TODAY   |  May 05, 2013

Meet NASCAR’s first female pit crew member

“It didn’t spark my interest until they put the air gun in my hand,” said Christmas Abbott, an elite athlete who has her sights set on being one of the first women to go over the wall in a cup series race. TODAY’s Erica Hill interviews Christmas Abbott.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>> forallof the talk of the drivers on the track, it's the seconds here in the pit that can win or losea race. before the number 15 car is at a complete stop, the guys are already over the wall and getting down to business. fuel. tires. and no room for error. it's an elite club and until recently it was almost exclusively a boys' club. you actually got recruited for this job.

>> it didn't spark my interest until they put the air gun in my hand. and then, i discovered that there's a whole different category of competition and sport within nascar .

>> reporter: 31-year-old christmas abbott loves a challenge. she's already an elite cross-fit athlete, giving her the strength a nascar front-tire changer requires. if she successfully completes training, christmas will be one of the first women ever to go over the wall in a nascar sprint cup series race. christmas has been training r your position.

>> yes, a little scary.

>> reporter: why a little scare?

>> she's going to take my job.

>> reporter: still, there's plenty of support in the pits.

>> she can go out there and run 12 seconds a day, i don't care if it's a boy or a girlment we're looking for success on pit road, and that's the bottom line.

>> reporter: greg miller is the head pit crew coach at michael waltrip racing . how important is the makeup of your team to your success?

>> skill is very important. a very close second, though, is their mentality and their ability to get along with others.

>> reporter: trust, consistency, accuracy. the keys to success in the pits.

>> when i first met christmas , she's very driven. and i think that has to be a part of the equation.

>> reporter: there are six members on a pit crew team. the rear and front-tire carriers and changers. the jackman. and a gasman. with each tire weighing 68 pounds and a gas can more than 90, strength is crucial. in the average 400-mile race, there are five to eight pit stops , and at the premier level, it all happens in about 12 seconds.

>> all you want to do is come out far enough to drive -- one, two, three. four, five. pull the trigger.

>> reporter: it is very cool.

>> beautiful.

>> reporter: so what's it like for you coming in as the new person to try to find your place on the team?

>> it's absolutely humbling.

>> reporter: christmas knows she's in the spotlight. as much as she loves the opportunity, the extra eyes watching can be tough to deal with.

>> you come in with your head down, do your work, and try to be patient with your learning curve .

>> reporter: in nascar , a 10th of a second is worth millions, and for christmas , that 10th of a second is the different between making the cut and not. do you think she'll make it? do you think she'll eventually be a front-tire changer?

>> that's a very good question. only time will tell.

>> reporter: it could take years for christmas to earn her spot over the wall alongside these guys, a schedule she's willing to live with to achieve