May, 29, 2014
By David Newton | ESPN.com
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Carolina Panthers coach Ron Rivera planned to bring a stock car into his team meeting room Thursday. OK, not a real one, but a video of a real one.
Rivera understands that for the defending NFC South champions to remain relevant in 2014, everyone has to do the little things it takes to make a difference.
He saw what he considered a great example of that two Saturdays ago as a guest of Felix Sabates, the co-owner of Chip Ganassi Racing, at the Sprint All-Star race and wants to share it with his players.
Rivera spent that Saturday evening in the pit stall of driver Jamie McMurray, who pulled away in the final 10-lap segment to win the non-points event. He watched as the team fell behind with a four-tire stop early in the race because the right front tire changer dropped a lugnut.
It took 15.35 seconds.
On the final stop, a mandatory four-tire stop, the crew got McMurray out in 11.88 seconds. They dubbed it the "money stop," fitting since it earned the team a cool $1 million.
Rivera, stopwatch in hand, watched closely at the disappointment of the six-man, over-the-wall crew as they discussed what happened on the first stop. He was blown away by how they came together to produce the final stop that put McMurray out second, on the front row with Carl Edwards.
Had McMurray started on the second row, he admittedly would have had no chance of getting to the lead for such a short segment.
The win got McMurray and Rivera in Victory Lane, where the fourth-year Carolina coach somehow avoided the spray of Champagne.
It got the pit crew an invitation from Rivera to speak to his team before Thursday's third day of on-the-field offseason workouts.
"To kind of talk about the teamwork and the way they did things," Rivera said. "It was kind of a neat experience for me to be in that pit and to see how they did things and how they handled things and how the whole team comes together.
"It was kind of cool, the experience and seeing it. I just kept thinking to myself, just the little individual things that each guy on the pit crew does, I'm going to highlight those."
That's particularly significant for a team that is basically rebuilding the offensive line, where it takes all five to six players working together as one to make the unit work.
Rivera went on to explain in great detail how he was wowed by all the moving parts, from the jackman catching the front tire with his leg and with one arm moving it into position to be placed on the car while holding the jack.
"I'm thinking to myself, that's detail," Rivera said. "Look at the little things. So I'm just looking for those things to highlight to my guys."
You never know when you'll need a money stop, even on the football field.