NASCAR is enjoying its annual two week home stand in North Carolina, currently sandwiched between the All-Star race and the day into night spectacle better known as the Coca-Cola 600. On Friday afternoon while the media attention will be swirling about the previous night’s qualifying and upcoming practice speeds; 17 former student athletes will be auditioning for their own roles in the sport at the NASCAR Research and Development Center in Concord.
NASCAR will conduct their second national pit crew combine as part of their Drive for Diversity program, of the 17 athletes participating, nine are from HBCUs. It’s a four-hour skills competition led by Phil Horton, director of athletic performance at Rev Racing and a graduate of N.C. A&T State University. The athletes will be evaluated on their fitness and agility along with pit crew drills.
“As we saw with last year’s inaugural national combine, the caliber of athletes now competing for opportunities to train with NASCAR Drive for Diversity is stronger than ever,” Jim Cassidy, NASCAR senior vice president of racing operations said.
Norfolk State, Alcorn State, Bethune-Cookman and Virginia State were four of the six schools who hosted tryouts during regional combines back in April. Later in the summer the 17 athletes will be trimmed down to 10 and from there they will enter the Crew Member Development Program which is operated by Rev Racing.
“We couldn’t be more proud as an organization to not only see our vision for the program come to life, but to also attract top talent from some of the nation’s best universities,” Max Siegel, Rev Racing owner and CEO said. “Coach Phil Horton is the best in the business. The performance and success of our graduates each week is a true testament to both the mission of our organization and Phil’s lifelong contribution to diversifying and pushing this sport to its limits.”
Looking back at last year’s class; former Norfolk State football player Lamar Neal has found the most immediate success as a full-time tire carrier for Richard Childress Racing. While many of the other participants from last year’s program are still climbing the proverbial ladder as independent contractors on the race circuit.
Here is a list of the HBCU athletes who are participating in this year’s combine:
Sophia Ortega Bethune-Cookman Softball
Kendra Cooper Bethune-Cookman Basketball
Bryce Bradley Virginia State Football
Sherry Lewis Chowan/Virginia State Bowling/Lacrosse
Trevon Byron Virginia State Football
Alisha Williams Virginia State Track
Sandy Chapman Norfolk State Football
Torian Henderson Norfolk State Football
Gerard Johnson Norfolk State Football