Hunter Smith, FitStop Performance, and driver fitness during the pandemic

Photo Courtesy of: Hunter Smith

By: Sarah Handy, Staff Writer

If you are a regular reader of content here on Kickin’ the Tires then chances are you saw a piece I did on Hunter Smith, owner of FitStop Performance back in November, if not I’ve included it below. 

With the whole COVID-19 pandemic, I reached out to Smith to talk about driver fitness during the pandemic, how his own routine has changed and spoke to a number of the drivers he works with as well. 

Hunter Smith combines love of racing and fitness in NASCAR

Recap on Hunter 

Hunter Smith, a New Jersey native, began his career in motorsports at the age of 12. Smith began racing in go karts, and followed that up with dirt modifies, dirt late models and asphalt late models. He even spent some time as a development driver in the NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour.

His time spent in NASCAR is when he started taking his training and fitness to another level.

In November, Smith said, “I simply wanted to be the best and looked for any advantage possible, and I felt making myself a better athlete, both physically and mentally, would be huge.  I ran my last race in 2018 and decided to open FitStop Performance.”

Smith received an education through the National Academy of Sports Medicine. He currently holds his personal trainer certification along with specialization in corrective exercise.

(Photo Courtesy of: Hunter Smith)

FitStop Performance 

Smith owns and operates FitStop Performance which primarily focuses on physical and mental training of motorsports athletes. FitStop Performance wants their athletes to become the best athletes as well as the best version of themselves.

The FitStop Performance family of drivers are Spencer Boyd, Corey LaJoie, Joey Gase, Ryan Vargas, Miles Murray, Dacin Robertson, Austin Theriault, Brandon Lynn, Matthew Linker, Josh Stark, and Carson Ramsey.

The COVID-19 Pandemic 

There is no doubt the COVID-19 pandemic has affected not only people in the United States but worldwide. Kickin’ the Tires asked Smith how if any has it changed how he does business with his clients. 

It’s no secret that the effects of COVID-19 changed the way we all live and lived our lives, but it has certainly had an impact on how FitStop Performance conducts business with our partners and clients,” stated Smith. “The state of North Carolina allowed us to partake in outdoor activity, while maintaining safe social distancing protocols within our small group.”

“That being said, a lot of our training recently has been taking place outdoors. Everywhere from local parks, parking lots, or even clients driveways. It’s been a big change, but as the weather has gotten hotter in our area, its actually been great to train our drivers in the elements that they may be exposed to in some of these races coming up!”

How His Routine Has Changed 

With that said, it’s changed Smith’s personal routine as well but he’s looking at the positive side of things. The pandemic has given him the opportunity to evaluate client programs, make necessary changes and further his own education.

“This way of life has definitely changed my personal routine, as well.  But I won’t say that it has been bad,” expressed Smith. “I’ve gotten to spend a lot of time evaluating current programs for our clients and making changes to make them better And I’ve also gotten to learn, not only by creating and implementing easy, at-home workouts to my routine, but I have also started working towards my Performance Enhancement Specialist certification through the National Academy of Sports Medicine.  I’ve tried to be a positive advocate for those around me during this time.  Unfortunately, this is something none of us can control, so let’s make the best of the situation that we are in.”

Smith has also been iRacing some as many drivers have been doing during the pandemic, he spoke to Kickin’ the Tires about that saying, “I have participated in a few iRacing events.  I grew up racing at Snydersville Raceway in Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania. They have hosted some races as they are unable to open yet.  I cannot say that they have got super well for me, but it was fun to get involved!  Thankfully, Spencer Boyd & Greg Stumpff from Off Axis Paint have let me use their setups a little bit.”

Staying on Track 

NASCAR hasn’t seen any on track activity since the NCS Fan Shield 500 at Phoenix Raceway back on March 8. It’s been even longer for the Truck Series who last raced at Las Vegas on February 21.

It’s important for drivers to stay on a fitness routine during the pandemic. It can be easy for anyone to veer off course. Drivers know they’ll be back on track soon. The NCS will resume on track racing at Darlington Raceway this Sunday with the Xfinity Series racing next Tuesday. The following week the Truck Series will resume at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Smith weighed in on the importance of staying on track fitness wise. 

It is super important for our clients, and any athlete, to stay on track (pun intended) during this pandemic,” said Smith.” It’s very easy to fall off and let your health or performance take a back seat to life, but now NASCAR is heading into a stretch of 7 races in 11 days.”

“For our NASCAR Cup Series drivers like Corey LaJoie or Joey Gase, it’s going to be a quick turnaround from a grueling race like the Coca-Cola 600 on May 24, to another race on May 27.  Full recovery, re-hydration, etc. can sometimes take 1-2 days during a normal schedule.  Now, we’ll have 2 days of no competition to recover and be ready for more.  I’ve been lucky that our guys have all stayed on pace and I am confident in our program that our team will perform to the best of their abilities.”

“We are definitely working out more outside.  But we’re taking advantage of it and using it as a great way to condition our drivers to get used to the elements and ambient temperatures as we get back to racing,” said Smith.

Driver Comments 

I wanted to get some driver feedback on the importance of keeping up with fitness while racing was on a break, here is what some of them had to say.

(Photo By: Nigel Kinrade Photography / NKP Photo)

Spencer Boyd driver of the No. 20 Chevrolet Silverado for Young’s Motorsports in the NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series said its been difficult not having a normal schedule, but Smith has done a great job. “It has been difficult not being able to work out the normal ways that we do,” said Boyd. “But Hunter has done a great job doing outdoor workouts and we have put a lot of miles on our bikes! Motivation is easy! We know we are racing again soon and want to be prepared!”

(Photo By: Nigel Kinrade Photography / NKP Photo)

Corey LaJoie driver of the No. 32 Ford Mustang for Go Fas Racing in the NASCAR Cup Series weighed in on the importance of staying hydrated in between the races as the Cup Series resume with races so close together “I think people underestimate the endurance its going to take to race these first four races that close together and also properly re-hydrate in between,” said LaJoie. “There might be some people falling out of the seat. Hopefully, I won’t be one of them because I’ve tried to keep up my fitness level.”

(Photo By: Nigel Kinrade Photography / NKP Photo)

NASCAR Cup Series driver Joey Gase who drives for Rick Ware Racing and has piloted both the No. 51 and No. 53 entries told Kickin’ the Tires that Hunter [Smith] has made the work outs fun for them.

“I feel not only better in the race car but also throughout the days,” said Gase. “Hunter is able to make the work outs fun for us and also has us compete against our fellow drivers which makes it even more fun and gives you even more motivation. Hunter is also very flexible and works around your schedule and location needs.”

Gase also stated it’s very important to stay on a fitness routine because they weren’t sure when racing would resume.

“Once you get out of a routine it is hard to get back in to it,” stated Gase. “The other thing was we never really knew for sure when we would go back racing. NASCAR told us once we had a window, we would be racing so we always had to be ready.”

(Photos Courtesy of Miles Murray / Miles Murray Racing)

Miles Murray is a 12-year-old Nitro Kart Racer from Virginia racing in Junior classes KA/VLR 100 at GoPro Motorplex, WKA, WKC, USPKS series who also is part of Smith’s FitStop program. Murray said the pandemic has been a great opportunity to get back into shape. He also said his workouts are a lot more fun and laughing with his dad helps him with motivation.

“Hunter at FitStop gives workouts that are fun and challenging,” said Murray.

“This is a great opportunity to get in shape and come back stronger when I go racing again. “My workouts each day are a lot more fun when my dad and I can laugh and joke with each other, that helps me to stay motivated.”

Stay Connected with FitStop Performance

Official Website: http://www.fitstopperform.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/FitStopPerform/

Twitter: @FitStopPerform

Instagram: @fitstopperform

In addition, Smith would like to thank all of FitStop Performance’s clients, supporters and their partners at Off Axis Paint, and The Joie of Seating. Kickin’ the Tires would also like to thank Hunter Smith for taking time out of his busy schedule to talk to us and answer questions for this exclusive piece as well as Spencer Boyd, Corey LaJoie, Joey Gase and Miles Murray. 

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