NASCAR opportunity: Four Alcorn State athletes tried out at a national pit crew combine

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, May 30, 2018

NATCHEZ — A majority of college athletes don’t capture their professional dreams.

Yet four Alcorn State University athletes had an opportunity to tryout for a different sporting career: a NASCAR pit crew member.

Shot put thrower Jordan Boyd, football player and track sprinter Justin Boyd, basketball guards Jerrick Newsome and Tori Spann were four of 13 college athletes from across the country selected to participate in the third annual NASCAR Drive for Diversity (D4D) National Pit Crew Combine on May 25 in Concord, North Carolina, after partaking in a regional session at Alcorn.

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“It was a great experience,” Newsome said. “It was just something different that opened your mind up. I think this is a great opportunity that (NASCAR) has given to minorities.”

At the combine, the four Braves competed as tire changers, carriers and jackmen against other athletes from schools such as Bethune-Cookman University, Norfolk State University, North Carolina A&T University and Virginia State University. However, their workout wasn’t just changing tires.

The participants had to do speed ladders, push-ups, sit-ups and skip rope 100 times.

Although all four described the training session as intense, it wasn’t any harder than the practices they went through in their respective sports. But that doesn’t mean it was easy.

“The workout wasn’t any different from what I have trained in basketball,” Spann said. “But it is basically designed to see how mentally tough you are, how you can push through when your body hurts and to see how far you can push yourself.”

If the four Alcorn State athletes were among the top performers, they will receive invitations to the join the NASCAR D4D Pit Crew Development program and train as pit crew members with Rev Racing beginning later this year, which has produced successful graduates.

Three program alumni — Raphael Diaz, Kevin Richardson and Mike Russell — helped Roush Fenway Racing driver Ricky Stenhouse Jr. to his first career Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series win at Daytona International Speedway and Talladega Speedway in 2017.

“It was challenging, but definitely fun,” Justin Boyd said. “I am definitely grateful for the opportunity because a lot of people, like myself, may want this opportunity but they might not necessarily have the tools to be able to get it.”

Not only was Justin Boyd excited for the chance to compete at the combine, but all four of the athletes were happy to have been told about this opportunity through their coaches at Alcorn.

“My coach came to me and told me that if I was looking for some kind of different opportunity once I graduate, I should try this out,” Jordan Boyd said. “I never heard of this before, but I’m happy he told me and this was a great opportunity.”