There are a couple of “behind every great” sayings in this world, that although cliche and overplayed, have always been and will always be true.
First and foremost, “behind every great man is a great woman.” It’s a tale as old as time, as us men would truly be nothing without the women who love us.
The second, while less known, is every bit as iconic — “behind every great fortune lies a great crime” — a quote from Mario Puzo’s classic 1969 novel The Godfather (yes, same as the movie).
The third, while not as recognizable as the first two, remains just as true: behind every winning NASCAR driver is an excellent pit crew. Take my word for it, as I’ve been to Daytona and have seen these crews in action with my own two eyes: if the driver is the brain of a NASCAR team, then the crew is the central nervous system — one could not exist, function, and thrive without the other.
And luckily for Matt Kenseth and his #20 car, Tide PODS provides him with the most powerful pit crew in the game.
A pit stop can be extremely powerful for several reasons. One small mistake on pit road can cost you several positions, or even a chance at the win. Over the past several years, teams have invested time, money and assets into the training of pit crews to gain even the smallest amount of time. If your pit stop is even a tenth of a second faster than the next team, it can mean several positions and a huge advantage.
Teams have trained to get their stops, including four fresh tires, an average of 16 gallons of fuel and adjustments complete in less than 12 seconds. That’s a ton of power and pressure to put on six guys, and those 12 seconds can have a major impact on the rest of their day. Physical training plays a large majority role in how these athletes prepare to compete each week. Joe Gibbs Racing has a dedicated staff of trainers to help them improve their overall strength, as well as their specific skill set for the pit stops, to keep these athletes performing at the top of their game.
Along with physical health and training, mental health is also key to performing at the top of their game. The pit crew members need to be prepared emotionally to handle the pressure of performing quickly and efficiently, as their driver depends on it to compete and capture the best possible finish each weekend. Keeping their minds sharp, focused and stress-free allows the pit crew athletes to be strong, powerful and precise on race day.
At the forefront of the #20 Tide PODS pit crew is Jena Gatses, a trainer for Joe Gibbs Racing.
We got a chance to sit down with Jena and her colleague Mike Lepp, the Senior Athletic Advisor for the team, to discuss their approach to training the #20 crew:
COED: Can you give us an overview of the types of training regimens, tools and equipment you provide for the pit crew members?
ML: “Our gym is about stocked with everything we need. We try to customize programs to the potion, so the tire changer would have a set of strength training, jack man, fueler, they all have specific programs prescribed for them. And it varies by the time of year in terms of volume and how much they do, so as we get to the end of the year, we’re in the gym a lot less than we are in the beginning of the year when we’re trying to get fit. We have the longest sports season, so it depends on the time of the year with what equipment they’re using and what they’re doing. Nothing really out of the ordinary, just customizing it and making sure the volume of what we do keeps them fresh for when we go to the race track.”
COED: Is there any specific strategy you have for crafting a training or treatment routine for each pit crew member to help them perform at the top of their game?
ML: It’s like fingerprints, we all have unique fingerprints they’re not the same. Athletes are all different and hopefully, we’ve learned over a period of time what and athlete can take or not take, or what works for what athlete, injuries are all different; you’ve got to learn your athlete to customize your training program or any kind of treatment.
You have to try the same thing with two different athletes and they’re going to respond differently so you have to really get to know the physiology of your athletes. We leave out the mental side of this all the time; there are some athletes that are greatly affected by an injury or a training program. If they’re not mentally, then you have to look at another alternative to get them compliant with what you want to do.
COED: Name one or two things that you feel are the most important performance enhancers for pit crew members. (physical training regimen, recovery, nutrition, mental/focus, etc.)
ML: “Recovery- you hear that in training, whether it’s Olympic athletes or any other athlete, how you strategically place recovery during the year, especially in a long season. How much, and there’s so many different recovery components.”
Sleep – it’s really probably the number one thing that’s being talked about in sports right now. Recovery means a lot of things, but the adaptations to training occur during recovery. So if you don’t put recovery in there, and you just keep bombarding athletes with training and exercise and they don’t recover, then you have to look at the athlete holistically and say they have another life. They have lives, they have other things; You have to consider that in a whole picture of what they do as an athlete in a 38-week race schedule, how they do those things.
Recovery, sleep and really thinking about them as a human being and the whole person goes a long way to how you’re going to prescribe what in the gym and their recovery.”
Even in a sport built around machinery, Jena Gatses, Mike Lepp, and the Tide PODS crew proves that in NASCAR, the mind and body need to be just as well-oiled as the cars they’re driving in order for the team to succeed.
Why Tide PODS & Pit Crew Members Are The Perfect Match
The POD and Lug Nut – Pit Crew Shadow
The lug nut is one of the smallest pieces of equipment the Pit Crew handles, but it packs a lot of power, holding the wheel on safely and firmly. Yes, a Tide PODS pac is small, but its concentrated power can clean even the dirtiest loads of laundry. Small really can be powerful…and so can convenience. A simple laundry process (especially for men!) that doesn’t compromise the clean…imagine that!
The Power of Synergy – Pit Crew Shadow
The pit stop is synergy in motion. The tire changer rolls under the gas man who sidesteps the jackman, everyone spinning and revolving like clothes in a washing machine. It’s a fitting analogy, as the unique chemistry matrix in Tide PODS works synergistically in the wash to deliver powerful results every time. Each pit crew member practices their specific role on their own and when it’s time to pit, they come together working as one. The chambers in Tide PODS keeps the liquids separate until it hits the washing machine resulting in a powerful clean.