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NASCAR meets UFC

nascar-nov2016-2Last weekend, I (Ben Rothwell) had the privilege to immerse myself into the world of NASCAR. I waved the green flag to start Friday’s truck race; learned about marketing, broadcasting, & event promotion; rode in the pace car; and met the awesome drivers, teams, and officials of NASCAR. There are many similarities between the fast-paced sports of NASCAR and the UFC. I am excited to take what I learned and apply it to my life and brand as a UFC fighter.

Upon arrival on Friday, I was greeted by Dale Howell and Andrew Swain of NASCAR racing operations. Dale gave me an overview of event operations and then we verified sponsorship decals in the garages. Here, I observed the pit crews assembling and adjusting the cars, making race day preparations, and completing all necessary inspections. Similarly, a UFC fighter and his cornermen double check techniques, adjust gloves and shorts, and pass necessary inspections and medicals.

nascar-nov2016-32After walking through the garages, I shadowed Chris Jones, the manager of NASCAR’s social media team. He showed me what to look for in a social media photo, how to post interesting and time-sensitive info, and how to build interest for a special event. Chris also gave me valuable feedback on how to improve my own brand on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and Snapchat.

The pre-competition NASCAR drivers meeting was similar to a UFC fighter’s meeting in that all participants are required to review the rules, meet the officials, and ask any remaining questions. Here, I met NASCAR’s senior vice president, Jim Cassidy. Jim said NASCAR hopes to bring in more UFC participants along with participants in other professional sports to observe NASCAR and share thoughts. I’m grateful for Jim’s insight into racing and his advice about how I can apply what I learned into my own sport. It’s great to see that a busy man like Jim took time to counsel me. I can tell that the employees he works with respond in a positive way to his encouraging attitude, which benefits the entire NASCAR operations.

nascar-nov2016-15After the drivers meeting, I helped welcome each driver as they were introduced on stage. I was pleasantly surprised that many drivers recognized me as a UFC fighter and invited me to hang out after the event. I was given the honor of waving the green flag to start the NASCAR Camping World Truck race. Having that much horsepower race past me was one of the most intense moments of the weekend.

Saturday morning, Kenton Nelson, VP of Texas Motor Speedway, led a small fan council meeting where he listened to suggestions about marketing, pricing, and track updates. He saw tremendous benefit to the track and NASCAR by listening to the season ticket holders. From here, Kyle Nelson gave us a tour of the speedway, the control tower, and its broadcasting booth. The Nelson’s were so kind to invite me to watch the Xfinity Series race from their skybox, possibly the best view of the entire track.

Sunday morning began with a pace car ride with Jusan Hamilton of NASCAR’s industry operations team. Jusan was responsible for setting up my weekend of job shadowing with NASCAR, Texas Motor Speedway, and Front Row Motorsports. Corey Wynn of Front Row Motorsports showed me what it takes to be a NASCAR driver. He gave me a tour of the hauler which is the race teams living areas while on the road. Also, I was able to observe and ask questions of the race car engineers and pit crew. Corey gave me marketing and event operation tips as well. Chris Buescher, Front Row Motorsports driver of the No.34 car, gave me insight into his life as a NASCAR sprint cup car driver.

I would like to thank NASCAR, Texas Motor Speedway, Front Row Motorsports, and Rahman Anjorin of the UFC for setting up this valuable learning opportunity. I would like to especially thank Jusan, Andrew, and Dale for taking such good care of me all weekend and showing me the ins and outs of racing. I can see why the NASCAR fans are so loyal and happy to their sport because of the friendly and welcoming attitude amongst the drivers and pit crew, event operations teams, and speedway officials. I view all of NASCAR as a family and am grateful to be welcomed with such open arms.