Director of Human Performance - Hendrick Motorsports
Board of Directors For the NC Motorsports Association
When Andy Papathanassiou talks about being in the fast lane, he’s referring to something other than his life experiences. Starting in 1992 as the “pit crew coach” for Hendrick Motorsports, DuPont, Cup Series race team, Andy has been an integral part of the team building and communication talents that have led to many victories on the NASCAR Circuit.
A native of Emerson, New Jersey, Andy grew up as the only son of Greek immigrants who favored education over sports. An honor student, Andy sought physical achievement as well. Not only did Andy become a three-sport high school athlete, lettering in football, wrestling and track, he was voted a USA Today All-American placing second nationally in the shot put as well as an academic All-American in football. He held the New Jersey state record in the shot put for twelve years.
Upon graduation, Andy accepted a football scholarship to Stanford University. He chose Stanford because it combined an unparalleled education with Division I athletics. He competed in both football and track, earned an undergraduate degree in Economics and a master’s degree in Organizational Behavior, while at the same time excelling on the gridiron. He started in 45 out of 45 football games as an offensive lineman. In track, he was a Junior-Nationals champion and qualified for the PAC-10 track and field championship finals, for three years.
Following graduation from Stanford, he sought to explore various industries to start a career. Though he didn’t know much about it, NASCAR racing was on the list. His first racing experience was in the garage area at Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, CA for the 1991 event. He made some contacts and got to help out a team for the weekend by cleaning the car, sweeping the garage and helping in the pits on race day. Two months later, Andy gave notice to his employer and moved to Charlotte to pursue a career in the industry.
He aggressively sought out and worked as a garage hand for over a year as a member of several NASCAR crews. In 1992 he was offered a job with Hendrick Motorsports as NASCAR’s first ever pit crew coach. The job was with the newly formed, DuPont race team, driven by Jeff Gordon. Andy immediately put Gordon’s pit crew to work beginning with rigorous workouts and training designed to build power and teamwork in the pits. Over the years the paradigm shift pioneered by Andy became the standard in racing and revolutionized the way pit crews operate.
Andy explains, “A pit crew is just like any high performance team or business unit–you need the right perspective, dedicated players and a good system. Without all the components you will never achieve your potential. Most spectators don’t realize the coordination and timing required of the pit crew. There are potentially, hundreds of thousands of dollars on the line when a NASCAR Sprint Cup car pulls into the pits. Our six-person crew is expected to change four sixty-five pound tires and fill the car with eighteen gallons of fuel, in twelve seconds. At the same time, there are forty-two teams out there that are trying to do it better than us.”
His perseverance and belief in the team concept helped Hendrick Motorsports teams win twelve NASCAR Sprint Cup Championships with Drivers such as Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt, Jr. The first championship coming in 1995, only the DuPont teams third year of existence. Today, Andy continues as the Director of Human Performance for Hendrick Motorsports. From 2000 to 2005, Andy became the company’s Personnel Director where he worked with contracts, bonus programs, HR, safety & compliance, employee and driver development. Hendrick Motorsports has 600 employees with groups as varied as pit crew, pilots, mechanics, engineers, marketing, business and administrative staffs.
In 2006 this industry experience culminated in Andy being elected as Executive Director of the North Carolina Motorsports Association, a position he held until being moved to the board of directors in 2012. As a director of the NCMA he is involved in public policy, workforce development, education and other events benefiting and promoting the 6 billion dollar North Carolina Motorsports industry.
Andy uses his life long competitive experiences to deliver engaging events and keynotes centering around going, “Over The Wall™,” a philosophy he developed which brings the athletic mindset to any team or organization.