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College athletes put to the test in 2018 Drive for Diversity Pit Crew Combine

The next wave of promising athletes on pit road had the opportunity once again to showcase their talents in the NASCAR Drive for Diversity Pit Crew Combine in Concord, North Carolina.

The third annual event held by NASCAR and Rev Racing at the NASCAR Research & Development Center on May 25 featured 13 athletes looking to transition from college football, basketball, tennis and track and field to pit road.

The four-hour skills competition put athletes‘ fitness and agility to the test with crew member drills and live pit-stop simulations.

The competitors began the day with warm-ups, followed by a physical assessment test, which included 100 single-under jump ropes, 25 lateral-cone high knees, five speed-ladder drills, 25 push-ups, 25 ab-mat roll outs and 100 medicine-ball sit-ups.

Once the grueling assessment was complete, they were put into a live pit-stop situation, changing and carrying tires on a car with a mock pit-stall set up.

A member of the Pit Crew Combine lifts a car up with the jack during a mock pit stop.

“It‘s been an enjoyable experience so far,” Ernest Holden, a football player at Norfolk State University, told NASCAR.com. “After going through the fitness drill and then coming over to hang tires up, it‘s been fun.

“After doing the regional combine, it‘s a little easier fitness wise, but it‘s pretty tough learning the technique and the fundamentals,” he added. “Getting better every day.”

Holden also described skills learned on the football field that he’s been able to transfer to pit road.

“Mental focus,” Holden said. “Playing football, everything is fast paced. A play out there is about four or five seconds. It‘s all about timing in NASCAR, so being able to focus up and when you hang a tire, getting on the lug nuts right away and getting things done fast paced and correctly.”

Coach Phil Horton, Rev Racing director of athletic performance and leader of the combine, says the program dives deeper than simply training the athletes for careers on pit road with the hopes of making it to the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series someday.

“We teach life lessons here,” Horton said. “One of the things they have to learn is to go from college to the professional ranks. They are coddled and taken care of in college, to where they have to make it on their own.

“So then we take them through a six-month program to where they‘re not only learning about the race cars, the racing industry, how to do pit stops, we‘re also teaching them how to transition from college life to the professional life.”

Brehanna Daniels, 2016 Drive for Diversity Pit Crew Combine alum, became the first African-American female to serve on a pit crew in a NASCAR national series event by changing tires in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race last year at Dover International Speedway.

A participant in the Pit Crew Combine performs a workout.

Less than a year after her historic day in Dover, Daniels had the opportunity to go back to where it all began by coaching the athletes participating in the combine.

“I can‘t believe it‘s been two years since I was in this position,” Daniels said. “It‘s nice to give feedback to the newcomers, letting them know — especially the tire changers — to not be frustrated and always listen to coach no matter what because coach will lead you in the right direction.”

Currently working as a tire changer on the No. 55 NASCAR Xfinity Series team, Daniels was impressed with what she observed from the athletes vying to earn their shot in NASCAR.

“I‘ve seen a lot of people motivated, determined to get the job done,” Daniels said. “A lot of people were quicker than others in this short amount of time trying to learn all of this in two days. That‘s not that much time.”

Once the results of the national combine are gathered by Coach Horton and team, 6-10 athletes will be selected to begin their journey up the NASCAR ranks.