A select group of former college football, basketball, softball, and track and field athletes from across the country will put their pit crew skills to the test in the second annual NASCAR Drive for Diversity National Pit Crew Combine presented by Goodyear on Friday, May 26.
The 17 athletes earned invitations to compete as part of a nationwide talent search. They will be evaluated based on a series of fitness, agility and pit crew drills and competitions at the NASCAR Research & Development Center in Concord, North Carolina.
Top-performing participants will be invited to join NASCAR Drive for Diversity’s crew member development program, operated by Rev Racing, and will receive expert training as tire changers, carriers and jackmen as they pursue full-time employment with NASCAR national series race teams.
“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,” said Jim Cassidy, NASCAR senior vice president of racing operations. “As the program grows, it’s attracting top-quality talent and competitors who we believe have the potential to excel at the highest levels of NASCAR.”
Current program participants like Lamar Neal, who attended the 2016 national pit crew combine, are already making their mark in the sport. A former linebacker at Norfolk State University, Neal has joined Richard Childress Racing and is now pitting for the team in the NASCAR XFINITY Series?.
In total, there are 35 NASCAR Drive for Diversity pit crew graduates now working in NASCAR, including 25 alums pitting across the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series?. In May, three graduates – Raphael Diaz, Kevin Richardson and Mike Russell – helped Roush Fenway Racing driver Ricky Stenhouse Jr. to his first career Monster Energy Series win at Talladega Superspeedway.
Earlier this year as part of the program’s scouting process, NASCAR and Rev Racing hosted tryouts at six universities: Alcorn State University, Arizona State University, Bethune-Cookman University, Norfolk State, San Diego State University and Virginia State University.
Thirteen men and four women from these schools and others will take part in Friday’s four-hour skills competition led by Phil Horton, Rev Racing director of athletic performance.
“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,” said Max Siegel, Rev Racing owner and CEO. “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.”
Ezell Ruffin was a standout wide receiver and his team’s offensive most valuable player at San Diego State before attending training camp with the Indianapolis Colts in 2015. This week, Ruffin will join former Aztec teammate Kevin Walcott as the football players attempt to “go pro” in NASCAR.
Kendra Cooper was a Historically Black Colleges & Universities first-team all-American basketball player at Bethune-Cookman in 2017, and finished her career as the school’s all-time leader in three-point shooting. Cooper will look to follow in the footsteps of Brehanna Daniels, a former Norfolk State point guard and current NASCAR Drive for Diversity tire changer who recently pitted her first race in the ARCA Series.
Tramel Topps worked out for scouts from 28 NFL teams at Arizona State’s Pro Day in March, but will now trade his football cleats for a set of Goodyear tires as he seeks to become a tire carrier with NASCAR Drive for Diversity.
Following Friday’s event, pit crew combine participants will attend the Hisense 4K TV 300 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on Saturday, May 27 (1 p.m. ET, FS1).
NASCAR Drive for Diversity also offers a driver development program, operated by Rev Racing, and each year fields six drivers in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East and NASCAR Whelen All-American Series. Successful graduates now competing in a national series include Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series drivers Kyle Larson and Daniel Suárez and NASCAR XFINITY Series driver Darrell Wallace Jr.
For the first time, Goodyear becomes presenting sponsor of the NASCAR Drive for Diversity National Pit Crew Combine. The “Official Tire of NASCAR” has been a longtime supporter of Rev Racing and NASCAR Drive for Diversity, and supplies the team with race tires for competition.
— NASCAR —