Austin Dillon’s pit crew goes to work on his car during the Coca-Cola 600 on May 27, 2018 in Concord, N.C. (Photo: Itoro N. Umontuen/The Atlanta Voice)

Memorial Day Weekend is the unofficial start of summer and for NASCAR, this weekend is no different. The sport’s longest race, the Coca-Cola 600 will take place at Charlotte Motor Speedway on Sunday evening. However, NASCAR’s Drive For Diversity program will host its signature event, the Pit Crew Combine Friday morning.

In its third incarnation, the Pit Crew Combine features competitors from the worlds of college football, basketball, tennis as well as track and field looking to transition to a professional career in NASCAR. Fourteen athletes including Atlanta native Lafayette Kemp, a defensive end from Kentucky State University, as well as Evan Clay, a defensive end from Morehouse College.

“To look across our national series, it‘s clear that NASCAR Drive for Diversity has become an unquestioned leader in the recruitment and development of professional pit crew members,” said Jusan Hamilton, NASCAR senior manager, racing operations, and event management. “Each year, the national combine helps us identify top talent and athletes with the drive and ability to one day compete as full-time crew members in NASCAR.”

Each person will put their pit crew skills to the test and be evaluated based on a series of fitness, agility and crew member drills and competitions at the NASCAR Research & Development Center. The athletes invited to Friday’s combine will take part in a four-hour skills competition led by Phil Horton, Rev Racing director of athletic performance.

“Rev Racing’s recruiting efforts at colleges and universities across the country have resulted in attracting some of the best athletes in the nation to our combine,” said Max Siegel, the owner and CEO of Rev Racing. “We are excited about the partnerships we have developed with the athletic departments and administration at these institutions. We are proud of our accomplishments since the inception of this program and look forward to continued opportunities for growth in the future.”

Some of the featured competitors include Joshua Patrick, who was part of two HBCU national championship teams as a linebacker at North Carolina State A&T University and three athletes from Alcorn State University—brothers Jordan and Justin Boyd, both former track athletes, and Tori Spann, a guard for their women’s basketball team.

In February, Derrell Edwards became the first NASCAR Drive for Diversity pit crew member to win the Daytona 500 when driver Austin Dillon raced to victory lane at Daytona International Speedway. Edwards pits as a tire carrier and jackman for Dillon’s No. 3 Richard Childress Racing team. Derrell played basketball at High Point University.

Itoro Umontuen currently serves as Managing Editor of The Atlanta Voice. Upon his arrival to the historic publication, he served as their Director of Photography. As a mixed-media journalist, Umontuen...

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