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By Brian Smith
Like with any sport, as the years go by, the fans that have supported NASCAR since its early days get older. So, like any sport, the key to continuing its growth is to attract younger fans.
That’s the idea behind the NASCAR UCrew project, which is using student ambassadors at a dozen schools around the country to expose students to the sport and promote NASCAR to the student body. One of those schools is the University of Delaware, where students Alyssa Barnett and Samantha Wilkes are participating in the program as an internship of sorts with the hope of getting into the industry upon graduation.
“For a lot of UD students, it’s their first race experience,” Barnett said. “Some of the people we have are coming back, but they’ve never really done it as a school. So we’re trying to promote the race as a Delaware bonding experience.”
Barnett and Wilkes have been tasked with putting on 10 NASCAR-themed events on campus, and also led a group of approximately 30 students to Dover International Speedway for the Oct. 2 “AAA 400” NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race.
“We had three events leading up to the race today — a trivia booth, a DJ outside the student center with a block party, and yesterday we gave out flyers and things at another event,” Barnett said the morning of Dover’s fall Cup race.
The Monster Mile provided the students with things like T-shirts, bags and lanyards for their giveaways. The Oct. 2 event included a tailgate setup with games like cornhole and ladder golf for pre-race, and provided a place for students to get together.
“The sport needs young blood to keep going, and that’s the reason our program exists right now — to get people interested,” Barnett said. “We give out around 50 to 250 items at our events, so we’ve been pumping it into Delaware. People have been wearing our stuff around campus.”
Much like the students she’s trying to attract, Wilkes didn’t know much about NASCAR when she first heard about the program. But now, with any luck, she and Barnett will have a chance to work with NASCAR in the real world of marketing when they’re done school.
“I love it now,” Wilkes said. “I think it’s so cool. We’re just trying to spread NASCAR out as far as possible and draw in a younger crowd.”