Boone Stutz Prefers Pit Road over Gridiron
By Mike Hembree, USA TODAY Sports
Boone Stutz has been whacked by blitzing linebackers and crunched by tackles.
He prefers the craziness of NASCAR pit roads.
Stutz, 32, is one of several ex-NFL players who have transferred their size and skills to race-day jobs on Sprint Cup teams. Stutz, 6-6 and 275 pounds, is the gas man for Danica Patrick’s No. 10 Chevrolet team, a job he began at this year’s Daytona 500.
As pit-stop speed has become even more important with on-track passing often difficult (and occasionally almost impossible, given aerodynamic realities), teams have moved toward outfitting their over-the-wall crews with bigger, faster, stronger and more agile personnel.
Former football linemen and linebackers are obvious choices for two of the positions where strength is a requirement — gas man and jack man.
Stutz, who played football at Texas A&M and later with the Atlanta Falcons (2006) and Seattle Seahawks (2006-2007), has filled both roles at Stewart-Haas Racing but has settled into the refueling spot with Patrick’s team this year.
Stutz has a few seconds to empty two fuel cans into Patrick’s car while other crewmembers change tires. It’s a whirlwind, with several tasks being performed in a tight space with traffic and tension all around.
“It’s a high-pressure situation, and you have to be able to think in the moment,” Stutz said. “Athletes say things will slow down for you the more you do it. I find it kind of the same as with football. Things are speeding by you, and guys are flying by you on pit road, but they ‘slow down’ when you’ve done it awhile.
“Things can go wrong. You have to be prepared for those to happen. Obviously, a third down in a big stadium like at Texas A&M or in the NFL definitely can help you prepare for performing on a fast level on pit road, being safe and getting your car out.”
Stutz played at Texas A&M in 2004 and 2005 and was a tight end and long snapper on punts and field goals. A team captain as a senior in 2005, he finished his career with 13 receptions for 168 yards (12.9 avg.) and two touchdowns. He also logged 230 successful long snaps on punts and place kicks, and 12 special teams tackles.
He moved on to the Falcons, where he was the snapper for Morten Andersen when he set the NFL career scoring record in 2006, and Seahawks in the long-snapper role but found the going tough.
“It was something I enjoyed, but the NFL is very tricky,” he said. “When you center too many footballs over the punter’s head, they frown upon that. It was a bad turn of events.”
Stutz had other career choices. He worked as a firefighter and paramedic after his NFL dream ended and later managed an oilfield work crew in Texas. But sports kept calling. A friend put him in touch with NASCAR possibilities.
“It kept bothering me, because I knew I had only a few years left of being in top physical condition,” he said. “I didn’t want to miss the opportunity to do something else in sports. I didn’t want to look back and say, ‘Hey, I wish I could have done that.’ The more I thought about it, the more I couldn’t pass it up.”
Stutz got a spot on SHR’s pit development team, which serves as a sort of training program and supply line for pit crewmembers for the operation’s race teams.
“I’ve always been a sports fan in general, and I always paid attention to NASCAR and Bristol, Talladega and the Daytona 500,” he said. “I kept up with it and watched it from time to time. But I didn’t know a lot about it. I’m still learning about it, asking questions in the shop daily. I want to know why cars are set up this way or that way and what effect this will have on handling.
“I keep my mouth shut and learn a lot.”
Stutz made his over-the-wall debut in a Camping World Truck Series race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway last year. SHR often sends new crewmembers for one-off gigs with Truck or Xfinity series teams to gain experience.
“I look back from time to time at the helmet video of me going over the wall for the first time,” he said. “It’s pretty comical to look back and see how bad I was. But the game-time experience really helps.
“It’s been a ride. I’ve come a long way in a short period of time to learn the very unique technique of a unique position.”