By Kaylee Lindenmuth
On April 9, the KU Sports Leisure and Athletic Management (SLAM) Club hosted the fourth annual Pocono Raceway College Tour, with special guest NASCAR Xfinity Series driver Justin Haley.
KU is one of four stops on the tour, which traverses eastern Pennsylvania and western New Jersey. The other three stops are Scranton, East Stroudsburg and Centenary in Hackettstown, N.J.
“We engage the students. We work with sports management clubs and students to put on this event. They’ve been given parameters to put together a Pocono Raceway day on campus, for one, and they also go out into the community and spread the word about Pocono,” said Kevin Teel, manager of content for the track. “It also gives them an opportunity to work with us and see what a major sports facility does.
The event, held on the MSU lawn, also served as a way to connect NASCAR to the younger, college-aged demographic, which, according to a Scarborough Research study, only makes up 10 percent of the sport’s fanbase. For 19-year-old Haley, the tour is also a way to see the college experience.
“I haven’t been to college, so I don’t know what college is like, so doing the whole tour and interacting with [students], it’s pretty cool, because a lot of people I interact with day-to-day are older, so to come out and spend time with people my age, it’s really fun,” said Haley.
As a driver, Haley has spent most of his free time in high school behind the wheel at race tracks in his home state of Indiana and in North Carolina and has run full-time in NASCAR’s top three touring series since 2017.
SLAM Club President Leslie Soffa sees a benefit to having such a young driver on campus.
“He can be relatable to us, he would be a sophomore in college, so it’s his time to get on campus to try to experience this atmosphere and see what it would be like to be a kid going to class instead of a kid who has to promote his image all the time,” said Soffa. “Hopefully, it’ll be a laid back day for him, to be able to interact with kids his age and get the feeling of what college would be like for a day.”
Soffa led Haley and a group from the raceway on a tour around campus, including Action Track USA at the fairgrounds. Haley also participated in an interview with KUR and spoke to a sports management class.
A return to KU
Teel is a KU graduate in sports management, and the event is a return to campus for him.
“I always love coming back to Kutztown,” said Teel. “I’ve been back many times, working with the sports management department, doing some guest speaking things.”
Teel added he frequently tells students about the importance of internships and marketing, saying that’s how he made it to his career at Pocono.
Bringing back the trophy
The Pocono College Tour is technically competitive among the four participating schools, as they all participate in a ‘3 Turn’ competition. KU won the first two iterations, in 2016 and 2017, though fellow PASSHE school East Stroudsburg won in 2018. The competition focuses on areas of marketing, research and analysis and event planning.
“We went above and beyond a little bit this year; we have the bouncy house. The weather seems like it’s going to work out for us, so we’re able to stay outside all day,” Soffa said, when asked how they planned to win back the trophy. “We’re trying to keep as much participation going at the event to boost that appearance.”
“We’re ready to win the trophy back this year,” Soffa added.
The event featured an inflatable obstacle course, giveaways and a tire changing simulator. Students passing by participated and asked questions. Haley even participated in both the bounce house and tire changing simulator.