N.C. State football coach Dave Doeren took a tour through the Charlotte Motor Speedway garage before Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600, and a Wolfpack reunion of sorts broke out.
Among Doeren’s stops before his first NASCAR race was Austin Dillon’s hauler, where a group of Richard Childress Racing employees — each an N.C. State alum — waited to greet him: Justin Alexander, Dillon’s crew chief; Luke Lambert, Ryan Newman’s crew chief; Eric Warren, RCR’s chief technology officer; Seth Chavka, Dillon’s lead engineer; and Jeremy Burleson, RCR’s vice president of marketing and communications (and a former Wolfpack baseball player).
“It was amazing to see all the technology and analytics they use,” said Doeren, who was one of the race’s honorary officials. “The amount of things happening, it was pretty cool to see them.”
Later, Doeren visited with two former Wolfpack football players — William Lee, a long snapper who’s now a race engineer for Kurt Busch; and defensive back Rod Cox, a tire changer on Matt DiBenedetto’s team.
Doeren said he understood how former college athletes have become more common on NASCAR pit crews.
“I was talking to some of the guys, and they say they like the baseball guys for the tires because of their (quick) hands and football guys for the gas,” Doeren said. “That makes sense, because they’re used to competing on high levels with pressure on them, with the heat conditions and their ability to keep focused.”
Doeren said he wasn’t a race fan growing up in Kansas.
“It wasn’t part of my upbringing,” he said. “But since moving to the Carolinas, it’s obviously a big part of the culture of the South.”
Doeren said he did attend the Indianapolis 500 once.
“I spent most of the race in the infield and I don’t remember a whole lot about it,” Doeren said. “I had a good time.”
Doeren quickly added that wasn’t because of any excessive partying: “Not because of that, but I couldn’t see the track from where we were.”
▪ Television viewers got a different perspective of the race thanks to Fox’s “Rail Cam” installed on the backstretch. The camera was mounted on 850 feet of rail on the inside wall. It accelerates from zero to 60 mph in three seconds and topped out at speeds faster than 90 mph.
▪ Skye Martin, a captain in the U.S. Marine Corps, sang the national anthem. Charlotte Mayor Vi Lyles was the honorary race director, Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson was honorary starter, and well-known chef Robert Irvine was grand marshal.
▪ The Coca-Cola 600 pre-race show had its usual display of U.S. military prowess, including F-15 fighter jets and Blackhawk helicopters in the air and three Humvees, six howitzers, one High Mobility Artillery Rocket System, one Marine Medium Tactical Vehicle Replacement and two Combat Rubber Raiding Crafts on the ground. A unit from Fort Bragg shot a 21-gun salute.