Josh Sobecki is a 37-year-old veteran crewman who grew up in Kensington, Pennsylvania and now resides in the Winston-Salem, North Carolina area with his wife, Nicole and their two sons, Caden (8) and Grayson (3). Currently, he’s pitting for one of the most elite organizations in the field. Not only that, but Sobecki goes over the wall in all three NASCAR series.
Sobecki stated that as a kid, he loved playing outside, he was always in the woods and would often get into trouble with his friends. He was full of energy and played organized baseball along with hockey his whole life. Growing up, he developed the love and passion for cars and racing because of his dad who owned a 1966 Chevelle.
Around the age of 11, Sobecki started working in a shop with a man named Danny Bash. He worked with him for free just to learn about mechanics and gain some experience with cars. He continued to do this until he graduated from high school.
Sadly, Sobecki lost his father to Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma when he was just 13 years old. However, he knew that his path was working with cars and he had the aspiration to get into racing. Shortly after graduation, he moved to Nashville, Tennessee where he began working at the restaurant, Outback Steakhouse while attending the Nashville Auto Diesel School. One of those courses he took was a high-performance class in which he learned about welding, fabrication and the aspects of racing.
Sobecki graduated from there in 2005. Not long after that, what began as a very rocky beginning led to an impressive and commendable career as he celebrates his 18th season in NASCAR this season.
“The beginning of my career was rough with teams shutting down, and I was going back and forth,” he told me. “In 2005 I heard that Bobby Hamilton Racing was hiring some fabricators.
Working for him is how I got my start into racing.
I always said that I was going to be in racing because it had to do with cars and speed. It was something I really liked to do. I just love it.”.
At this point in the beginning of his career, he had nothing to do with being part of a pit crew. Sobecki stated that Hamilton commented about his part-time job at Outback where he was still working at in the mornings.
“One day he said the coolest thing ever to me. He asked me what I was making and stuff, so I told him. He said “I need you to quit your day job. As long as you can quit Outback, I’ll hire you.” I was like, but of course, yeah!”.
Sobecki stated that not long after that, they asked him to start carrying tires, so he tried it out. He ended up being a tire carrier by the end of that first year in the truck series for Bobby Hamilton Racing and in 2006, he was a full-time rear tire carrier on the No.4 of Chase Miller.
He continued to work in the shop as a fabricator, and on the weekends he was the rear tire carrier until Hamilton passed away in 2007. After that, they (BHR) moved the shop to Virginia, and ultimately he decided to follow. But they decided to close BHR shortly after the move and he left them to work at Bill Davis racing in 2008.
Sobecki’s career was short-lived while he was with them as well because they ended up closing their doors as well. He did note that while he was there, he was a rear tire carrier on Mike Skinner’s No.5 truck.
Still hungry for an opportunity, Sobecki went to HT Motorsports. He was hanging truck bodies as the head fabricator and carried tires while he was there. Unfortunately, they also ended up shutting down the next year. Other organizations that Sobecki became a part of were Braun Motorsports and Kevin Harvick Incorporated, but those opportunities were also short-lived.
JS: When I was at Braun, I was still doing fabrication and carrying tires for Jason Leffler and Kasey Kahne. They were doing a split duty in the 38 car, but I left in the middle of the season and I went to KHI. I was there for a few years carrying tires for the truck and No.2 Xfinity car of Elliott Sadler. And once Delana got pregnant, they decided to shut down the shop.
MW: So when did you start at Richard Childress Racing, and what led to you going to their organization?
JS: So they thought they knew about me from KHI. I remember Mike Dillon found me at a bar – which was funny in Talladega.
The conversation between them was brief, but it provided Sobecki with the opportunity he had been waiting for. That was at the end of 2012.
MD: (Mike Dillon) Hey, aren’t you that Sobecki kid? You’re coming over to RCR next year.
JS: I don’t know what you’re talking about.
MD: Has nobody talked to you yet?
JS: I said nobody has talked to me.
MD: We want you on the three car next year for Austin’s Xfinity car.
JS: And I said, oh well this is a first thing I’ve heard about it, and I told him I was definitely interested.
Sobecki remembered that they spoke the next week and that’s how he got his job at RCR the first time for the 2013 season. He continued to say, “after the 2013 season, I was there to go move up with Austin (Dillion) from the Xfinity Series to Cup. The Cup series had different people in the organization and Harvick was leaving. So they had a different pit crew. They moved the pit crew over from the 29 to the 3, and I just wasn’t gonna be a part of that”.
Sobecki mentioned that he knew Harvick was going to be on a mission when he left RCR. He decided to go to Stewart-Haas and tried out for the pit crew and ended up making it onto the 4 car for the 2014 season.
MW: What did you do as a pit crew member while at Stewart-Haas Racing?
JS: I was a rear tire carrier. So, then they made some crew swaps after Harvick’s season when we won the championship. I went on to pit Tony Stewart’s car and then Clint Bowyer’s car. I was at Stewart-Haas for six years. So I switched, I guess, I could say this also; you know we switch to a five-man pit crew, but I was still a tire carrier for the first year. But then I thought I could be a really good jackman. I decided to try to learn how to be one and pushed myself with a lot of practice, and ended up becoming a jackman on the 41 halfway through the season of ’19.
Sobecki ended up leaving Stewart-Haas Racing and started the 2020 NASCAR Cup Series at RCR as a full-time jackman when Tyler Reddick started his Cup career.
He noted that to this day, between being a tire carrier, jackman and fabricator; fabrication is still his favorite.
MW: Out of all the positions that you have done, how important is the position as a jackman in a pit stop while going over the wall?
JS: Now it’s kind of like the quarterback to be honest with the one lug nut stuff. You can’t be too fast or really slow. One hiccup on your part really messes up the flow of the crew. It’s a lot different.
MW: How difficult is it to get over mistakes during a pit stop?
JS: So, when we did five lug, you could sort of make up time If you messed up on the right side. You can make it up on the left side, but you have to push a little bit harder. When you lose time on a one-lug stop, it’s gone. So you can’t really make up time If there’s a hiccup. You’re pretty much already going as fast as you can. Trying any harder can just label for mistakes. So it’s about trying to minimize mistakes while going as fast as you can.
MW: Any injuries over the years?
JS: Oh gosh, I’ve got a big list! I’ve had a meniscus injury, shoulder MRI done on both shoulders, pulled muscles, torn my groin and I’ve had injuries to my back. It’s just kind of the nature of the sport, I guess. You know, many years I’ve been doing this. This is my 18th season with having injuries over those 18 years.
MW: Do you ever have any fears in the moment during a pit stop?
JS: No fears, no. I’ve never had fears and I think that helps. I just always try to execute as best I can and I’ve always been an aggressive person. I’ve never had a fear of mistakes. You just can’t do that in this sport. You know, if you’ve got fears, it allows mistakes, and you’re just going to be slow. So I’ve never tried to have that. I’m just trying to be as aggressive as I can.
MW: When you go to tracks where pit boxes are reversed, is this challenging? And if so, what are the challenges?
JS: It’s definitely challenging as a jackman. It’s the most challenging, I’d say because you’re running the opposite way that you would run normally. It’s about learning your footsteps and movement. And when you’re running backwards; it’s just completely different than when you come around to which would be the right side because it’s backwards for the end of the stop. You’re beginning from the right side with the jack. It’s hard because you have to flip your body as fast as you can. It’s tough. You can’t ever learn it. You just don’t want to make mistakes. That’s all.
MW: How do you prepare for a race? Do you have any kind of rituals?
JS: So I guess I would say every race I try to stretch out. I think that’s what’s helped me the most throughout my career. And I try to stretch out as much as I can to make myself ready for all of those harsh movements. I don’t really have any rituals or anything. I think the only thing I ever do during a pit stop that’s always the same; I pull up my sleeves on my fire suit. So that’s about it. It’s just something I’ve always done. I don’t know. It’s like the most comfortable feeling to me while doing pit stop.
MW: Okay, so what’s this fist pump that I’ve seen your wife comment about during a race?
JS: So it’s kind of funny. My guys will be laughing and ask why do I still do this, but I just love competition. I’ve always loved competition. It’s about our pit stops. When you’re in, started coming out first and we’re picking up spots on pit road. So, I get a little aggressive during pit stops when we stop. That’s when you’ll see the signature fist pump. It’s almost just like Tiger Woods to be honest. I really didn’t realize I have the same exact fist pump, but I’ve always done it. It’s just something I always do. You can ask any crew that I’ve ever been with and they’ll tell you, Oh my gosh, like it’s just in the moment. I get so riled up. It’s just so fun to me and I think it’s why I still love doing it. It’s just, it’s an adrenaline rush. It’s just something I love to do and the signature fist pump happens when I’m heated up. Yes. It’s like everybody knows that’s a good pit stop. If I do that.
MW: I heard that you’re the only crewman that went with Kyle Busch over to RCR. What inspired you to do this?
JS: True. It was tough. The biggest thing is the pit crew. I love those guys I was with for the last three years. We’ve created a great bond, you know. I mean, the funny thing is we’re almost all together except for Brad Bodily. He went to 23XI with Reddick, and he’s on Reddick’s car in the rear. But otherwise, we’re all the same crew on the 21 Xfinity car, and the 51 truck. So, we were so good of a five-lug crew that they never wanted to change us for Austin Hill’s car. And the reason is for instance during one race, we came in third and sixth on another stopped, but went out first every time that weekend. It just goes to show the chemistry we have. Now when they said Kyle Busch was coming over, they were looking for some really fast pit stops. So they had to go to work to put a good crew together, and not saying we didn’t have one, but I think they were just looking for speed. I wasn’t even worried. None of us were guaranteed to be on this car at the end of last year. So we all went to work in the offseason, and I would say we all did about 500 pit stops. It was a lot of them. We put in a lot of hard work, a lot of sore bodies and, you know, we just started grinding. Some of the guys that came over were pretty fun. We had a lot of chemistry and it showed the first two races. We’ve been a top ten on pit road, and I was just lucky enough to still have the speed they were looking for. So I go to stay and start the season with Kyle Busch in the No.8.
MW: So far this season, you’ve gone over the wall with three teams and ended up in Victory Lane five times in five weeks. How does that make you feel? What’s the celebration like?
JS: It’s amazing. Like, I’ve never in my career started off the season like this except for when we won Daytona with Austin Hill last year. And so we went and won again this year with that kid. (Austin Hill) He’s amazing. Then we almost won with Kyle, but we wrecked on the second to the last lap while leading. I’ve always wanted to win Daytona in the Cup series. That one really hurt because that’s a race I haven’t won yet in Cup. Then we go to California, and of course, history with Kyle – he just dominates. We had good pit stops and we kept him up front where he needed to be and won the race. And then we knew we’d have a chance the weekend at LVMS in the truck race, because you always know Kyle’s going to be fast in a truck. We end up winning the truck race. And I didn’t expect to win the Xfinity race and we did. And I was hoping for, you know, something I’ve never had; all three races in one weekend, but we just didn’t have the car that weekend in the Cup series. But it was fun. Then we went on to win at Atlanta with Austin. Celebrations are flying. It’s been almost surreal.
MW: Tell me a little bit about the camaraderie with the other teams you work with.
JS: I’ve always remained friends with the guys I’ve worked with. I still have friendships with all the guys from Stewart-Haas. Some of us were crews that have won championships together. It’s pretty cool when you get respect along pit road because you’ve been in the sport for so long. Everybody comes up and talks to you about what’s new or whatever because I’m a veteran.
MW: You mentioned winning championships. What’s it like to get a ring?
JS: I still remember the first one. It’s just an accomplishment. For instance, there was this gasman that’s no longer with RCR, but he’s been in racing for like, 15 years and he never won a Cup race until last year. So man, that kind of puts you back into place. Some guys don’t have any rings. I guess that’s where guys kind of respect me. I would hope you know. In the sport, I think I have 26 truck wins, 12 Xfinity, and I have about 10 Cup wins now. And so when you get those rings for some of these racing championships, man, there’s no better feeling. I mean, it’s just an accomplishment that you hoped for and you know everyone wants it. And you’re just a guy for that year that got that accomplishment. You know that it helps the party after it’s all over with.
MW: When talking about rings in championships, how many rings have you acquired?
JS: I received a Team Championship ring in 2012 in the Trucks series with KHI, an Xfinity Championship with Austin Dillion in 2013, a Cup Championship with Kevin Harvick in 2014, and I have another Truck Championship in 2017 with Christopher Bell. That’s it for now, but hopefully more this year.
MW: Another thing is, how did it make you feel to get a shout-out on the Dale Jr. Download?
JS: My buddy messaged, me and goes, “Dude, Dale jr. Just shouted your name out. He was talking about you, man on his podcast! He singled you out. You know, about being the only crew member?”. And I was like, that’s pretty cool. You know of course, I have tons of respect for this guy. He’s big. I mean, I’ve seen him go through his racing years with 5,000 people around him walking into the garage. There’s a lot of people that listen to that. It was pretty cool to have Dale Jr. shout out my name, I love it.
MW: What kind of things do you do outside of racing during the week?
JS: Well mainly now it’s about taking care of my kids and all their activities. My oldest is in Muay Thai and he’s in love with it. He’s also taking drum lessons and he’s in football. So we take him to all that stuff, and the little one he’s not in too much of anything yet. But it’s fun and for me, I just love all of my projects around the house. I like to build things. I built our patio and deck in the backyard. Oh, and I built a swing for my wife because she always wanted one. I love working on cars. I have a truck that I bought and rebuilt from the ground up pretty much. I love working on that. So I mean, those are my main hobbies. And I’m still playing hockey Those are my favorite, but hanging out with my kids and wife is the best, for sure.
MW: Do you have any goals that you haven’t accomplished that you hope to achieve?
JS: Somebody recently asked me that. If you didn’t have goals to acquire, you know, you wouldn’t be doing this. And there are so many times throughout my career, I’d reach my goals and be like, oh my gosh, like what now? Like I wanted a truck Championship. Okay, well I got that. Then I won one in Xfinity and then I got one in Cup, too.
MW: After you completed those, what’s your new goal?
JS: My goal this year was that I’d love to win the Daytona 500 in Cup. That’s why I was so heartbroken losing that one this year. We were so close. The closest I’ve ever been, but that’s the goal.
Sobecki went on to say that as a veteran crewman, he’d love to make 20 years in the sport as a pit crew guy. “It’s just something I’m kind of striving for and trying to keep my body in shape enough to keep up with all these young guys”.
MW: With the fans booing at times, has this ever affected you working with Kyle Busch?
JS: No, no. I mean it’s funny. I mean, it’s not like being like a superstar athlete kinda thing, and how they get ‘hate fan mail’ and all that stuff. But it is funny. I mean, when you have a bad pit stop or a bad week, sometimes you’ll see comments a fan said. Like: they suck and are terrible and you know they got to change the pit crew. I mean, it’s never bothered me. Honestly, It’s just more comical. These people have no clue what they’re talking about, but I understand they all have their own say because it’s public, and they can say whatever they want. But it’s just funny, you know? It never changed my performance or has ever made me wonder if I’m good enough to do it or not. And you know when I was with Harvick’s crew, it was the same way. When you get with these good drivers that have talent and huge fan bases like Tony Stewart, Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick; it just comes with the territory. You gotta get out there and perform the best you can, which is why you’re there. It’s all because you’re good at what you do. Keep that in your head and block out everything else.
MW: Is there anyone you want to thank for the opportunities you’ve had or anything that’s current in your life?
JS: I mean, honestly, my wife. I’d like to thank her. You know, it’s so hard leaving every weekend for many years we’ve been together. We’ve been together about 11 years, and I’ve been leaving her every weekend with the kids and she’s the one having to take care of them by herself so that I can pretty much do what I love to do. It’s been tough on her and of course any of the moms.
MW: Would you like to talk about your uncle Tom Levett’s need for a kidney and where people can get the information to help?
JS: Yes! You know, at the beginning of this year, he had some kidney issues and they told him it wasn’t working well and he had to have some surgery on it. I guess they said it was like – level four kidney failure is what he said. And so they have to look for a kidney for him.
You can follow Josh Sobecki on Twitter @Sobesobecki and during race weekends on pit road as the jackman for the No.51 of KBM in the Craftsman trucks along with the RCR No.21 of Austin Hill in Xfinity and the No.8 of Kyle Busch in the Cup series. He’ll be the one expressing his signature fist pump after a fast pit stop!
I’d like to personally thank Josh Sobecki for taking time out of his extremely busy schedule to talk with me about his life, his love for this great sport, and to share his experience about going over the wall in motorsports.
For more information about how to become a donor, please visit: https://www.kidney.org/transplantation/how-to-donate