ERWIN, Tenn. (WJHL)- It’s race week in the Tri-Cities, and while many drivers are preparing for the race one spent the day preparing the next generation of NASCAR fans and industry workers.
Being able to get a younger generation to the race track and for them to experience it is definitely big,” said NASCAR Camping World Truck Series driver Derek Krauss.
He’s only a few years out of high school himself and hopes he can inspire students, like the ones he spoke with at Unicoi Co. High School Tuesday, to look at NASCAR as more than just a sport you can be a fan of.
“It’s my third year doing this and I started racing when I was seven and just progressed my way up,” Krauss said. “I just hope younger generation fans get involved in racing and hopefully they can come out to the race on Thursday night and experience the real thing.”
Krauss, NASCAR officials, and representatives from the University of Northwestern Ohio spoke with students about racing as a career path and the education to get them there.
“It’s a college that they can go to and experience and be able to have the next step in racing and being a crew member or PR manager or whatever they want to do with racing- they can go to the UNOH college and get a bunch of experience there,” Krauss explained.
The room was filled with mostly advanced automotive students with hopes of using their skills from class to get a job after graduation.
“It’ll get people involved in the community- get other people looking at it and in the future- jobs like this– blue-collar jobs help the economy a lot– so it’s huge for Unicoi,” said senior Nehemiah Edwards. He’s been in the Maintenance and Light Repair classes all four years of high school.
Senior Candace Tolley has been in the automotive program for three years. She currently works at a local mechanic shop with plans of going to Northeast State Community College after graduation.
“It opens my mind to just being like- ‘Hey, I could work on race cars, I could– with other programs I’ve come here- I can work on diesel, I can work on just regular vehicles- there’s really a lot,” she said. “There are more jobs than just all the sponsors and driving. There’s a lot that goes into the pit crews.”
Their instructor, Keith Greer, hopes events like the one with Krauss will help his students find their place locally in Unicoi or in a worldwide space like NASCAR.
“It’s a great industry to make a living in whether it’s just staying local and working in shops versus getting out into the racing circuit and either working on the cars or driving the cars. We’d like to see their interest level really go up and just expose them to some things that they maybe have never been exposed to,” he said. “A lot of them will stay local and help our economy here and Bristol’s always done a good job of helping the local economy- not just the Bristol area but it’s always good to have people coming into town and helping us out that way.”
Krauss also went to Tennessee High in Bristol Tuesday morning.
He will race in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series: UNOH 200 & Bush Beans 200 ARCA Race Thursday night at 9 p.m.
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