Ryan Newman and crewmembers from the No. 39 U.S. Army NASCAR team visited Fort Benning May 5.
The purpose of the trip was to give Newman and the U.S. Army/Stewart-Haas Racing pit crew an overview of the training Soldiers undergo and to look for synergies which the pit crew could adapt into their own training program.
Though the day centered on pit crewmembers engaging in the U.S. Army Ranger exercise regimen, there was also a pit-stop style competition between the pit crew and Soldiers on an M88 Recovery Vehicle and on the No. 39 U.S. Army Chevrolet.
The visit included team members of Stewart-Haas Racing and members of the motorsports media.
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“It’s a humbling experience to have Ryan Newman and the whole team come today,” said COL Ryan Kuhn, 197th Infantry Brigade commander. “It really glues our Soldiers to our civilian counterparts. The more touches we have with our civilian community the better we are. Our Soldiers absolutely hold these (crew) guys in high esteem. They really do think they’re rock stars. After a hard day in Afghanistan or Iraq when you have an opportunity to watch or listen to the NASCAR race — if you’re privileged to have that opportunity — it may be the thing that carries you for the whole week. That’s how important this team is to our Soldiers.”
The first stop for the Army pit crew was the brigade motor pool, which houses more than 120 vehicles, including Bradley Fighting Vehicles, Stryker Combat Vehicles, M88 Recovery Vehicles and Humvees.
Three members from the No. 39 pit crew and three Soldiers, known as Bradley Fighting Vehicle mechanics, competed in changing an 85-pound road wheel on the 56-ton M88 Recovery Vehicle. The No. 39 crewmembers changed the road wheel in 8 minutes, 17 seconds, a few ticks quicker than the Soldier team.
After a 12.7-second four-tire pit-stop exhibition by the No. 39 team on the Army Chevrolet, the Soldier team followed with an impressive four-tire change of their own.
“What a pit stop by our Soldiers,” said Ryan Pepe, rear-tire changer on the No. 39 team. “It’s a pretty cool opportunity for us to come and mingle with the Army guys — they do so much for our country. It was neat to interact with the Soldiers and observe what they do. I am sure they feel the same about us.”
The Army race team then headed to the Army Ranger School to take part in the exercise program known as RAW — Ranger Athlete Warrior. The race team crewmembers went through a strenuous core fitness and agility workout led by CSM Dennis Smith of the Ranger Training Brigade.
The regimen exercises included different types of stretching, lateral runs, squat and pull-up variations, 30-foot cargo net climb and the confidence climb on a log ladder.
“This takes conditioning to a new level,” said Adam Davis, strength and conditioning coach for the No. 39 pit crew. “It pushes you to the limit, which is good. As do our Soldiers, we also have to be in top physical shape as an over-the-wall pit crew. Today was a great eye opener of a successful exercise program.”
The No. 39 crew was impressed with their mental and physical toughness of the Rangers.
“This was a super day for our team to witness firsthand the exercise regimen of our Army Strong Soldiers,” Newman said. “It was fairly obvious that our crew was inspired by the Rangers, and the Army pride factor will continue to have a major impact with our team.”