He aggressively sought out and worked as a garage hand for over a year as a member of several NASCAR crews. In 1992 he was offered a job with Hendrick Motorsports as the first ever pit crew coach. The job was with the newly formed, DuPont race team, driven by Jeff Gordon. Papathanassiou immediately put Gordon's pit crew to work beginning with rigorous workouts and training designed to build power and teamwork in the pits. Over the years the paradigm shift pioneered by Papathanassiou became the standard in racing and revolutionized the way pit crews operate.
His perseverance and belief in the team concept helped Hendrick Motorsports teams win ten NASCAR Sprint Cup Championships. Today, Papathanassiou continues as the Director of Human Performance for Hendrick Motorsports. From 2000 to 2005, he became the company's Personnel Director where he worked with contracts, bonus programs, HR, safety & compliance, employee and driver development. Hendrick Motorsports has 550 employees with groups as varied as pilots, mechanics, engineers, business and administrative staffs.
Papathanassiou uses his life long competitive experiences to deliver engaging events and keynotes centering around going, "Over The Wall™," a philosophy he developed which brings the athletic mindset to any group or team
- Over the Wall Thinking
Pit crews operate in one of the most dynamic and demanding teamwork environments imaginable. In racing, like in business and in life, there are no guarantees. Make one mistake that's too big or at an inopportune time and your day at the race is over -- you go home while the race continues on without you. This creates incentive to be safe and conservative. Balance that against the fact that there are forty-one other teams you compete against at each event and you never have even the chance to win unless you push people and equipment to their limits and beyond at the proper moment. Communication and empathy are critical factors in this world that judges human performance in tenths of a second. So is innovation. Do something successful at the race track and you can be sure that everyone will soon copy you. If you don't have the next improvement ready, and the one after that, you quickly fall behind. Innovation is a process, not an "aha" moment.
Andy Papathanassiou, a Stanford University master's graduate, shares how passion overcomes obstacles and makes things happen. He talks about the make-up of highly successful teams. Whether it's pit crews, sales teams or groups that come together to accomplish any goal, the characteristics of successful teams are universal. Papathanassiou discusses leadership and the role of the individual. He coined the term, "Over the Wall Thinking," to describe his philosophy. "Over the Wall Thinking" focuses on the athletic mindset. It doesn't matter if you know anything about or participated in competitive sports such as racing. It doesn't even matter if you like sports at all. The cognitive building blocks of competitive athletics give each of us the ability to lead a more engaged, successful and happier life.