WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (WGHP) — A local Historically Black University is helping bring diversity to motorsports. The motorsports management program at Winston-Salem State University has been around for 11 years. Students in the program get to study the ins and outs of racing.
Every week, Professor Clay Harshaw shows students how they could have lifelong careers on and off the track.
“Our program in motorsport management is the only one in a public school in the nation which makes us a really unique program throughout the country,” Harshaw said. “What we’re studying are business concepts that apply to the motorsport industry.”
In the program students learn about the legal aspects surrounding racing, hospitality, sponsorship, PR and more. They also get to go to races in person.
“One of the things that we do to help students get in to the industry and so that they can see the behind the scenes aspect of it is we do field experience. So throughout their career here at Winston-Salem state, they are going to go to the racetrack and meet people, network to get their hands on type of experience,” he said.
Harshaw says he gets calls from all over the world from prospective students interested in the program.
“I’ve talked to folks as far away as Alaska, Canada, and all across the country,” he said.
Being the only public university in the country that offers this program gives WSSU and edge, not only bringing students of all different backgrounds to the school, but exposing them to the unique HBCU (Historically Black College or University) experience.
One of Harshaw’s students, Rajah Kirby Caruth has already gotten a jumpstart on his NASCAR career. He races full time in the NASCAR craftsman truck series for GMS racing and part time in the NASCAR Xfinity series for Alpha Prime racing all while continuing his studies at WSSU in the motorsports management program.
“Being a part of the motorsports management program here at Winston-Salem state university has been awesome because I’ve had a passion for racing since I was a little kid and to not only have the change to drive through the NASCAR drive for diversity program and now being graduated and being integrated with gm and GMS racing, but to also continue my education and learn the other side of racing has been a dream come true,” Caruth said.
Caruth is a part of a small but growing list of Black NASCAR drivers. Having a program like this at an HBCU, opens the door for students of color who may not have been exposed to the sport growing up, and also helps bring more diversity to the sport.
“It’s really a feather in kids caps to see someone that looks like them on the racetrack and from a role model perspective it’s huge because especially in music and basketball and movies, seeing people that look like you out there is definitely motivating and honestly empowering,” he said.
This year, there are 12 students in the program. The administration says they’re always looking for more students interested in majoring in motorsports.