Former Kansas football player Tedarian Johnson admits to having little familiarity with NASCAR before the last few months.
“I just knew it was cars going around a track,” he said with a laugh. “That was about it.”
The 6-foot-2, 290-pound defensive lineman — he completed his college football eligibility in 2014 — now has a chance to have a career in the motorsport thanks to NASCAR’s Drive for Diversity program, which is holding its first ever Pit Crew national combine on Friday in Concord, N.C.
Seventeen athletes, including six women, will be taking part. At the end, 10 will receive offers to relocate to North Carolina while pursuing a career on pit road.
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Johnson is one of three former KU football players at the event, joining fellow defensive linemen Corey King and Kapil Fletcher, who played for the Jayhawks last season.
King does have some knowledge of NASCAR, as he’s originally from Daytona Beach, Florida.
“Actually being on the other side of the fence is an exciting thing,” King said.
Each of the three is being judged as a potential “jack man,” a member of the crew who positions the jack on a post underneath the car to aid in tire changes. There’s also timing involved with it, as releasing the jack too early could potentially lead to a driver having loose tires.
“It’s basically like being the quarterback of the team,” Fletcher said. “Everything basically runs through you.”
The three advanced to this week’s combine after going through a scouting event on KU’s campus in early February.
“It was tough,” Johnson said, “but it fueled that competitive edge that I had in my sport. It was all good.”
The NASCAR Drive for Diversity program, which is headed by Rev Racing, had more than 25 graduates work in NASCAR events last year.