Changing the Game
Phil Horton’s vision and philosophy elevate athletic performance
By Mike Savicki
Huntersville’s Phil Horton has both an athletic coaching and training resume that crosses collegiate and professional sports, and a philosophy that is as unique as it is successful. The Lenoir, North Carolina native, and Caldwell County Athletic Hall of Famer, got his start training collegiate football players at Florida A&M and Memphis State before switching sports and taking a job with the NBA Milwaukee Bucks. Then, when former driver, Ernie Ervin, called looking for a personal trainer, Horton found his home in NASCAR.
“While working with Ernie for four years, I also became interested in pit stops,” Phil Horton shares. “I was fascinated with the mechanics of each position, saw how different types of athletes might be better suited for specific positions and realized that no one was teaching the philosophy on how to do a pit stop properly.”
So Horton became one of the sport’s first pit coaches. He spent upwards of three years developing a philosophy and training protocol that refined and changed the movements of each position. He introduced the drills, skills and exercises that helped teams shave valuable time from each stop. He helped transform pit crew members into professional athletes. During a span of seven years, his clientele broadened to include pit crew athletes across 12 teams, as well as eight other NASCAR drivers.
In his current role as Director of Athletic Performance for Max Siegel’s Rev Racing, Horton continues to mold champions. He recruits athletes from a myriad of sports with strong upper and lower bodies, quick hands and feet and sharp minds. And once he gets them on board, it’s all about training and tuning accuracy, consistency and accountability and teaching controlled speed of movement and mind.
The 16-year veteran also leads the NASCAR Drive for Diversity Crew Member Program where the results speak for themselves. 45 alumni have worked across NASCAR and other top racing series since 2009. And with the 2013 season underway, 16 of his athletes are currently working on teams in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.
“The sport is wide open now,” he adds. “Only those who can perform are making it.”
This article was originally published in Currents Magazine in 2013.