CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The scene is being set for NASCAR's return to the North Wilkesboro Speedway, but who’s responsible for making sure the drivers and pit crew are healthy?
Checking charts and reading labs are just a few tasks that come with being a sports physician assistant. Bill Heisel's job is unique.
You’ll find him at NASCAR races, and he has grown to love the sport through the years. But that didn’t happen because he was a fan, but because of the role he plays in NASCAR.
“We probably see more injuries associated with pit crews than we do drivers in the grand scheme of things," Heisel said.
He works for OrthoCarolina as a physician assistant and is director of motorsports. He says it's something he got involved with because of a lack of research in motorsport injuries.
"They didn't have access to the same resources that traditional stick and ball sports had access to relative to athletic trainers, physical therapists," Heisel said.
He and a team prep the drivers and pit crew before the races — and are on standby during the big day.
It's a job he says requires being there through the good and the bad.
"The good, with the joking around with the guys in the holler before the race — to the bad, with guys getting hit on pit road, to the ugly things that happen.”
Avoiding injuries means stretching and properly caring for previous injuries. Pam Brown is part of the crew that goes to the raceway. She does the stretches while Heisel looks at injuries and provides shots of cortisone when needed.
At the end of the day, for him, it’s the love for the sport that keeps him going back to the speedway.
“I get a great personal satisfaction out of the care of professional athletes," Heisel said. I went into this knowing nothing about the racing industry and learned the injuries, the positions, the intrinsics on the fly.”
Heisel also plans to attend the Coca Cola 600 to help out when needed.