Indy 500 drivers flocking to area gyms to physically prep for race

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – With the Indy 500 quickly approaching, drivers are scrambling to prepare, not just on the track but also inside the gym.

In a high-rise building overlooking downtown, St. Vincent Sports Performance offers drivers and other athletes top-notch technology geared toward power.

“We can have an athlete come stand on the force plate and do a vertical jump. We can get peak power, peak force production, rate of force production,” said Chase Campbell, a St. Vincent strength coach.

There, tools like the vertimax test resisted jumping. It helps build leg muscles and has been proven to prevent knee, ankle and hip injuries.

“Adding a little extra force they have to drive against on the landing or resist on the landing is a really good way to improve performance but reduce the risk of something happening,” Campbell said.

The tendo unit has an attached accelerometer that shows how quickly a person is picking the bar up off the ground. It tracks movement and can tell whether an athlete can work even harder.

Across town, drivers are flocking to Pit Fit for physical and mental conditioning.

“This is all we focus on is racing. That’s it,” said Tim Leo, president of Pit Fit. “We do drills that incorporate a lot of reaction training, a lot of cognitive training. They use the same muscles here that they use in the car.”

On the same day that CBS4 visited the facility, big names like Alexander Rossi, Scott Dixon and James Hinchcliffe were training. They did a circuit-style course that included a synaptic sensory board, rowing and playing ping pong with a Fit Light. The ping pong exercise helped test peripheral vision.

“We make them perform these motor skill tasks while they are under stress and going crazy. That’s why the music is on, the lights are on, we’re talking to them. There is always something going on so when they’re in the race car, we want that to be as close as possible,” Leo said.

“I moved to Indianapolis 10 years ago because of Pit Fit training,” Hinchcliffe said. “Physical fitness inside a race car is a huge benefit. It’s a huge advantage for a driver.”

Even though he was exhausted from the circuit, Hinchcliffe told CBS4 he is feeling good going into the Indy 500.

“Being physically fit inside the car keeps the brain from fatiguing and making mistakes which obviously you can’t afford at 220 mph.”