In NASCAR, the drivers get the vast majority of the glory. But it takes a large group of people to make a race team successful, and that includes other athletes.
The Drive for Diversity program doesn’t just recruit minority drivers. It looks to fill all parts of the race team with women and people of different races and ethnicities.
We go all across the country recruiting athletes and teach them how to be pit crew members,” NASCAR’s Director of Athletic Performance Phil Horton told Vibe.
You may not think that athletes make up a pit crew, but when a second saved in the pits can lead to several positions gained on the track, NASCAR teams are finding edges wherever they can get them.
Derrell Edwards, a former college basketball player at High Point University in North Carolina, is one of the faces of The Drive for Diversity program on pit row.
Edwards made history in 2018 by becoming the first black pit crew member to be part of a Daytona 500 victory, when Austin Dillon piloted his No. 3 Chevrolet to the win in the Great American Race.
Edwards, who didn’t grow up following NASCAR, began his career at Richard Childress Racing as an intern during his senior year of college. He moved his way up auto racing’s ranks much like a driver does – ARCA, Xfinity Series, and then the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series.
“Some people just feel like they may not have a chance to even be a part of NASCAR, but I’m living proof that from my culture as a minority you can get into it and be successful as well,” Edwards told NASCAR.com shortly after Dillon’s Daytona 500 victory. “It’s showing that NASCAR has no problem with it. And that’s what I love. It’ll be great for NASCAR to get these different viewers in, more people interested and getting into the sport itself.”
Edwards hopes his story resonates with both athletes who are looking for a career that can put their physical attributes to good use, and black children growing up and seeing people who look like them succeeding at a high level.
Check out our interview with Derrell Edwards during the 2019 Daytona 500.