Schmidt Peterson Motorsports (SPM) has just 37 days left to prepare for their 2013 IZOD IndyCar and Firestone Indy Lights Series debuts, and the drivers aren’t the only team members kicking their workouts into overdrive.
The SPM pit crew works out at St. Vincent Sports Performance Center (SVSP) four times a week in the off-season and three times per week in preseason. SVSP trainer Aaron Feldman is adamant about keeping the team in shape, with one end goal in mind: helping SPM win on race days.
“Pit crew members are power type movement athletes,” Feldman explained before an SPM workout. “What they do during the races lasts about six seconds so we want to make sure they’re strong enough and fast enough to get those tires changed, put more fuel in and get their drivers back in the race as fast as possible, giving them a better opportunity to win.”
There are three aspects of training that Feldman believes are most important for the pit crew: Strength, power and speed.
Strength: Pulling a tire off and putting a new one back on in a matter of seconds requires massive upper body strength. Horizontal rows and dumbbell bench presses are two exercises that focus on this type of stability.
“In these exercises we have to make sure that their pushing and pulling movements in their upper body are very efficient,” Feldman explained. “We also have to make sure they don’t have an imbalance between frontside and backside strength.”
Bob Perona, IndyCar driver coach, is a fan of the upper body workouts.
“Tires are pretty heavy so the upper body lifts and exercises definitely help prepare the guys for changing tires,” Perona said. “We are trying to change tires in 3.5 seconds so just having the strength to move it and the flexibility and mobility is important.”
SPM has only been working with Feldman since mid-December, yet the men are already seeing improvement in their bodies and strength.
“The upper body lifting and workouts help a lot,” said Matt Dove, 10-year SPM pit crew member. “It’s almost effortless now, you hardly notice you’re lifting anything. In the short time we’ve been working here it has probably doubled my strength.”
Power is the second piece of training Feldman values for the pit crew. Though the word power sounds similar to strength, it is the importance of a powerful core that Feldman emphasizes.
“On race days they have a lot of transfers that are going through their core,” Feldman said. “So if they have a very weak core they will be at a very high risk for non-contact injury.”
Feldman and the other trainers at SVSP believe that injury reduction comes first followed by performance enhancement.
“They have a lot of pulling forces from the side, they’ve got to bend over, things of that sort, so if they can’t do those movements well it is likely they will get hurt,” Feldman said.
Speed is the third point of emphasis in the pit crew workouts.
On Fridays the team steps away from the weights and works off those extra calories.
Conditioning consists of the basics: pushups, squats, lunges and some sprinting with resistance.
“They are mechanics first, family guys second and athletes third so we try to get their heart rates up,” Feldman explained. “It’s a bit of a different environment, working on burning off some fat.”
Coming together: The workouts are a step-by-step process, though improvements are beginning to show.
“When you learn new exercises you have to learn to do it slow before you do it fast and before you put weight on it,” Feldman said.
SVSP helps prepare SPM for the hot, difficult environment they will face out on the track, according to Perona.
Second-year pit crew member Chris Fortney agrees.
“The endurance is the biggest thing,” Fortney said. “We do 9-10 stops at Indy, which is the hardest race of the year, and part of this program is to keep us in shape through that entire race. So with building endurance every week here, it gets harder and harder. It just builds up our performance and it helps our team to become more reliant on each other and to push each other to the next level.”