlike the NBA, NFL or MLB where they have to be able to recruit people and watch their history in the sport at the same time we learn really fast. If you're one of those guys who needs constant show, you're going to drown in NASCAR because there's too much to learn in too little time, so we're looking for guys who are quick on their feet, intellectually speaking. You must have a pretty good sports IQ. We "test" these things in recruitment by just doing a dry run by giving the guys new tasks and seeing how quickly they react and pick up those skills.

Generally I would call our sport a skill sport, which is why guys like Derrell do really well because you have to have a high athletic IQ. Twenty years ago, when NASCAR teams started looking for sportier people to pit, that's when it started. It was like, let's get guys bigger and faster to do pit stops and it was an immediate improvement for the sport. We are now in the next generation of it. It's no longer just about passing the eye test.

Edward: It took me a few years to get comfortable and it didn't even have much to do with the physical side of things. It was more the mental side that slowed everything down. Much of it was foreign to me. I was deep into basketball and it's still foreign today, seven years later.

This sport has ups and downs. It took me about five years to slow down and I can see so much during a pit stop. But to this day it's still alien and I give it my all every time I jump the wall to pit a race car, in practice or during a race. you learn every day Pit stops are never the same. I don't care if the car doesn't move an inch, you never know what to expect. I never get into routine with pit stops because they change at every stop.

Joe Gibbs Racing

Stay calm under pressure

Edward: I always breathe If the caution [flag] comes out, I constantly focus on my breathing to calm myself. I'm not the type to get excited. I know I'm going to be moving fast physically, now all I have to do is quiet my mind, breathe and take that approach. That's where the college basketball experience comes in—shooting those big end-of-game free throws. These are experiences that play a major role in pit stops. use getting excited because we've done thousands of exercise stops so your body will know what to do once you're out there.

I think a pit crew is like a symphony. One wrong note and it's screwed up. NASCAR has a saying, "Just do your deal." That means you do your part and trust that the other guys will do their part. It's really about trust. We travel and train together, so building that chemistry with the team, getting to know everyone's backgrounds - that plays a big part in jumping that wall.

Tailored training

OSBORN: Our guys get a really specific and bespoke training methodology from Lindsey and her staff that has revolutionized what happens at pit stops and that's why there's such a huge disparity in performance that you also see in Pit Row. Derrell Edwards comes from a basketball background, but we have guys with baseball experience, pro football experience. We have former Olympians from Eastern European countries. The backgrounds are much more diverse than you think. It's not just a few ex-college football players doing CrossFit training. We applied a data-driven, sports science approach and this is a very unique training environment. When we include people from pro sports teams, they realize we're on the same level because of the decades of research we've put into the details.

JONES: You can look down the pit lane and see all these teams with these jacked up ripped guys. They can pass the eye test, but they can be totally fucked up and the worst out there. Then you can roll over to another team, and someone can look like they're waddling around and not look as athletic, and they're all smoking. You have to really individualize the programming and then you can build on that and be more general. You need to get to that one person, get their story and background as soon as possible.

I would say it's more traditional than you think. There is a base for every athlete that you need to achieve - strength, power, flexibility and mobility. There are these core values ​​that must always be in place, and because this sport is so specific, we plan little extra things for each position type, whether it's pre-birth, post-workout, or in the weight room. We have many opportunities to get our hands on these guys and try to change them, shape them and create what they need to be the best out there. It's personalized like any sport, but it's also positional.

Derrell Edwards in his Nascar pit crew uniform at the circuitJoe Gibbs Racing

The little details

JONES: We're always trying to let our athletes know and educate them that sleep and water are the two greatest things you can do, and they're the easiest things to control - sleep, eat, water, viz in a very purposeful way. We'll let you be guided by our registered nutritionist, who will give you tips from older teammates, especially because of the journey, which is very strange. t many sports travel like we do and come home and get back into the game very quickly, so the recovery is tremendous. We do little things like compression garments and cryotherapy - all those things give our guys a little edge over people who are kind of smug and go through the motions of training.


Derrell Edwards has recently turned 30 and his future focus is on longevity. He mentioned the detail and care that LeBron James puts on his body as an example he aspires to. Derrell Edwards mentioned weekly visits to the stretch lab, deep-tissue massages, and compression equipment as staples to ensure he's getting the most out of his body.

JONES: Most guys are reluctant to come into the gym because of their previous experiences at school or work, many places seeing it as weakness or that you are not at the peak of your physical capacity when in reality it is preventive care and maintenance acts. If you do it right, it's a positive thing. Physically they have to learn new things so that's a bit done just because of the nature of a pit stop.

OSBORN: It all boils down to the fact that their movements are so repetitive. Because we're a non-contact sport, we don't see these big catastrophic injuries. Right now at Joe Gibbs Racing we are looking at an average career of 13½ years for every athlete we have. When you have a top-notch guy, you want him to be able to do this for as long as possible. Lindsey does a lot of work to alleviate what we call the "Ises" that come from overusing some areas with very specific movements.

JONES: Every Jackman has the same limited range of motion or excessive range of motion in the right-to-left hip because they bend, twist, and hang a hoop the same way all the time. So I can see the building. w that we have more new people it's interesting to see the progress they make from being a simple human athlete to more specific exposure to this sport and it changes your body pretty quickly. We can catch it, see it based on our experience with the older guys. It's part of the prep, the warm ups, and all the stuff that's really in our hands. They really let us in and let us do what we have to do to get these guys prepped, ready and bulletproof.

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