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CHIPS Articles: The Inside Track...

The Inside Track...
By CHIPS Magazine - April-June 2006
Senior Chief Navy Counselor Jeffrey Priest has the enviable job of traveling with the Navy's NASCAR 2006 Busch Series No. 88 "Accelerate Your Life" car as the Navy's JR Motorsports program manager. CHIPS asked Priest to talk about the response to Navy in NASCAR March 1, 2006.

CHIPS: I had no idea that driving in NASCAR is so high tech.

NCCS Priest: I had no clue myself. I have learned a considerable amount about NASCAR and the Navy's involvement with it. It is high tech. The things these guys do with aerodynamics and wind tunnels, computer models and their equipment is just unbelievable.

CHIPS: What is your role in the Navy-NASCAR partnership?

NCCS Priest: I am the liaison between the Navy, the agency and the team, JR Motorsports. I get the Sailors 'down in the pits' every week. We take an admiral and his guest, and six Sailors, two of which are selected for honorary pit crew. They get to wear the team uniform, and they catch tires or push toolboxes. Some of them have never seen a race before, and they love it.

CHIPS: How are the Sailors selected?

NCCS Priest: Navy Recruiting Districts take care of the selection. For example, next week, we are in Las Vegas and NRD San Diego selects the top-performing recruiters and Sailors of the Year. This past week we were in California, and we had some fleet representation. We took three Seabees into the pits with the Sailor of the Year from the Recruiting District, a Sailor of the Year from a Seabee unit and the recruiters of the year.

CHIPS: What do fans think about a Navy car in NASCAR?

NCCS Priest: They love it. We were in Fontana, Calif., for the race and I was escorting Commander, Navy Recruiting Command Rear Adm. Jeffrey Fowler to pit row to watch qualifying. As we walked through the crowd fans started whooping and hollering, 'NAVY, NAVY.' The team signed some autographs for the crowd. In Las Vegas, Commander, U.S. Fleet Forces Command Adm. John Nathman will be attending as the VIP. A different admiral attends every race.

CHIPS: Has the Navy car had an effect on recruiting?

NCCS Priest: We generated over 1,000 leads this past weekend in Fontana. The initial impact is yes; it is definitely making a difference. Those leads are good for 18 months, and we will continue to work those for 18 months. It is more of an awareness tool, getting the message out to those who influence — moms, dads, aunts, uncles, older siblings and friends. We want to let them know that the Navy is still hiring, and we are an employer of choice.

I don't know why we did not associate sooner with the high-tech aspects of NASCAR. We all know the Navy is high tech. The partnership, the teamwork, the speed, the agility of the guys on the NASCAR team, and the Sailors that I love to work with every day are so similar. People come up and say, 'I am glad the Navy is running in it' or 'I am rooting for the Navy team' or 'I love this car.'

CHIPS: Technology is so much a part of the lives of young adults. They love all the gadgets: iPods, BlackBerries ...

NCCS Priest: They are wired. Young people today are looking at being able to work with high-tech tools. Getting the message out that the Navy is a high-tech corporation and employer of choice is important. We have SEALs (Sea, Air, Land), we have Seabees, and all kinds of opportunities for these young men and young women to be a part of a team.

We have a young lady named Katie Muir who is an employee of JR Motorsports and a shocks specialist. She builds the shocks for the cars … One of the honorary pit crew members this past week in Fontana was a woman boatswain's mate first class. She really enjoyed working with the pit crew. I think women are even more interested in NASCAR and the high-tech cars from what I've seen.

I used to think the pit crew just carried wrenches, but they use high-tech tools just like Navy pit crews. We were with the Blue Angels on Monday, and they had to change the engine out in about 45 minutes on the No. 1 plane. Somebody asked me, 'How long does it take these NASCAR guys to change an engine out?' Trackside, they can do it all in 45 minutes. There is another similarity. The Navy pit crew on that plane is performing at the same high level as the pit crew in NASCAR.

CHIPS: It all sounds great. Does any one experience stand out?

NCCS Priest: What I enjoyed the most was a young Sailor, a second class recruiter, who had never been exposed to NASCAR. We took him down in the pits year before last and to this day I still talk to him. He watches the race every weekend. He absolutely loves it, and he pulls for the Navy team. That's what I get enjoyment from. I go to every race. I have been to 75 or 76 races, and I enjoy seeing the young Sailors that we bring into the pit enjoy themselves.

We had a constructionman recruit, one of the Seabees' honorees, a quiet guy — before the race started. He had a grin on his face the entire day. I asked him if he was having fun and he said, 'Senior Chief this is the greatest thing I have ever done.' He was down there in his dress whites looking sharp, representing the Navy.

My hope and my belief is that one day when that young man has to make a decision to get out or stay in the Navy, he is going to think back on all the things he has done like this NASCAR event, the deployments overseas and seeing the world. He will look back and say, 'I have done some good things in the Navy, I am going to stick around.'

We provide an opportunity for young men and women to do something positive with their lives, to make a career choice, not just select a job. These guys in the Busch Series are one step from making it to the major leagues just like the Navy is helping move Sailors along in their careers.

CHIPS: What is the next level for the drivers and pit crews moving up in NASCAR?

NCCS Priest: The Nextel Cup. Our driver last year, David Stremme, drove with us for a year. He got the call up, and he is now driving No. 40 in the Nextel Cup Series. He is still a friend and he loves Sailors. He comes down and meets the Sailors on the weekends even though he is no longer driving the Navy car.

TAGS: ITAM, Workforce
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