NASCAR Pit Crew Coach
and Teamwork & Leadership Expert
Andy Papathanssiou is nearing a twenty-seven year career with Hendrick Motorsports – NASCAR’s modern day dynasty. Andy’s team building techniques and Over The Wall philosophy have transformed the paradigm of how all NASCAR pit crews operate. Andy employed an athletic mindset which centered on practice and repetition, coaching and review, innovation and process improvement – to result in peak performance. An accomplished communicator, motivator and presenter, Andy’s keynotes are about creating hyper-successful teams, innovative thinking and transformational leadership.
Andy has a bachelor’s degree in Economics, and a master’s degree in Organizational Behavior from Stanford. After college, he discovered NASCAR by sneaking into the garage area and volunteering with a team at the Sears Point (Infineon) Raceway in Sonoma, CA in 1990 – where he saw his first pit stop. He joined Hendrick Motorsports in 1992 as the #24 DuPont team’s pit crew coordinator; a first in NASCAR.
Papathanassiou sought pit crew members with athletic experience. He had them practice frequently and undergo teambuilding exercises as well as strength training. Under his guidance, Jeff Gordon’s 1995 pit crew frequently had the fastest pit stops, which contributed towards the team’s championship. Other teams took notice, and by the late 1990s most teams had adopted Papathanassiou’s methods. Teams now recruit and employ many former college athletes, and pit stop times have decreased from 18 or 19 seconds in the early 1990s to 11 seconds today.
Director of Human Performance
Papathanassiou remains with Hendrick Motorsports as Director of Human Performance, a role similar to a collegiate athletic director. The Hendrick pit program encompasses scouting and recruiting, practice and training, injury rehab, nutritional and sports psychology support for the crew members. In 2006, in addition to his Hendrick duties, he was elected as Executive Director of the North Carolina Motorsports Association (NCMA), a position he held until 2012. The NCMA promotes the state’s six billion dollar motorsports industry through events, business development, education programs, workforce development and public policy. He currently sits on the board of directors. Papathanassiou regularly gives keynote speeches and conducts teamwork/team building seminars about the techniques he has developed and how universally they can be applied.
Over the Wall Thinking
Pit crews operate in one of the most dynamic and demanding teamwork environments imaginable. In racing, like in business and in life, there are no guarantees. Make one mistake that's too big or at an inopportune time and your day at the race is over -- you go home while the race continues on without you. This creates incentive to be safe and conservative. Balance that against the fact that there are forty-one other teams you compete against at each event and you never have even the chance to win unless you push people and equipment to their limits and beyond at the proper moment. Communication and empathy are critical factors in this world that judges human performance in tenths of a second. So is innovation. Do something successful at the race track and you can be sure that everyone will soon copy you. If you don't have the next improvement ready, and the one after that, you quickly fall behind. Innovation is a process, not an "aha" moment. Andy Papathanassiou, a Stanford University master's graduate, shares how passion overcomes obstacles and makes things happen. He talks about the make-up of highly successful teams. Whether it's pit crews, sales teams or groups that come together to accomplish any goal, the characteristics of successful teams are universal. Papathanassiou discusses leadership and the role of the individual. He coined the term, "Over the Wall Thinking," to describe his philosophy. "Over the Wall Thinking" focuses on the athletic mindset. It doesn't matter if you know anything about or participated in competitive sports such as racing. It doesn't even matter if you like sports at all. The cognitive building blocks of competitive athletics give each of us the ability to lead a more engaged, successful and happier life.