While Joey Logano and Scott Speed prepare for their rookie season in the Cup Series, there are tons of other rookies that either made their debut last Saturday, or are preparing to make their debut this weekend.
And no, I’m not talking about other drivers.
The start of the new season has brought on a new group of eager, young pit crew members looking to make a big impression in the lower levels, in hopes of one day being one of those Cup guys celebrating in victory lane.
On Saturday, before the Bud Shootout, the ARCA RE/MAX Series opened its 2009 season. The series is a great place for young drivers to get experience, but it has also become a breeding ground for young talent on pit road. The pay isn’t great, and driving to and from races in places like Berlin, MI and Newton, IA isn’t fun, but for those looking to advance, there is plenty of experience to be had.
Besides ARCA, there will also be plenty of guys stepping off the wall for their first time in this weekend’s Truck Series and Nationwide Series races.
Lately, I’ve gotten the opportunity to be around some younger guys who were and are looking at pitting in their first races. I always try and offer as much advice as I can to these guys, but nothing anybody can tell you will prepare you for what it’s like that first time. Live stops in practice are nothing like pitting a car in a race. And anybody that tells you different is lying.
My own first race experience is very vivid in my mind, even to this day. Well, sorta. I remember a lot about the day, and the race itself, but the actual pit stops I did are a blur. The adrenaline was pumping, I was wearing blinders, and when the car screamed out of the stall, I was left wondering what just happened. And I know a lot of other guys that have similar stories about their first race.
Coaches will try and tell guys all the time that it’s all the same, and that the difference between a practice and a race is all in your head. On some level, that’s true. But only experience can teach a guy how to handle a four tire stop, under green, when your driver is running 5th and needs a good stop to maintain that all important track position.
And when it comes to wrapping one’s head around all this, some guys are better then others. I’ve seen some guys who jumped in their first race, had no problems, and never looked back. And I’ve seen others who were badass in practice, but for some reason could never put it together in a race. I guess it’s probably no different then any other athletic activity.
So to all those kids out there getting ready for their first race, here is my biggest piece of advice for you: during the stop, remember to breath. You’d be surprised how much that will help.