Ackerman: Jack Stark enjoying time in NASCAR - Omaha.com
Published Thursday, February 20, 2014 at 10:26 pm / Updated at 10:32 pm
AUTO RACING
Ackerman: Jack Stark enjoying time in NASCAR

If you are a Nebraska football fan, you probably are wondering why I would be featuring Jack Stark in a racing column.

Well, it’s because Stark’s championship formula goes way beyond Big Red football and other traditional sports.

A quick refresher: Stark was the team psychologist for the Nebraska football program from 1989 through 2004. During that time, the Huskers won 88 percent of their games, including three national championships, and had the highest winning percentage of any college football team in the 1990s.

Stark also helped the UNO wrestling team as it won several national championships. He currently works with the Creighton basketball team, now ranked 11th and 12th in the two major polls.

Now let’s travel 1,200 miles to the heart of NASCAR country, in Charlotte, N.C. Only a couple of miles from Charlotte Motor Speedway is Hendricks Motorsports, home to 650 of NASCAR’s finest.

You may have heard of it. Hendricks Motorsports has won more than 200 Sprint Cup races and one of its drivers, Jimmie Johnson, just claimed his sixth Sprint Cup championship.

And guess who has been the team psychologist for Hendricks Motorsports the past 14 years? You got it, Jack Stark.

Take it from someone who has firsthand experience, Stark has a way of making people feel better about themselves. With six championships in the past eight years, I think the people at Hendricks Motorsports feel pretty good about themselves right now.

Stark’s journey to NASCAR has made him realize things that most typical stick and ball sport fans probably haven’t grasped.

“I have never met a harder-working group of people than the teams of NASCAR,” Stark said. “They are hard working, patriotic, faithful and loving, but their jobs and the hours they work can put a real strain on things.”

So how did a sports psychologist born and raised in Hastings, Neb., and practicing in Omaha end up in NASCAR?

“Well, 14 years ago I got a call from a strength coach at Hendricks Motorsports with ties to the University of Nebraska,” Stark said. “I hopped on a plane and went to Charlotte and ended up going to work for Hendricks.

“After a year of being on pit road and having had time to realize what all was going on, I said to myself, ‘Wow, this is truly incredible,’” he said. “In NASCAR, sports and technology are merged together. One mistake and a team can lose a championship.”

I asked Stark what makes the No. 48 team and Jimmie Johnson so good. He didn’t disappoint.

“Not only is Jimmie one of the greatest drivers in NASCAR history, but he has tremendous camaraderie with his team.” Stark said. “He knows everybody on his team by name and he will stay at the shop and work as long as they do to get it right.”

Stark works in three areas of psychology with Hendricks Motorsports. First, there’s the clinical part, which may entail family things, such as marriage and kids. This was especially tough when the Hendricks team plane crashed in October 2004 on route to a race in Martinsville, Va., killing all 10 people on board.

“A lot of those people, including Rick’s (Hendricks) son Richie, I was very close to,” Stark said. “That was real tough.”

Second is organizational psychology, which is aimed at getting everybody to work together as a championship unit.

Third is sports psychology, which is the mental part.

So how does Stark feel about his 14-year trip in NASCAR?

“I wouldn’t have missed it for the world,” he said. “I have met so many wonderful people.”

So, with the Daytona 500 coming up Sunday, look for the drivers from Hendricks Motorsports to have another good year. It wouldn’t surprise me that with the help of Stark, they will be contending for another Sprint Cup championship in 2014.

To learn more about Stark and his formula for success, he has written a book that is widely available called “The Championship Formula: How to Transform Your Team Into a Dynasty.”

ON TWITTER »

TODAY'S LOCAL SCOREBOARD
Friday's Top Events
PCL baseball
Omaha 3, Round Rock 2
College baseball
Creighton 12, Villanova 6
UNO 4, Bradley 2
Northwestern 2, Nebraska 1

Game Time, TV/Radio Schedule
Friday's Area Events
Friday's TV/Radio Schedule
Saturday's Area Events
Saturday's TV/Radio Schedule

Prep Results
NEPrepZone.com (mobile)

Others
Holes in One
Dog Racing Results
Horse Racing Entries, Horse Racing Results
VIDEO »
Deadline Deal thumbnail
The Jaipur in Rockbrook Village
Half Off Fine Indian Cuisine & Drinks! $15 for Dinner, or $7 for Lunch
Buy Now
PHOTO GALLERIES »
< >
SPOTLIGHT »
Blog: Dirk's 'Mad Chatter'
Dirk Chatelain offers his thoughts on the latest news from around the sports world, complete with links to the best articles, opinion columns, YouTube videos and more.
Civic Auditorium Timeline
World-Herald columnist Tom Shatel asked readers for their favorite memories of the Civic Auditorium. We combined their submissions with a few key events or moments in the auditorium's history.
CWS: Banner Years
The College World Series historical database, a growing home for historical information about past NCAA baseball championships, which have been played in Omaha since 1950.
Downtown Omaha event map
Discover the area surrounding the CenturyLink Center, TD Ameritrade Park and downtown Omaha -- including restaurants, arts & entertainment venues, hotels and local retail outlets.
Facebook: Tom Shatel's page
Get Tom Shatel's sports columns delivered straight to your Facebook feed.
Follow Tom Shatel on Twitter
Get instant analysis and commentary from World-Herald columnist Tom Shatel on Twitter.
Nebraska high school basketball's greatest night
Four elite teams. Two buzzer-beaters. One packed house. On March 11, 1989, the stars aligned and produced the best night in Nebraska high school basketball history.
Shatel's blog
Check out the latest from World-Herald sports columnist Tom Shatel.
Shatel: Tom's Take on 20 Unforgettable Years in Sports
Get World-Herald columnist Tom Shatel's book "Shatel: Tom's Take on 20 Unforgettable Years in Sports."
Super Bowl: Through the years
The Super Bowl is a yearly media madhouse. See how The World-Herald sports section's front pages portrayed each of the Super Bowl victories won by those players celebrated in our Mt. Rushmore of Super Bowl QBs.
Talk sports with World-Herald reporters
World-Herald reporters log on to talk about the latest news surrounding the Huskers, Jays, Mavericks, high schools sports and more. Check out the upcoming chat schedule or replay the latest discussions with the fans.
The disappearance of small-town football
Friday night lights across rural Nebraska are going dark. But one town, in its last season of gridiron independence, proved that school spirit is stronger than ever.
The Nebraska 100
In an historic 2005 series, The World-Herald selected the state’s all-time top 100 athletes. In a new web exclusive, see the digitized collection for the first time.
2013 college football preview
View our 2013 college football preview, a 26-page, three-part section filled with coverage of the Huskers, Big Ten conference and more.
Big Red Bowl Retrospective
See complete historical results, game recaps and photo coverage from the Nebraska Cornhuskers college football bowl game appearances, from the 1941 Rose Bowl up to today.
WORLD-HERALD ALERTS »
Want to get World-Herald stories sent directly to your home or work computer? Sign up for Omaha.com's News Alerts and you will receive e-mails with the day's top stories.
Can't find what you need? Click here for site map »