Waltrip Racing jackman thrives on team aspect of his job

Speed, of course, is important for the jackman, but Michael Waltrip Racing's Mitch Lash says safety is number one when he's quarterbacking the pit stop.

Updated: August 21, 2008, 5:38 PM ET
By Brett Borden | Special to

How does a private detective get a job on NASCAR's pit road? Here's the first clue ... have a good friend who already has one.

[+] EnlargeMitch Lash
Autostock ImagesGet a look at what jackman Mitch Lash sees during pit stops Friday and Saturday when he wears the "over-the-wall cam" for ESPN in the Sprint Cup and Nationwide series races at Bristol.
Mitch Lash is the jackman for Michael Waltrip Racing's No. 44 Toyota driven by David Reutimann in the Sprint Cup series, as well as the No. 99 Aaron's Dream Machine Toyota in the Nationwide series. But before he knew jack, he knew Shannon Myers.

Myers brought Lash to the Dale Earnhardt, Inc. shop one day, and Lash, who got his private detective's license at 18, watched the jackman at the shop doing his thing.

"I picked it up and I haven't put it down since," he said.

Lash and Myers, who was a rear tire changer at DEI, played sports together in North Carolina. While Myers had a tryout with the NFL's Miami Dolphins, it was Lash who assumed a quarterback-like role with his NASCAR team.

Mitch Lash

•  Sprint Cup team: No. 44 Michael Waltrip Racing Toyota [driven by David Reutimann]

• Age: 33

• Job: Jackman

"You hear it a lot ... the jackman is the quarterback of the team," Lash said. "He initiates the [pit] stop and he terminates the stop."

He also makes sure his teammates are safe.

"I'm a big stickler on safety," he said. "I have a military background, so safety is number one. Once that jack goes up, guys' hands are everywhere ... in rotors, inside fenders ... I'm very aware of that and very careful."

It's a high-pressure job that demands competence and confidence in the guys next to you. The stakes can be high, but the rewards make it worth it.

"You've got to get along and have the respect of your teammates," Lash said. "It's a family atmosphere. I love the team aspect. If you don't believe in that, it's not going to work. When you pull off a 12.5 pit stop, it's just an awesome feeling, especially if your driver's running up front. It gives you such a great sense of satisfaction."

While teamwork is what Lash identifies as the best part of the job, travel, he said, is the toughest.

[+] EnlargeDavid Reutimann
Rusty Jarrett/Getty Images/NASCARMitch Lash scrambles with the jack while David Reutimann makes a pit stop during a Nationwide series race.
"Getting on a plane early in the morning, being out in the sun for so many hours on race day and then getting back on the plane is the toughest part," Lash said. "That and being away from your family."

The multitalented Lash, who still helps his father out in the family detective agency and has also served as co-host of "Unrestricted" with friend Dale Earnhardt Jr. on XM radio, said the brotherhood among NASCAR's team members helps him get through those times when he misses his family back home.

"In this sport, you know everybody up and down pit road, just about," he said. "It's an honor to be a part of this sport and be one of the select few who get to be on these teams because seeing the fans on the other side of the fence every week I realize how many people would love to be in my shoes."

Those people will get an even better idea this weekend when Lash will sport the "over-the-wall cam" for ESPN in the Sprint Cup and Nationwide series races at Bristol Motor Speedway.