Over the Wall with Blake Hickman

Blake Hickman, a Cup series rear tire changer, has become an independent over the wall crewman in all of the racing series thanks to Pat Cole. Hickman worked at Team Penske prior to that transition.

At one point in his life, he thought that working in NASCAR might be unattainable from his hometown of Oscala, FL. It wasn’t until 2008 when Hickman and his family moved to the official stock car racing state of North Carolina that his possibilities felt very real.

Photo credit: Melissa Wright

Hickman prepares for his first stop of the day. (Photo Credit: Melissa Wright/TPF)

“I’m thankful for my parents for getting me closer to the sport that I love so I can persue my dreams,” Hickman said.

MW: At what age would you say you realized you wanted to work in NASCAR?

BH: Dang, that’s a tough one. I believe I was probably 11 or 12. I just needed a connection and I found that when I was 18. A month out of high school, Eric Maycroft invited me to come watch pit practice at Waltrip’s in June of 2012.

MW: While watching pit practice, what piqued your interest to become a tire changer?

BH: Partially due to my size, but also liked the idea of being able to run the air gun.

MW: On a normal race weekend you’re a rear tire changer. However, is there ever a race that you switched to the front?

BH: I’ve actually switched to the fronts the last three weeks because our other changer, Anthony O’Brien, pulled something in his tricep carrying out the tire. So, we swapped to make things easier on him.

MW: Does this change the way you and your team prepare for pit stops prior to race weekend?

BH: Luckily, a lot of changers are versatile and we’ll practice the other position in spare time. Therefore, if things ever change on the fly, then we are a little prepared.

MW: Since you’ve been working in the NASCAR series, what have you noticed the most regarding the air guns that have been issued this year by NASCAR?

BH: The biggest hindrance to my performance is the gun switch from in house to Paoli. The Paoli guns are bulkier (harder to pull the tire with gun in hand), they’re heavier, and their RPMs are different. The standard in house clutch gun allowed the changer to go about as fast as they could go. The five man pit crew rule also hinders all crew guys. We each now are picking up the slack for one less guy on our team. It’s divided amongst us each now to pick up that responsibility, which in return, means a little bit slower stops.

MW: What’s your biggest fear while changing a tire on pit road?

BH: If I’m in the rears – it’s catching fire. If I’m up front, it’s getting blind sided by an opponent.

MW: Ever been injured on a stop during your career?

BH: Nothing serious. Just routine maintenance on the wears and tears.

Hickman, currently 24 years old, has had some positive influences in his career. He mentioned Dwayne Ogles, a tire changer at Penske.

“I look up to Ogles a lot for questions and advice or any veteran in the sport,” Hickman said. “Most guys will always help you out if they can.”

“My first win was the Daytona ARCA race in 2015. I won several races that year with Grant Enfinger and the championship with him (got a badass championship ring too). The next year is when I transitioned over to Penske and won several races and a championship with Chase Briscoe.”

“Hobbies outside of racing involve going to the gym, playing softball and flag football,” he said. “But I have to be careful I don’t get hurt.”

We joke about this a lot because Blake’s one the most active and physically fit guys in the garage, but somehow manages to wind up hurt playing in an off-track friendly competition. During the week, Hickman does deck and wood restoration.

“We’ll find people who have old worn out decks and we’ll restore them with several different steps,” Hickman said. “It’s a pretty rewarding job when you see something in poor shape and what it looks like finished.”

He’s also preparing for another solid career as well.

“Flight school is still in the works.  That’s the job after racing, hopefully,” he said. “Hopefully I obtain my pilots license while racing and having fun then transition into being a pilot.”

Above all, Blake’s main priority is the love of his life, his daughter Sadie.

“I make time to go see Sadie during my week. It just depends on how many races we have that weekend. I could be pitting the 33 truck, 39 Xfinity car, or the 66 Cup car. It just depends.”

Sadie was originally diagnosed with Spinal Muscular Atrophy that was retracted.  As of now, she’s undiagnosed, but she gets her care at Duke University Hospital in Durham.

Provided by Blake Hickman

Curls for Girls

Throughout his career, Hickman has only worked for Michael Waltrip Racing and Team Penske. However, he had to step away in 2013 due to a health issue. Luckily, he was fortunate to recover and is currently going over the wall.

I’d like to personally thank Blake Hickman for sharing his story and wish him good luck on his future endeavors.

For all those that would like to write a prayer for Sadie, you can do it here on Facebook @SadiesGrandAdventure  or http://www.gofundme.com/savingsadiesma.

Be safe out there and I’ll see you on down the road!

Editor-in-chief’s Note

Video of Blake Hickman pitting for Ryan Sieg courtesy of Melissa Wright.  Thanks for the great clip, Melissa!

Melissa Wright

My column focuses on the unsung heroes in motor sports. I’m an avid sports lover, bow hunter, and a humanitarian that has the effective ability to help communities that have been hit by a natural or man made disaster. Paying it forward as a Disaster Responder with the American Red Cross is the most important action of kindness, and gratitude that I can give to others. Lover of coffee, the beach and LivePD.

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