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Christmas Abbott becomes first female NASCAR pit crew member

By
GABRIELLE LEVY, UPI.com
Christmas Abbott at a practice session, whose times working the front tire are within milliseconds of the big leagues.
Christmas Abbott at a practice session, whose times working the front tire are within milliseconds of the "big leagues."

A NASCAR tire is more than half Christmas Abbott's body weight, but the CrossFit guru isn't about to let that stop her.

In fact, she's about to make history as the first woman to join a NASCAR pit crew full time.

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Abbott, 31, inked a deal with Michael Waltrip Racing, for whom she'll take on a "weekend warrior" role doing pit support at all Cup events. Someday, Abbott hopes to go "over the wall" to become a front tire changer--but one step at a time.

Abbott became something of a star in the intense world of CrossFit exercise after opening her own studio and posting videos on YouTube that racked up thousands of views.

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Ted Bullard noticed.

Bullard, the chief marketing officer of Turner Motorsports, who saw a chance to turn skyrocketing enthusiasm for CrossFit into sponsorships for NASCAR, invited Abbott to try a pit crew challenge in January, and she blew him away.

“On her fourth attempt, she got all five lug nuts off in 1.7 seconds,” Bullard said. “This was someone who had never touched the equipment. The pros do it in 1.0 or 1.2 seconds.”

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The 65-pound tires wouldn't be a problem either: At just 5 feet, 3 inches and 115 pounds, she can clean and jerk 175 pounds and squat somewhere north of 250 pounds.

Abbott got into fitness while working as a civilian in Afghanistan, so the long hours and dirty environment won't phase her.

"I have to get dirty and [travel] overnight," Abbott said, referring to a schedule that will keep her away from home and family for most of the year. "NASCAR fans are die-hard and they will call out your B.S. I want to go to the highest level, and I left three jobs to do [this] one."

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This Sunday, Abbott will make her Cub event debut, shadowing Michael Waltrip Racing's pit crew for Clint Bowyer at the Daytona 500.

She's naturally receiving a comparison or two to Danica Patrick, who last week became the first female driver in NASCAR history to win a pole position, recording the fastest qualifying lap.

Abbott doesn't mind the comparison, but said she isn't trying to become the "Danica Patrick of pit crews."

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"I want to be the best and she hasn’t proven to be the best yet," Abbott said. "I don’t want anything given to me because I’m female."

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