NASCAR: Working in a Pit Crew Requires More Athleticism Than You Might Think

by Quentin Blount

Drivers may get all of the attention, but racing is not an individual sport. NASCAR pit crew teams can make all the difference in whether a driver wins or loses a race.

There’s a reason, after all, why people say that races are won and lost on pit lane. Even the smallest fraction of a second can be the deciding factor in a race. That’s why having a top-of-the-line pit crew is just as important as having a great driver.

However, teams have changed the way they hire their pit crews. Instead of hiring the best mechanics, they now look to bring in raw athletes who played some kind of competitive sport in college and then teach them the mechanics side of things. Not only are they looking for top-tier athletes, but they are also looking for guys who are quick on their feet, mentally speaking.

Matt Osborn, the pit crew coach for Joe Gibbs Racing, explained as much to Muscle and Fitness.

“We’re looking for great athletes of course,” he said. “But the interesting part is when we bring in guys like Derrell [Edwards], who has top-tier collegiate basketball experience, different than the NBA, NFL, or MLB, where they get to recruit guys while observing their history in the sport, we have to have really quick learners. If you’re one of those guys who have to be shown constantly, you’re going to drown in NASCAR because there is too much to learn in too short of time.”

Derrell Edwards — From College Basketball to NASCAR Pit Crew

Derrell Edwards now works as a jackman for Joe Gibbs Racing for the No. 11 team, driven by none other than Denny Hamlin. But it wasn’t all that long ago that the six-foot-two, 200-pounder was leading his High Point University Men’s Basketball Team to back-to-back Big South Season titles.

“It took a few years for me to get comfortable,” the 30-year-old admitted. “It wasn’t even a lot to do with the physical side of things, it was more of the mental side that slowed everything up. A lot of this stuff was foreign to me. I was deep in basketball and it’s still foreign today, seven years later.”

Like with any other sport, Edwards says that NASCAR has its ups and downs.

“It took about five years before it slowed down for me and I can see so much during a pit stop. Still to this day, though, it’s still foreign and I’m still giving max effort every time I jump over the wall to pit a race car, in practice, or during a race. You learn every day. I never get in a routine during pit stops because they change every stop.”

Meanwhile, Osborn says that bringing in guys like Edwards to the pit crew has had an “immediate improvement” for NASCAR.

“20 years ago, when NASCAR teams started looking for more athletic people into pit stops, that’s where it started. It was like, let’s go get guys who are bigger and faster to do pit stops, and it was an immediate improvement for the sport. We’re in the next generation of that now.”