Catawba College Sport Management: We Do NASCAR!
October 13, 2017
Seventeen Catawba Sport Management students recently served at the Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) Fan Fest, an annual event that draws thousands of NASCAR fans to the JGR race shop in Huntersville for the opportunity to interact with a few of NASCAR’s elite drivers. This year’s event featured all the JGR Monster Energy Cup drivers, including Kyle Bush, Denny Hamlin, Matt Kenseth, and Daniel Suarez.
Catawba’s Sport Management students were visible throughout the Fan Fest experience, assisting with directing autograph seekers, providing hospitality at the Classic Car Show, staffing the pumpkin carving stations for kids, and fundraising for local charities. A few students even volunteered as the JGR driver and M&M mascots.
Paige Strickland, an event organizer for JGR and daughter of a 1956 Catawba alumnus, raved about the students’ impact at the event. “I believe that volunteers are the key to any successful event; whether it be a charity walk or any other kind of fundraiser. The young men and women from Catawba College who volunteered for Fan Fest greatly exceeded the expectations I had for them. It’s when you don’t know the person, you hope that you’re placing them in a position where they will have some kind of positive impact on others.”
Strickland feels that a positive impact was indeed felt by JGR staffers and other volunteers who worked directly with the students. “We are all truly grateful for their help and making our event a success!”
Catawba student Jimmy Henderson took pictures, gave hugs, and slapped high fives while wearing the Denny Hamlin mascot costume. “It was fun to be famous for a day,” said Henderson of his experience. “This was my first time ever wearing a mascot outfit… the fans were awesome, it seemed like everyone wanted to get a picture with me.”
Sport Management Professor, Duane Aagaard believes Joe Gibbs Racing is one of the premier race teams in NASCAR. “What an opportunity for our students to learn about event management, hospitality, sponsorship activation, and fan engagement alongside the expertise of the Joe Gibbs Racing Team staff,” Aagaard notes.
Jenni Murphy, Senior Manager of Marketing & Consumer Products, worked with students Emma White and Brandon Floyd, who assisted in raising over $5,000 for Bright Blessings, a local Charlotte charity that will bring hope to more than 8,000 homeless and impoverished children this year. “They were exceptional to work with, as were each of the Catawba Sport Management students I got the opportunity to meet,” said Murphy. “I think the Fan Fest experience really helped the students explore possible career options in NASCAR they might not have otherwise considered. Thank you to everyone in the Sport Management program who helped make our Fan Fest a huge success and a most importantly, a fun day for NASCAR fans!”
The event was a precursor to an exciting weekend of racing at Charlotte Motor Speedway, which hosted the Drive for the Cure 300 and the Bank of America 500. On the track at the Bank of America 500, the Joe Gibbs Racing Team saw three of its drivers finish in the top 11: Denny Hamlin (4th), Daniel Suarez (6th), and Matt Kenseth (11th). The 2015 NASCAR Champion Kyle Bush finished 29th, but currently sits in 6th place in the NASCAR playoffs.