The History Behind PitFit

With his Indycar drivers Charlie Kimball, Scott Dixon, James Hinchcliffe, and Josef Newgarden

With his Indycar drivers Charlie Kimball, Scott Dixon, James Hinchcliffe, and Josef Newgarden

PitFit Training began in 1993 when a young trainer working at the Detroit Diesel Corporation wellness center sent a request to racing legend and DDC owner Roger Penske asking to improve the fitness of his CART Indycar team.  Jim Leo was that trainer, and to his surprise Penske sent back a simple hand-written note from his desk; ‘Go for it”.  With little racing knowledge but a wealth of human performance experience and a passion for success, Leo was put in contact with Penske Racing located in Reading, Pa. He soon started the formidable task of creating a program that could make the most successful team in racing even better.  Through help from his main contact, Team Coordinator Tim Lombardi, Jim was able to get the entire Penske family to embrace the concept and put in the kind of effort you would expect from an organization led by Roger Penske.

When the 1994 CART season began, Penske Racing had a full fitness center and a conditioning program in place that focused on improving team pit stops and overall wellness.  That year, Penske Racing dominated the competition by winning 12 of 16 races, the CART championship, and the Indy 500.  Jim Leo saw that there may be more to motorsports human performance than even he thought.

Founder Jim Leo on the Indo Board Balance Trainer

In 1997, with the key influence and networking assistance of Ilmor Engineering’s Paul Ray, Ian Hawkins, and Wayne Bennet, Jim formed PitFit Training and began working with other teams in the CART series.  After a successful 1997 season, PacWest Racing’s John “Ando” Anderson hired Jim to train their drivers Mark Blundell and Mauricio Gugelmin.  With Jim relocating from Detroit, Michigan to Indianapolis, IN, Ando became a major influence in the success of PitFit Training.  Ando took Jim under his wing and allowed him to create the template for a successful program. In 2000, PacWest racing hired a young, slightly pudgy and undisciplined New Zealand driver named Scott Dixon.

With an incredibly rigid and focused training and nutrition program, Dixon transformed himself into a literal winning machine, dropping 30 lbs and following Leo’s disciplined approach to win the 2000 Indy Lights title and secure a spot on the 2001 PacWest Racing CART squad.  Dixon went on to become the youngest driver in CART history to win a race when he won at Nazareth in only his 4th start. In 2001, Leo restructured his agreement with PacWest and began working with other drivers and teams in various series. This primary focus on auto racing series allowed PitFit Training to grow to be a true industry leader, and continues to do so today.

Jim with UFC Fighter Chris "Lights Out" Lytle and Indianapolis Colt Donald Brown

Jim with UFC Fighter Chris “Lights Out” Lytle and Indianapolis Colt Donald Brown

With the addition of numerous experts in the field of biomechanics, exercise physiology, rehabilitation, nutrition, and mental training, the PitFit Training program covers the primary areas needed for motorsports human performance.

The key element of variety in training options relies heavily on top experts in the areas of boxing, yoga, mixed martial arts, swimming, rock climbing, triathlon, and many more offerings. In January 2010, PitFit Training opened its new facility in Indianapolis that housed experts in chiropractic medicine, physical therapy, rehabilitation and massage along with a training center filled with the many tools used to train drivers of all levels.

The roster of champions that have become part of the PitFit family is a who’s who of auto racing. Drivers such as Scott Dixon, Dario Franchitti, Will Power, Kasey Kahne, Sam Hornish Jr, Larry Dixon, Morgan Lucas, Levi Jones, Justin Allgier are just a few of the many drivers who have trained with PitFit.

PitFit Training has become its own ladder system for racing success, with numerous drivers starting in the program in lower-level series and staying with the training as they graduate to the top levels.  In 2011, six former Firestone Indy Lights drivers from the PitFit program moved up to the IndyCar Series, including Wade Cunningham, JR Hildebrand, James Hinchcliffe, Pippa Mann, Sebastian Saavedra, and Charlie Kimball.

Ultimately, PitFit Training has grown into the industry leader in the development and implementation of motorsports-specific human performance training and lists clients from Formula One, IndyCar, NASCAR, NHRA, GRAND-AM, ALMS, USAC and numerous junior level auto racing series.

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