There's a whole other race going on at NASCAR tracks these days, but this one takes place in the pits. The competition for top-flight pit crew members is so fierce that NASCAR teams are turning to new sources for talent. Teams have begun recruiting the best athletes they can find to be on their pit crews — and for many of them, that means looking for former college football players like Adam Mosher and Rocko Williams.
"It's the coolest job in the world," says Mosher.
Williams, a former linebacker at Wake Forest University, had no idea he would wind up on the race track instead of the gridiron. "I lived 20 minutes from Atlanta Motor Speedway and never knew it existed until I started working here," he says.
Williams still bench-presses 425 pounds in an effort to maintain the physical edge that's now in demand.
"We scout, we find out who's the best. We scout other teams," says pit crew coach Phil Horton, an ex-pro basketball strength coach who adds that most people can't understand how physically demanding it is to change a 60-pound tire in the time it takes to tie your shoes. "They think it's the same thing as when they change tires at home and it's not even close. You have to be of superior athletic ability," Horton says.
Training is just as intense for the racetrack as is was for the football field. Pit crew members train physically and mentally, watching videotapes of themselves to pick up any mistakes.
"We want 13 seconds every time," Horton tells his crew at one video session. Anything longer than 15 seconds could cost their team the race.
Failure is not an option. Getting cut is — but when you've grown up playing football, getting cut from a pit crew isn't so scary.
"That's doesn't scare us at all," says Williams. Adds Mosher, "We've dealt with that since we were eight and tried out for peewee football."
So the next time your favorite driver crosses the finish line and heads for Victory Lane, remember he may have won the race in the pits.