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Motor Heads

by Jesse Kiser

There is a place in Winston-Salem, a building, where NASCAR’s history was born. A place not where the greats of NASCAR walked but a place their fathers did. A place where Lee Petty and a young Richard Petty cleaned up after a Saturday night race, a place where Ralph Earnhardt hung his fire suit, a place where Richard Childress raced before owning Dale Earnhardt’s car, a place that witnessed my great uncle’s heart attack behind the wheel of a modified car. This place now is where Travis Teague has his office.

The first race at Bowman Grey Stadium was in 1949. The original clubhouse has stood since anyone can remember. The clubhouse was just that: a house. As a little kid I thought that a family lived there. I was always jealous of that family because they had the best view of the race. The new clubhouse is part of the Winston-Salem Sports and Entertainment Complex and is home of the Winston-Salem State University Rams football team.

“I’mgoing to do the small things right,” says Travis Teague the first dayof class, “I don’t have to wear tie, but I do because I’m supposed to.”He is the man in charge of the Winston-Salem State UniversityMotorsports Management Program, the only one of its kind in thecountry. Other schools offer a very similar curriculum but no otheroffers a bachelors of science degree in motorsports management; manyonly offer it as a concentration of sports management or businessmanagement. The program is a how-to course in the fastest growingindustry in the nation, which includes more than just NASCAR — anythingfrom AMA motorcycle racing to speedboat

Teaguehas a Southern drawl in his voice and moves slowly, like anyrespectable Southern man does. During class he mentions his militarytime and with that it reminds you of why he looks familiar. He lookslike a drill sergeant, although he’s far more kindhearted. It’s thefirst day of the fall semester and the first day of the motorsportsmanagement program. “I want you to get excited about what weare doing here. Let’s make a big deal of this,” Teague tries his bestto encourage his class. In May of ’07 the major was approved by the UNCadministration system, but this is the first semester for enteringfreshman. Teague believes he is making history. There are no textbooks required for the class but several magazines on the reading list: NASCAR Scene and National Speed Sport News. As homework every Sunday

racingis considered a motorsport. In North Carolina alone there are 25,000jobs available in the motorsports industry, with salaries of $61,000plus. Of the 20 most watched sporting events in the US last year, 17 ofthem were motorsports. Soon the motorsports management programwill have a wing of the Bowman Grey Club House. Teague explains thatthe sport is like footbal. There used to be only a few coaches on afootball team, but now there are over a dozen, each with his ownspecific task and specialty. These days there are coaches for offensivelinemen, defensive linemen, receivers and quarterbacks. Motorsports isincreasing in its specificity as well, requiring a more students mustwatch the NASCAR Sprint Cup race and answer five marketing questionsrelated to what they learned from watching the race. This falls underexperiential learning, which is 35 percent of their grade. Also everystudent in the program must go through a motorsports practicum,motorsports seminar and an internship in motorsports. Thefirst student to go through an internship was Darrell Southern, aWinston-Salem native and a sports management major. “I knew I wanted towork in the sports industry, I just didn’t know what my niche was,”Southern says. “It only took a few events to say, ‘Hey, this is theindustry I want to work in.’” When Teague began the program he lookedfor help from students in other majors because at the time only ahandful of students were motorsports management majors. They went toseveral concentrated education. “In my day we did not havethese type of specifics,” says Teague, which is why he was happy WSSUchose to make this a stand-alone major and not a concentration. Thestudent must be able to sell a driver, an event, a team or a sport.“You are going to be selling a race, not a product — they are not thesame,” Teague emphasizes. “It is all so intangible, a motorsportmanagement major must try to make the real emphasis on a real-lifeexperience. It’s a memory of a race, not a product. And how do you sellthat to someone?” different events and set up tables and race cars toadvertise for the program. At one event, the Good Guys car show atLowe’s Motor Speedway, Southern met Human Relations Director Julie atMotorsports Authentics. She encouraged him to apply for theirinternship. He left the event with her contact information and when itcame time for him to find an internship it took just a quick phonecall. “They know our program is successful, it was a matter of a fewminutes. I give Dr. Teague and Dr. Hand a lot of praises because theyare working very hard to set up opportunities for their students to besuccessful,” says Southern, “Internships are becoming as competitive asjobs, so to have an internship so easily was amazing.” He alsoenjoys the internship because of the interaction with the people in theindustry. Motorsports Authentics makes die-cast cars and apparel forNASCAR

BurtonSmith, the new owner and operator of Lowe’s Motor Speedway inCharlotte, recently received $80 million from the local government tohelp improve the area around the new Z-max Dragway that opened thispast weekend; it cost $23 million to put Budweiser on Kasey Kahn’s racecar in the NSACAR Sprint series, and for every dollar spent onsponsorship there are three spent on advertising. Want to get involvedin an Indy-car team? It’s $47 million to get into the door. It hasbecome a little more complicated since the early years of motorsports. “It’s bigger than tires going around and guys turning left,” says Teaque.

Travis Teague, coordinator of the motorsports management program, on the first day of class at WSSU.

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