The 100-degree temperatures expected at Daytona this weekend means NASCAR Sprint Cup Series crew members will begin preparing for the extreme conditions several days before arriving at the track. Michael Waltrip Racing’s trainers have crew members focused on hydration this week. They are also working outside in the North Carolina heat to acclimate their bodies to the high temperatures. Last week’s race at Kentucky and this week’s in Daytona are just the start of the hot weather races on the schedule.
PAM BROWN, MWR STRENGTH & CONDITIONING COACH/ATHLETIC TRAINER: “The best thing that we’ve been doing is keeping the guys on a hydration schedule. A lot of the guys don’t realize that with hot weather like we’ve had the last few weeks you actually lose about one ounce of water every minute, especially the guys in the firesuits, so in about 20 minutes you can lose about 16 ounces of water. Your body can only absorb about one ounce every three to four minutes, so we keep on them about drinking water and switching back and forth from a sports drink to water to help their electrolyte balance. We tell the guys that if you are already thirsty then you are already dehydrated. I bring stuff to the track to check their hydration levels if they think they are dehydrated. I have IVs for preventative care and an electrolyte mix to help guys out pre-race. For some of the guys that are prone to cramping, we give them a better idea of things to eat pre-race and building up to the race to try and prevent that. We started training outside to acclimate to the heat so they aren’t taken off guard on race day.”
HOW EARLY IN THE WEEK DOES HYDRATION BEGIN: “Three days prior to the race. We get them started Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Three days before we have them drink 50-100 ounces more than what you’d normally drink. I tell the guys that you don’t really want to gulp or chug it, but sip it to help your body absorb as much as you can. I let them know to drink cold water because it absorbs into your body better than a warm liquid. We just try to educate them. The more we educate them the more they are aware of their surroundings.”
BIGGEST HURDLES: “Education is really the biggest thing. Letting them know that if they are thirsty then it’s already too late and they are already dehydrated. So getting them on the schedule for hydration especially for these hot weather days. It can creep up on you – in Charlotte for instance there isn’t a lot of in between – it goes from cold to hot.”
SHAUN PEET, MWR ASSISTANT STRENTH & CONDITIONING COACH/No. 15 JACKMAN: “We start training outside earlier in the year so they get used to working in the heat. They aren’t out there in their firesuits like they are on raceday, but it allows the guys to get their heart rate up with a good volume of work. That translates to them having the ability to handle that heat when you do add in the firesuit. Like today – it’s 95 degrees outside with a high level of humidity and we have to get used to that. It’s physical training, but it’s also training that mental aptitude so that you can take it from the workout at the shop and bring it to the racetrack.”
ON HYDRATION: “Pam (Brown) has been really working on a lot of that. She brings salt tablets and a lot of that stuff to make sure that we retain water. It’s sometimes a hard deal because you can’t forget – this is NASCAR. Guys like to have a beer occasionally, so we are constantly reminding them to keep that at a minimum and really focus on hydrating. Our truck drivers do a great job keeping tons of water available outside the trucks – we use stacks and stacks of water bottles. Some of the guys use cool cloths to keep their core temperature down. Pam is really good and is used to working in tough conditions. Her background is in college sports mostly in the South – so she has done a lot of work with athletes in hot summer conditions.”