(This article was originally published on Jan. 24, 2021)
Over the course of his career, Shaun Peet has brought a crowd to its feet in more ways than one.
In part one of his story for BCHLNetwork, he touched on suiting up for the Nanaimo Clippers, playing the pro game in the southern United States as well earning a double-major at Dartmouth University.
In this chapter, learn about Peet’s newfound passion – NASCAR. He says it all happened during a chance encounter while he was playing for the Greensboro Generals.
“Greensboro is what led me to NASCAR, and on opening night, I got into what is described as the worst brawl in league history and (was) suspended for eighteen games. As luck would have it, I met a fan in the stands that worked for NASCAR.”
“It’s funny because our last road trip of the year was Albuquerque to Indianapolis to Shreveport to Wichita and then back again, so it was about three thousand miles or something. Here in NASCAR, it’s all charter planes to the racetrack, pit the car, and then get back on the charter plane and get back home. I thought to myself, ‘What am I doing?’ because I knew I was on the downside of a career and my time in Albuquerque was incredible.”
“My dad had a garage in Nanaimo and the fan was like, ‘When he comes and visits, I will take you on a tour of the shop.’ (So) we are back in the shop and it was back when mechanics pitted the cars. The pit practice wasn’t going well, so the crew chief said ‘Get the hockey player in here’ and I went and was the fastest guy.”
“They were like, ‘You should do this!’ and I thought they were just kidding around, so I went and played in Albuquerque that next year. (Then) I got a call out of the blue and they were serious about me wanting to try it.”
From the ice to the pit
After his playing days wrapped up, Peet began a 17-year journey where he is now the pit crew captain with the Chip Ganassi Racing Team.
“I laugh because I tell people I had spent 17 years trying to get to the National Hockey League and I made NASCAR in six weeks. I started as the jackman. That is when the car comes in to change tires, I had to jack it up – which is a 3500-pound race car – and I had to do that with a single stroke.”
“I started off with Chip Ganassi Racing, it was before all of these athletes started coming in. I had used what I had learned in hockey like getting up and preparing for games and so, I did really well, really early at it. So I spent my first five years with Ganassi, then I was picked up by Red Bull Racing after that (and) spent five incredible years with them. (Then I) spent two years at Michael Waltrip Racing where I was connected to Clint Boyer and had the opportunity to come and coach.”
“It was time, I had used my body to the point where I wanted to coach. I thought at the start it was going to be really difficult, for the first time in my life I was no longer going to be an athlete. But what I didn’t realize I would enjoy is creating a team and building it around world-class human beings.”
“It’s changed since I got in. I was a B-level athlete and today we have a linebacker from the Pittsburgh Steelers, we have a kid from Clemson, we’ve had Olympic swimmers and Navy Seals, so the acumen of these athletes keeps ratcheting up,” Peet added.
Brush with fame
Peet even had a brush with Hollywood as he was one of seven people selected to take part in the Will Farrell film Talladega Nights.
“Will Farrell is one of the best people I have ever met and what is interesting is that he was the star of that show and he was super cool to us. Like he would have lunch with the pit crew (while) some of the other stars who weren’t as big as Will would kind of blow us off.”
“We asked him one day, ‘How come you are the star and you treat us well but the others won’t acknowledge our existence?’ And he said it just magnifies who you are. If you’re a good person and get money, then you will continue to be a great person, but if you are masquerading as a good person and you aren’t, that side is going to show.”
“It’s funny because you have to be careful about the people who you idolize in sports because they have a chance to disappoint you, but I would say Will is incredible. I had the chance to meet (Carolina Hurricanes head coach) Rod Brind’Amour, who came into the shop because his nine-year-old is playing hockey in Charlotte, and he’s a guy I looked up to because he had a legendary work ethic and (was) as humble a person as you could meet.”
In June 2020, NASCAR took a stand against racism after they found a rope in Bubba Wallace’s garage in Talladega. It was later determined by the FBI that the pull down handle had been in the stall since the previous fall.
Peet remembers standing in solidarity with Wallace pre-race. “It was difficult because any place we go to on the circuit, I have had more problems there than anywhere we race. With that being said, if you look at our roster we have the most racially diverse team in the history of NASCAR – we have 26 guys and we are split evenly.”
“We had problems when we went down there before George Floyd and all the stuff with Bubba and the noose. When the noose was found there, I wish I could say I was surprised but I wasn’t. And I am really proud of the response NASCAR has taken because they put real dollars and cents on the line by saying no more Confederate flags.”
“I remember being on a bus with all the actors of Talladega Nights and we were with Michael Clarke Duncan – his arms are bigger than you and I’s legs and he was into MMA before it was even a thing. He’s behind me and we’re taking the bus to Talladega and as the bus goes under the tunnel and into the infield, there are so many Confederate flags, and you hear this massive human behind me going, ‘Whoa’.”
Spreading the word
In addition to coaching in NASCAR, Peet is also an author, motivational speaker, and business consultant with DECK Leadership, who inspires the modern workplace through pit crew strategies.
He has presented to major sports organizations such as the Dallas Cowboys, the National Football League, and other major American corporations. Some of those opportunities actually fell in his lap by accident.
“A couple of years ago we were asked to speak at the NFL Combine and the other gentleman who runs a pit crew with me is Mike Metcalf. We went up to Indianapolis and presented to over 130 doctors and trainers – and we thought it went terrible – but at the end of it, there were 30 guys waiting to talk to us. Our talk was about taking this team that was broken and competing with other teams with half the budget.”
“We have people from the (New Orleans) Saints, (Kansas City) Chiefs, and (Houston) Texans and as we are walking out of the convention centre, a guy tracked us down and said he took more notes during our 30 minutes then he did the first two days of the conference. He was with the (New England) Patriots and then it dawned on me, ‘Maybe I do have something to say’.”
Whether it’s picking up a hockey stick or right in the thick of the Dayton 500, you can rest assured the 45-year-old Peet will find joy or learning moment in each situation he faces.