To Air Is Human

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Ben Brown

Ben Brown ’00 spends his weekends in the pits for Penske Racing

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By Sara Simon ’13

A new NASCAR season has begun, and Davidson alumnus Ben Brown ’00 is right there in the race again.
Mild-mannered manager of his family’s Charlotte-based C.S. Brown Tile and Marble flooring business on weekdays, Brown spends his weekends in the pits as the front tire changer for Penske Racing’s #2 car driven by current Sprint Cup series champion Brad Keselowski.

It’s a high-stakes, high-pressure job. Cars fly around the racetrack at up to 200 miles per hour, and then slow to 55 as they enter the pits for tire changes and other adjustments. As the car comes to a stop, Brown and five other teammates leap over the wall to go to work. If the pit crew does its job right, Keselowski’s car is on new tires, full of gas, and under way again in under 12 seconds.

Brown graduated from Davidson as an economics major and settled into the family business. In 2004, a high school acquaintance offered him the opportunity to try out for the Penske team.

The team practices its work under simulated race conditions, but Brown said, “The key is to do it right on the big stage. One small hiccup could cost hundreds of thousands of dollars or even a championship.” Brown said he owes a great deal of his NASCAR success to his one year of varsity football and four years of varsity baseball at Davidson. NASCAR teams often recruit college athletes for pit work because the job requires strength, speed, hand-eye coordination, and teamwork.

The NASCAR season occupies Brown from the end of February until Thanksgiving, and he admitted that juggling his racetrack activity, his family business, and family life can be difficult. “There are times when I feel overwhelmed,” he said. “But no worse than trying to juggle Davidson baseball practice with the academic work load!”

Photo Credit: BeholdingEye, Courtesy Ben Brown

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