There was an article in the Charlotte Observer last week about a woman named Christmas Abbott who is attempting to become a tire changer. She’s being supported in her effort by Turner Motorsports and is being coached by veteran jackman and coach Shaun Peet and the guys at Michael Waltrip Racing (MWR and Turner have a pit crew relationship). As someone who’s been down the road Christmas is about to start down, I wanted to offer up some unsolicited advice.
Just to give you some idea of where Christmas is starting, she’s already got the physical fitness part down. She co-owns a Crossfit gym, and is in insane shape (search YouTube for Crossfit and you’ll see it’s not a joke). So it would seem we don’t need to worry about her strength or work ethic.
My biggest concern for her future is her completely unrealistic expectations. In Scott Fowler’s article, Christmas says she hopes to be at the Cup level by 2014. I appreciate that she wants to set the bar high, but it would take a miracle for her to go from not having pitted a car in a race at any level, to the highest level of the sport in less than two years.
If she really wants to make it, she needs to acknowledge that getting to Cup is going to take time. Much of what she needs to learn to be successful can only be learned under fire, at the track. And each time she steps up to a new series, there will be new challenges to overcome. A more realistic timeline would see her trying to make the Cup Series by 2015 or 2016.
Something else that her and the people at Turner who are aiding her need to understand is that pit crew guys aren’t like drivers. If you are a driver lacking talent, a large enough bankroll will get you opportunities you don’t deserve. The same isn’t true for crew guys. You might convince somebody to give you a shot at a level you aren’t ready for, but if you don’t perform, you won’t last long. You can rush a driver to Cup like we have seen so many times before, but you can’t do it with pit crews. Pitting race cars is still a performance based business, and if you can’t get it done, they’ll find somebody who can, man or woman.
There are other things in Scott Fowler’s article that concern me, like seeing the phrases “reality show” and “marketing gold mine.” Is Christmas attempting this because of these opportunities, or are these opportunities arising because of what she is attempting? Hopefully it’s the latter. The odds are already stacked against her, and not doing this for the right reasons will only make her chances for success smaller.
If a woman is going to make it as a tire changer at the highest levels of NASCAR, it would seem that Christmas has as good a chance as any. Hopefully Peet and the guys at Waltrip can keep her focus away from the PR junk and on what its going to take to be successful.