NASCAR on NBC podcast, Ep. 87: Meet Matt Kenseth’s pit crew

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With top-notch equipment and magnificent footwork, the pit crews at Joe Gibbs Racing generally are regarded as the best in NASCAR.

But the No. 20 pit crew of Matt Kenseth often doesn’t remember the swiftest stops that helped win races.

“The bad stops tend to stick out more than the good ones do,” said Houston Stamper, a tire changer on Kenseth’s team. “Those hurt a lot more. The ones when you’re leading a race and have a bad stop and potentially lose a race. I don’t know why, those tend to stand out more in your mind — which is good for me.

“I don’t get relaxed. If I’m in the frame of mind that I’m thinking about learning from some of the worst stops I’ve had, instead of thinking, ‘Oh, this is going to go great, going to go awesome, I’m going to knock it out and be fine,’ then I get relaxed. I think it helps me stay on top of my game remembering the bad ones.”

Stamper and three other team members who service the No. 20 Toyota recently joined the NASCAR on NBC podcast for an in-depth look at how they do their jobs and how the team is improving its speed with everything from pit guns to engineers who incessantly watch video and study split times to improve choreography.

Stamper, gas man John Eicher, jack man Graham Molatch and tire carrier Eric Groen all started pitting cars about a decade ago in an era when stops took about 13-14 seconds. Now the goal is averaging a pit stop in the 10-second range.

“I think the equipment today, you look across every organization, and everyone’s equipment is pushing the human element to its max,” Stamper said. “This talent you have to go fast is starting to take over. It used to be that when I first started, hitting five lug nuts was crucial because the equipment only allowed you to go so fast. When you jump over the wall, if you didn’t miss a lug nut, you were usually a really good pit crew, a good tire changer.

“Now it’s shifted to you still can’t miss but have to go as fast as you can go. Guys who normally don’t miss are missing because they push their ability.”

The crew members also talked about how physical therapy and rehabilitation of injuries has changed, particularly with Joe Gibbs Racing’s commitment to a new training room. Jena Gatses, the director of physical therapy, also joined the podcast to discuss keeping pit crews healthy.

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