When NASCAR fans settle in to watch the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Samsung Mobile 500 on Sunday afternoon, Stephanie Lockhart and four of her fellow students will be overseeing a race watch-party at Blackburn student center at Howard University in Washington, DC.
Lockhart, who hails from Fort Lauderdale and graduated from Dillard High School in 2006, knows it’s a bit unusual that a historically black college would even be thinking about stock car racing, but she says that’s been an interesting part of the challenge.
Lockhart is one of five students participating in the NASCAR Kinetics program, which is akin to an internship program aimed at educating and exposing students on six college campuses to the NASCAR brand and giving them hands-on experience. The program launched in 2009 and is just completing its third semester, NASCAR spokesman Brad Klein said. Read about the program's launch at Howard here.
One of their assignments is organizing a race viewing party for the Texas race this Sunday or the April 25 race at Talladega. They’ve also worked on plans to promote the book, The Weekend Starts on Wednesday: True Stories of Remarkable NASCAR Fans, by NASCAR Director of Business Communications Andrew Giangola.
“Most people are kind of shocked, especially at a historically black college, it’s a great shock,” Lockhart, 22, said of the reaction from students to her promoting Sunday’s viewing party. “They say 'Wow, what are you doing?’”
That’s her opening to talk about NASCAR and the program, which also includes a competitive element. The other schools, Notre Dame, Coastal Carolina University, Clark Atlanta University, Central Michigan University and Winston-Salem State University host their parties on April 25. Each group is being evaluated on its assignments, including the success and creativity of their viewing parties. The grand prize is a trip to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series All-Star week next month in Charlotte, including garage tours, pace car ride, and pre-race and victory lane access.
A public relations major, who wants to work in sports communication, Lockhart graduates May 8. She’s hoping her experience working in NASCAR’s Kinetics program helps her stand out.
“I thought NASCAR would be something cool to be into,” she said. “It was just something new. I love to try new things … I like to do a lot of things to make me more marketable.”
The groups are getting help and goodies for the viewing party from M&M’s, sponsor of Kyle Busch's No. 18 M&M's Toyota and creator of M&M's Most Colorful Fan of NASCAR contest.
Lockhart said she and her fellow students have been putting ads in Howard's student newspaper, making announcements in the college chapel, promoting the event on their Facebook page and through the school radio station, and arranging for contests to win prizes at the event.
The winner will be announced May 5.