NASCAR Team President Chris Rice Drops 50 Pounds Doing CrossFit
Finding time to work out and focus on personal health is a hurdle that many people struggle to overcome. Kaulig Racing president Chris Rice has done just that while running one of NASCAR’s championship-contending teams, losing roughly 50 pounds, and reminding everyone to smile.
Remind me: Kaulig Racing, which began competing in NASCAR in 2016, fields five full-time cars. Two compete in the top-level Cup Series while three run in the second-tier Xfinity Series. Rice has been with Kaulig Racing since the beginning, but he started out as a general manager and crew chief before assuming his current role.
- Rice, who started his NASCAR career as a gasman in 1989, has helped guide the Xfinity Series drivers to 15 total wins and two appearances in the championship four. AJ Allmendinger, who won at Circuit of the Americas on Saturday, captured the lone Cup Series win in 2021 at the prestigious Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
- Kaulig Racing has put an emphasis on health in recent seasons while pursuing these wins. The team has an in-house nurse and has worked with health-focused partners in Hyperice, Athletic Greens, and CELSIUS.
A jarring realization: Rice’s focus on his health actually began on a golf course during a discussion with Tim Clepper, President and CEO of Kaulig Companies Limited. He was close to 300 pounds at the time, and he realized that he could not do a single push-up. Rice knew it was time to work on himself, especially with his move up to a stressful role at Kaulig Racing.
Abs are made in the kitchen: When Rice realized that he could not do a push-up, he set out to make some changes in his life. He did not immediately head to a gym or a personal trainer. Instead, he began focusing on an equally-important factor while receiving critical support from his wife, Tammy.
- “My wife had started a program with a – not really a trainer – but a guy that was helping her with her food and our eating and cutting out sugar and just taking her health to a different level.”
- “We both were – I don’t want to say large people – but we were pretty big people. So I was like, ‘I can’t go work out because I’m too fat. I cannot do a push-up.’ I would literally say that. So I went to work on my eating, which was really hard.”
Rice spent two months dialing in his nutrition and cutting out most of the sugar before he focused on working out. He started slowly with a trainer and emphasized getting into a routine of going to a gym with either his wife or someone else. He later dabbled in CrossFit and spent time at a Burn Boot Camp location owned by NASCAR reporter Wendy Venturini. Though he ultimately made his way back to CrossFit Simplicity, an affiliate owned by Daniel Blackwell, who also does some work for Kaulig Racing.
- “I had been to CrossFit Simplicity a lot, and I quit. I always told him, ‘I aged out, I couldn’t do the barbells, I couldn’t do the lifting of that.’ Well, in reality, I was just being lazy. Like, that was the truth.”
- “CrossFit has kind of changed their view a little bit. They have an RX and they have a Masters and they have an older group that you can do with everybody, which is great. So I went back to CrossFit.”
An open book: A part of Rice’s daily life is posting videos and photos on Instagram that show his fitness journey. He posts his big moments, such as a 260-pound back squat PR, as well as his ongoing battle with wall walks. Rice also highlights pit crew members from other teams when they work out prior to races to provide extra motivation to his social media followers.
The purpose of the posts is simple: Rice wants to help other people. He discovered that focusing on exercise and healthy eating helped him in his daily life. He started smiling more, and he headed to the race shop each day in a much better place. Now he wants to help others accomplish something similar as he strives to rebuild his body.
- “It took me 47 years to get fat,” Rice said. “So I was not going to have to do it overnight. The motivational stuff I do is a lot for me, from posting the pictures and videos and stuff like that. But it’s also for people that – I’m gonna be dead honest with you – that are my size or have low self-esteem when it comes to eating.”
- “If I can help one person, one person throughout my entire journey, throughout my entire deal, it is well worth the time and effort that I’ve put into it for myself.”
A positive impact: Rice’s efforts to post motivational videos and photos have paid dividends in two noticeable ways. First, the 5:30 a.m. class at CrossFit Simplicity grew from three people to 15 on average due to his posts. Second, key members of Kaulig Racing have made major changes in their own lives.
- “My three Xfinity crew chiefs combined, all of them combined, have lost 121 pounds. I mean, you look at Alex Yontz, the guy that does the 11 car, 51 pounds. It’s crazy how much the Xfinity crew chiefs have lost.”
- “Those guys showed up at Daytona this year and every NASCAR official goes, ‘Oh my gosh, what are you doing?’ And all three of them said, ‘The Chris Rice diet, which sometimes sucks.’”
- Daniel Blackwell: “I think what’s really cool for Chris, personally – and he’ll tell you this – at this point in his life, he’s as light as he’s ever been, as strong as he’s ever been. So just to have that balance, which is what most people are looking for. They want to be losing weight and also gaining strength. So for him, it’s finding the strongest time in his life and just regaining that mobility is massive.”
Life on the road: NASCAR is one of the most grueling professional sports. The season starts in February and it runs through November. There are 33 weeks in the Xfinity Series schedule and nearly 40 in the Cup Series schedule between exhibition events and 36 races that “count” in the championship standings. Rice is on the road for the full schedule, which could disrupt his focus on fitness and diet, but he has plans in place to help him succeed.
- Rice will visit other CrossFit gyms around the country during these trips, but he will also implement a new race day ritual. He will start each Saturday with a two-mile run, 25 sit-ups, and 25 push-ups. He will focus on his fitness, but he will also stop and talk to race fans camping at the track.
- Rice’s wife Tammy is the person that keeps his eating on track during race weekends. She packs bags for him filled with bars and food that fit their meal plan, providing a healthier option in case he isn’t able to get a full meal.
Why this matters: NASCAR is an intense sport with incredible levels of stress. One crash can cost a team hundreds of thousands of dollars and be the difference between a championship or heartbreak. Burnout is possible due to the inherent stress, but Rice has used CrossFit and healthy eating to achieve success in NASCAR while positively impacting the lives of those around him. Most importantly, he has continued to smile and dance the entire time.