Law's Ricky Rozier finds career with NASCAR

Ricky Rozier could have rested on his laurels. A standout football player and wrestler at Jonathan Law, Rozier took his talents to Winston-Salem State University in North Carolina, where he helped the football-playing Rams to a Central Interscholastic Athletic Conference championship in 2011-12.

Instead, Rozier made the short trip to Charlotte, N.C, where he joined NASCAR’s Drive for Diversity program.

“It was January, 2014 and Charlotte is where all the racing action takes place,” Rozier said. “I was able to put in more time, better my skills. I live here, but Milford is still my home.”

Rozier achieved his first NASCAR Camping World Truck Series (NCWTS) win as a jackman for Erik Jones at the Chevrolet Silverado 250 held at the Canadian Tire Motorsports Park on Sunday, Aug. 30. Jones now leads the NCWTS points standings.

“Getting my first Truck series win was like winning the football title in college,” he said. “I was two-three years removed and it definitely was exciting.”

The jackman raises each side of the car so that the tires can be replaced with the use of a 22-pound jack. He will usually also pull the old right rear tire from the car after the rear tire changer loosens the lug nuts. This is to help get the new right rear tire on faster. The jackman signals for the driver to leave the pits by lowering the car.

“Erik is a heckuva driver. While he has to make all the decisions on the track, we wait on pit road. If a lug nut falls off a tire, or enough gas doesn’t get in the tank, then we aren’t doing our job. It’s a team effort.”

What it takes to win on a team is second nature to Rozier, who graduated Winston-Salem with a degree in exercise science.

“All my life it has been about the team coming first,” he said. “From youth ball, to Jonathan Law to Winston-Salem it has always been about team.”

So what is a week in the life of a pit crew member entail?

“Well, we left Canada by plane (private planes or team planes) on Sunday after the race and got back into Charlotte around 11 p.m.,” he said. “Some guys like to drive up, but I take the flight. Over a 10-month season you want to stay fresh.

“Monday we have a light workout and then study film on the last race. It’s not much different from football.

“Tuesday and Wednesday we have morning and afternoon practices, with workouts in between.

“Thursday, depending on the team, you have workouts either earlier in the morning or later in the afternoon.

“Friday is a travel day to the next race.”

In the years since joining D4D, Rozier has worked on various teams and won a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race in 2014 with driver Kurt Busch.

Two tire changers, a jackman, two tire carriers and a gas man make up the six-man crew allowed over the wall when a car makes a pit stop.

“I’ve worked with most of the racing teams,” said Rozier, who is an independant contractor. “From Stewart-Haas, Team Penske, Hendrick Motorsports, Roush Fenway Racing, Joe Gibbs Racing to Chip Ganassi Racing.”

How does he keep in shape?

“It’s different than football in that you don’t bulk lift to gain strength, you just want to maintain and keep your body healthy,” he said.

“It’s a long season. We try to keep it fun with conditioning in pools and sometimes Ultimate Frisbee so as not to get stale.”

Make no mistake, being on a pit crew is a serious business.

“When we go racing we’re messing with people’s livelihood — from the tire changer next to me to the guy working on engines in the shop‚ as well as the driver’s safety.”

Rozier tuned in throughout the Silverado 250 race to conversations between crew chief (Rudy Fugle) and driver (Jones).

“We all need to know what is going on at all times so we are ready to do what is needed.”

Rozier, who has made week-to-week deals over the course of two seasons, believes he is ready to join a team full time.

“I’ve primarily been with Chip Ganassi Racing this year,” he said. “You sign contracts, but your job is only as safe as how well you perform.

“I love it on race day when you tune everything else out and something clicks in your head and you do what you are taught to do.”