July 12, 2012
Barry Chin/Globe Staff
Hendrick Motorsports has been at the forefront of a movement to turn pit crews into units populated by former college athletes.
Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s pit crew includes three former Division I college football players.
For Hendrick Motorsports, knowledge of cars isn't as important as finding top athletes whom they can convert into car experts.
The crews spend countless hours training not just on the cars but also on their physical conditioning.
The goal is to have the crews ready for race day, when they have only seconds to execute tire changes and fuel fill-ups.
Pit crew members equate their jobs to an NFL special teams unit, where the spotlight is intense and the potential for errors high.
Crews spend much of the race waiting for the several pit stops a car will make during the course of the competition.
For Hendrick Motorsports, the goal is simple: find the six best athletes possible for their pit crews.