In NASCAR’s 60+ year history, we haven’t often seen a lot of women on the race track unless they were donning bikinis in beer ads. In recent years, though, strong women have shown that there is room for some estrogen in this adrenaline-fueled, male-dominated sport. An uptick in female drivers like the Cope sisters, Maryeve Dufault and, of course, champion Danica Patrick has proven that women are more than ready to take their place behind the wheel.
Women aren’t just ready to take control behind the wheel—they’re ready to change it as well. This February marked another milestone, as Christmas Abbott became the first woman pit crew member at an elite level in NASCAR history. Christmas joined the Michael Waltrip racing team in pit crew support role to start. Her ultimate goal is advance to a tire changer role. No matter her role in a NASCAR pit, she’s a badass on and off the track. With a name fit for a Bond girl, I guess she really had no choice. Find out more about this pit pioneer below.
Name Christmas Joye Abbott. Shocker! Christmas was born close to December 25th (the 20th to be exact). Her mother decided to embrace her birthday’s holiday proximity and give her a name full of yuletide cheer. Journalists and bloggers should really thank her mother for giving her such a perfect pun-worthy name for article titles. I’m sure no one has ever joked around about ‘Christmas coming early’ to her before. Good work.
Origin Christmas has an origin story fit for a superhero. She grew up in Lynchburg, Virginia, the middle of three children. Since a young age, Christmas has been trying to break into ‘boys only’ clubs. When she was nine, she realized a baseball fit into her hand better than a softball and tried to join the boys league (I feel you, Christmas. I quit my grade school softball team for similar reasons—and because my coach benched me for the three games as punishment for showing up late to one practice after my pottery class ran long. It was an intense world of choice for a fifth grader). The boys league resisted, but a threat from Christmas’s mother to alert the media got the league to change its position.
At 22, she decided to follow in her mother’s footsteps and head overseas to work as a civilian contractor in Iraq. It was there that she found her first love—CrossFit. I feel like the word is out on CrossFit, so there’s no need to explain what it is exactly. Pretty much everyone has a friend at this point that shares the minute details of the ‘WOD’ (workout of the day) and eating Paleo, so we all understand that CrossFit is more of a fitness lifestyle than exercise class. CrossFit changed the course of Christmas’s life. Upon returning to the U.S., she began competing in CrossFit competitions, and eventually opened her own CrossFit gym.
Christmas essentially turned her body into, pardon the pun, a well-oiled machine. That crazy strength and speed built a solid foundation for her transition to cut it with the guys in the pit crew. She was invited to a pit crew challenge after motor world marketing guy saw a video of her CrossFit competitiveness. It turned out Christmas was a natural. Now, less than a year after she began her pit crew training, Christmas is a NASCAR pioneer. All at 31-years-old. I guess my high school guidance counselor wasn’t full of it when she said discipline was the cornerstone of success. Who knew?
Identifying Characteristics Many stories about Christmas can’t seem to escape focusing on her beauty and femininity. Yes, Christmas is easy on the eyes, but her looks alone didn’t earn her a place in Michael Waltrip’s pit and NASCAR history. She had to have the skills, not to mention strength, to backup a good publicity story. Christmas is only 5’3 and 115 lbs, but she can dead lift 255 lbs. I sometimes find my purse a little heavy to carry, and this woman can lift more than twice her weight.
Christmas has to be strong and fast to keep up with the demands of working the front tire position in the pit crew. She’s responsible for changing the front 60 lbs tires on both sides of the car–all in a matter of twelve, very chaotic, seconds. NASCAR obviously isn’t a calm sport. Her role can be the difference between winning and losing and, potentially, life or death. Luckily, Christmas is as fearless as she is speedy and strong. In a recent interview, she commented, ‘If it scares me, then I absolutely have to try it. All of the things that I’ve been most scared of in my life have been the ones that have really changed my life.’