By Kaylee Lindenmuth
On Thursday, April 12, the third annual Pocono Raceway College Tour came to KU, hosted by the Sports, Leisure and Athletic Management club outside of the Student Union Building.
The club and raceway officials set up a tent outside the Student Union Building, where passersby could enter to win free tickets to a NASCAR Cup Series event, or make an attempt at the tire changing simulator. Also present and displayed was a Pocono Raceway-lettered Chevrolet Camaro.
Half an hour into the event came Camping World Truck Series rookie Todd Gilliland. The Kyle Busch Motorsports driver is 17 years old, younger than the average college freshman, allowing him to better relate with potential fans on a college campus.
“This is exactly what NASCAR needs. Our fanbase is getting up there in age,” said Gilliland. “We just need a few of [these students] to come out to Pocono, or any racetrack across the country to see what it’s all about.”
Later, tickets to the NASCAR Xfinity Series event at Pocono were handed out to passersby, in hopes that they might come out to the Monroe County superspeedway to see the sport firsthand.
“I think [students] just don’t really understand everything that goes into a race, they just think it’s turning left and trying to go as fast as we can, but that’s just a small part of it,” Gilliland said. “It’s such a huge team that gets these race cars and trucks to the track, and all of the behind the scenes work… there’s so much more to it.”
According to Alyssa Riker, president of the SLAM Club, this is the first year a driver has visited campus.
“Pocono Raceway came to us about three years ago and started the College Tour. It puts us and three other schools, colleges, and universities up against each other to try to get college students to be interested in NASCAR and racing and Pocono Raceway,” Riker said. “In past, we had to put on a viewing party for a NASCAR race, and this year, they switched it up, and we have to put on an event on campus.”
That event consisted of the visit by Gilliland, who also spoke to an Introduction to Sports Management Class and visited Action Track USA, across College Boulevard from the university.
This year, the raceway hosted similar events at the University of Scranton in Lackawanna County, East Stroudsburg University in Monroe County and Centenary University in New Jersey. In the first two years of the tour’s existence, KU was declared the winner.
The SLAM club is focused on connecting the sports management majors to different opportunities in the field, according to Riker.
“We do a lot of volunteering at different sporting events or venues, and then we also do field trips,” Riker said. “Last year, we went to MetLife Stadium and met with the CEO, we’ve been to Lincoln Financial Field, so we’re all about exposing our majors to what their careers are going to be like in the future.”