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Armed with Faith, Family and Talent, NASCAR Drive for Diversity Program Participant Madeline Crane…

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The 19-year-old is having the time of her life.

NASCAR Drive for Diversity Program participant Madeline Crane climbs aboard her car at New Smyrna Speedway as she participates in the 2017 combine earlier this month. Photo Credit: Jerry Markland/Getty Images for NASCAR.


Meansville, Georgia native and Rev Racing driver Madeline “Mad Maddie” Crane has had plenty of success in the nine years that’s she been behind the wheel of a race car.

Clearly, she was listening when someone told her to chase her dreams and that she could do anything she set her mind to. As a 10-year-old, Crane showed that she had what it takes to compete, winning back-to-back races in the “Thursday Night Thunder Series” at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

From there, she steadily progressed and by age 14, she had 59 top-fives in 82 starts in legend cars. Fast forward five years and the 19-year-old just finished her second season with Rev Racing and was once again named a participant in the NASCAR Drive for Diversity Combine.

The NASCAR Drive for Diversity program was first introduced in 2004 and features notable alums such as Kyle Larson and Darrell “Bubba” Wallace Jr. The academy style program helps drivers improve both their on and off-track skills.

Not only do the participants take to the track to test their driving skills, but they’re put through grueling workouts, media interviews (both live on-air and print) and even written tests.

The 2017 NASCAR Drive for Diversity Class poses on the start-finish line at Daytona International Speedway. Photo Credit: Jerry Markland/Getty Images for NASCAR

This year, 12 participants were named to the 2017 class. Since 2010 Rev Racing (the team that Crane drives for) has managed the Drive for Diversity Program. Four drivers who took part in this year’s three-day tryout will race full-time for Rev Racing in 2018. Three of the four drivers will compete in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East, while also racing a late-model in the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series. The fourth driver will race in a late model and serve as an alternate for the K&N Series.

I recently sat down with her to discuss everything from her upbringing and racing roots to how her faith keeps her grounded, the Drive for Diversity Program and her future goals.

Upbringing and Racing Roots

One Christmas, Santa brought you a four-wheeler, is that what sparked your love for racing?

Madeline Crane: “I started racing when I was 10. One Christmas I got a four-wheeler from Santa. That was before I ever even thought about racing. I would go as fast as I could. My grandpa saw that. He raced, so he wanted to me to start racing too. When I started, I went from Bandoleros to Legend Cars to Dirt Late Models. I raced Late Models for a good two to three years and now we’re doing what we’re doing now (racing Late Model Stocks in the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series). I guess you could say I’ve always had the need for speed.”

Growing up in a racing family, how did that impact you and help you as you started your career?

MC: “I wouldn’t have gotten started in racing without my granddad. He’s been there and guided me along the way and given me the opportunity. My stepdad and his dad used to race on dirt. When I got into dirt racing (at Dixie Speedway in Woodstock, Georgia) he was beneficial and worked on my car. He’s been such a big influence and was really helpful when I first started racing on dirt, teaching me a lot of the tricks and tips and just what it takes to be competitive.”

What’s your earliest racing memory?

MC: “I remember the first time I got in a race car at a ride and drive at Atlanta Motor Speedway. It was one of those deals where you paid a certain amount for a set number of laps that you get to drive. Looking back, it’s crazy to see that I’ve gone from paying to drive at AMS to racing there and now being in Charlotte and getting to live out my dream. I’m very blessed, that’s for sure.”

The Drive for Diversity Program

This isn’t your first time in the Drive for Diversity Program, how have you grown from being through it already?

MC: My first year in the Drive for Diversity Program was my first year ever driving an asphalt late model, so literally everything was a new experience. This year, I was able to take what I learned last year and apply it to the program and really just prepare for a great season. It’s really helped me develop as a race car driver, and I’ve become a lot more confident behind the wheel. It’s neat to see how much the program has helped me grow as a driver and as a person. I’m much more confident than I was before I entered the program.”

The program features workouts, media training and even a version of the Wonderlic test. What area did you learn the most from?

MC: “I’ve learned a lot from every aspect that they try to help us with. I’ve come a long way with speaking and interacting with the media. I’m more fit. I feel like I’m much more well-rounded.”

On taking advantage of the opportunity given to you?

MC: “I think it’s important to put everything you have into the program. They (Rev Racing) are the ones giving us the opportunity to take part in the program and showcase our talents. It’s important that I show my appreciation for that and give them all that I have.”

There are plenty of lessons in auto racing that apply to life? What’s one that you’ve been able to take from the Drive for Diversity or just racing in general?

MC: “Having to move up here (to Charlotte) before I finished high school. It’s helped me mature not only as a driver but also a person. I’m up here by myself. I’m having to be responsible for my own actions. There’s nobody to say this is what you need to do or this is when you need to wake up. I’m up here alone having to learn and take care of myself. I just make sure that I do the right thing. My faith in God is very important to me and something that I’ve leaned on during my move to Charlotte.”

This year the participants in the Drive for Diversity program range in age from 15 to 23. With you being in the middle of the age group, how are you able to help the younger participants (like 16-year old Macy Causey) but also gain knowledge from those older than you?

MC: “I don’t know if its age wise, it’s more about coming from different forms of racing. Macey is younger than me but has been racing these cars longer than me. A lot of giving and receiving knowledge depends on your racing background. It depends on what you do and whether you’ve grown up racing on dirt or asphalt etc. So much of it has to do with how you race. I’m always trying to help. Having raced Late Models for the past two years, I’m helping those who have never been in one and telling them different things about how the car will react and what it’s going to do.”

How will the Drive for Diversity Program help you meet your goals?

MC: “To be honest, if I do make it to one of the NASCAR National Touring Series (NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, NASCAR XFINITY Series or Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series) it’s because of Rev Racing and the NASCAR Drive for Diversity Program. For some, it’s the only opportunity they get. I’ve been very fortunate throughout my racing career and to be a part of this program is a blessing. There is so much to learn in it, and I can’t thank Rev Racing and owner Max Siegel enough.”

Social Media

You’re active on social media. How important is it for young drivers like yourself to take advantage of what it has to offer?

MC: “Social media is such a big factor in today’s racing world. At the combine, they were telling us to take advantage of it and that we can use it to connect with anyone. As crazy as it is, the interacting with the media and potential sponsors and even team owners via social media has come to be just as important as the racing.”

Advice and Future Goals

What’s one piece of advice you’d give your younger self?

MC: “Don’t be too hard on yourself. Just keep going. I’ve always been hard on myself, and sometimes I get down on myself. Keep your head up and just focus on being the best you can be.”

Obviously, you have a chance to help break down walls and barriers being a female driver. Who was the one person that told you to follow your dreams and that you could do whatever you set your mind to?

MC: “My mom. She’s always been there supporting and pushing me. She was there believing in me when I didn’t believe in myself. It’s funny, we went to Charlotte when I was 10, and I asked mom if she thought I would live here one day. She basically told me if it was in God’s plan I would, and here I am today. It’s crazy to look back at that and see God’s hand in everything and how he has played a role in all that has happened these past few years.”

What would you say to that five or six-year old girl who looks up to you and tells and her parents I want to be the next Madeline Crane?

MC: “Be you. Don’t try to be like anyone else. Try to be yourself and be as genuine you can. There’s already someone out that being that “someone else,” so don’t be that person. Be who you are. I’ve always been taught to be authentic. I heard a sermon the other day that said to walk in your grace; walk in the path that God has for you. That’s the biggest piece of advice I would give.”

What’s your ultimate racing goal?

MC: “My goal is just to get as far as I can. I’d like to make it to one of the (three) national touring series. I know if it’s in God’s plan it will happen. What’s meant to be is meant to be. I’m certainly not taking these opportunities for granted. I’m just working hard to be the best I can be.”

Under the Helmet (Getting to Know Maddie)

Favorite Food: “Everything (laughs). I’m from the south. There’s so much good cooking.”

Music Genre: “Country. I listen to both country and pop, but growing up in the south we listen to a lot of country music.”

Season: “Fall. I don’t like when it’s too cold or too hot. My favorite holiday is Christmas, but I love the weather that comes with fall.”

Profession (other than race car driver): “I’d be in school right now. You have to take core classes during your first two years (of college), so that would help me figure out what I really wanted to do. I love all animals and growing up I always wanted to be a veterinarian. So, it would probably be something in that field.”

Dream Vacation: “The mountains. I mean, I love the beach and everything, but I’ve always wanted to go to the snowy mountains and try skiing and snowboarding. I’ve never done it. I’d probably bust my butt a few times, but I want to try it.”

Something You Can’t Live Without: “My family.”

One word to describe yourself: “Humble.”

Want more? Follow @MaddieCrane78, @RevRacin and @Kraig_Doremus on Twitter.


This piece has been presented to you by SMU’s Master of Science in Sport Management.


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Professional Development

Inside The Huddle: Group Expectations with Michael Taylor

After ten years on the business side of pro basketball, Michael Taylor has learned how valuable persistence and personal branding are in ticket sales.

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In the buildup to Front Office Sports’ Ticketing Huddle at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum on May 10, we’re introducing you to the huddle leaders who will be lending their expertise to the conversation.

Today, meet Michael Taylor: Director of Team Marketing & Business Operations at the National Basketball Association (NBA). Taylor will be one of the leaders of the huddle “Squad Goals: The Evolution of Group Expectations.”

Taylor played basketball at West Virginia State University, where he graduated in 2004 with a degree in business administration and management. After playing basketball in Europe for a few years, pursuing a career on the business side of basketball simply made sense. It’s also proved to be a natural fit. For example, during his time in Detroit with Palace Sports and Entertainment, the group sales department jumped from 29th in revenue leaguewide to fifth in just over three years.

READ MORE: Inside The Huddle: Premium Sales with Naimah German

Now, with over a decade in the NBA, Taylor takes great pride in the people he has been able to develop.

“I look at some of the people that I’ve been able to work with and have hired and are thriving in the industry and moving on to different leadership positions, and that is probably the thing I’m most proud of,” he says. “The people and the development pieces are where I like to focus my time.”

The biggest mistake that Taylor sees young reps making in their early years is not having a short memory.

“In this business you have to be able to take the bad days…the days where you make a hundred calls and 50 people hang up on you and you leave 50 voicemails and no one returns,” he says. “You have to be able to maintain the same enthusiasm, the same confidence on that next call. And then, on the flip side, you have a day where maybe you made that big sale. Do you then slack off? Do you get complacent? Do you not focus on your fundamentals anymore because you’re starting to see some success? Don’t focus on what happened yesterday, whether it was good or bad, but approach each day as a chance to be great.”

READ MORE: Inside The Huddle: Group Expectations With Josh Feinberg

Taylor’s other piece of advice to young professionals just beginning their career in ticket sales is to constantly be maintaining their reputation online and in real life.

“It’s never too early to think of yourself as a brand,” he say. “The things that you do now, you’re building your reputation before you even realize it. The sports world is small. When you think about applying for internships or applying for jobs, your reputation is what speaks before you even get into the room. Everything that they do either adds to their brand, or it takes away from it.”

Meet Michael and hear more of his thoughts on the current ticketing space at the Front Office Sports Ticketing Huddle at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum in Oakland, CA on May 10. For tickets and additional info, click here.

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Professional Development

Inside The Huddle: Premium Sales with Naimah German

German will lend her expertise on premium sales at the Front Office Sports Ticketing Huddle at the Oakland Coliseum on May 10.

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In the buildup to Front Office Sports’ Ticketing Huddle at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum on May 10, we’re introducing you to the huddle leaders who will be lending their expertise to the conversation.

Today, meet Naimah German: Premium Sales Consultant with Legends at the Las Vegas Stadium (the future home of the Raiders). German will be one of the leaders of the huddle “The Experience Economy: Navigating Shifting Premium Sales Demands.”

READ MORE: Inside The Huddle: Group Expectations With Josh Feinberg

German made the move to Nevada in January of 2018 ahead of the Raiders moving to and playing their first season in Las Vegas in 2020. In the months since, German and the rest of the organization have had their hands full in the best possible way.

“It has been a whirlwind to have that many people on the waitlist,” she says, “but we were all committed from the very beginning, and we are making adjustments as we go along. So it’s been a lot of learning as we go through that process of checks and balances and communicating with one another.”

Prior to arriving in Las Vegas, German graduated from the University of South Carolina in 2007 and worked in insurance and advertising sales for a number of years before completing her master’s degree through Northeastern University in 2014. German’s breakthrough, and what she describes as one of her proudest professional accomplishments, came in 2015 when she landed a Membership Development Associate role with the Miami Dolphins.

“That was the most rigorous process to get a job that I’ve ever been through,” German says, reflecting on the experience. “I did two separate phone interviews and then I had to fly myself out to Miami. But I knew that if I went down there, I was going to come back with the job. They had a hundred of us participate in a sales combine, and we competed for a job over the course of that whole weekend. They accepted nine people into that inside sales class and I was one of the nine.”

German then joined the Legends crew in 2016 as a Premium Sales Consultant with the Atlanta Falcons, where she stayed for about a year and a half before moving on to her current role in Las Vegas. With her experience on the premium side, German has learned that the ability to build strong relationships with clients go a long way.

“Ask questions and you will be able to build a relationship with someone and know why they want what they want,” she says. “Everyone wants the top-notch experience, so being able to identify potential problems early in the process is going to help alleviate any potential frustration.”

In her experience, German notices that many young sports professionals can define themselves by their work. While careers are important, she urges everyone to maintain a balance. 

READ MORE: Inside The Huddle: Selling A New Team With Ted Glick

“Don’t let the job take over your identity,” she says. “Sometimes people forget who they are with all their motivations and ambitions and what they want to do. Knowing you are more than what you do is a much healthier attitude to have in this business.”

Throughout her career, German has not lost sight of how sports can be a force for good. This is the primary reason she wanted to pursue a career in the industry, and why she continues down this path today.

“Sports is something that brings people together,” she says. “I always come back to that. When you’re at a game, we’re all one. We’re united.”

Meet Naimah and hear more of your thoughts on the current ticketing space at the Front Office Sports Ticketing Huddle at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum in Oakland, CA on May 10. For tickets and additional info, click here.

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Professional Development

Why Athlete Retirement Transitions Can Be So Devastating

Sports psychologist Scott Goldman discusses the struggles athletes can face in retirement from their professional and amateur careers.

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Ben Hartsock was thinking ahead to avoid difficulties following retirement.

Following a 10-year NFL career, the tight end jumped right into a career as an agent. For Hartsock, it was better than taking time to figure his life out after the structure and rigidity of an NFL career.

“There’s really two schools of thought, and there’s the school of thought you need something waiting when you’re done because idle time is the devil’s playground,” said Hartsock, who ended up realizing agent life wasn’t right after two years and is now pursuing broadcasting.

“Had I not jumped right into working, I wouldn’t have been able to handle it. I could have downward spiraled.” 

Professional athletes, no matter the sport, leave a life of structure and must transition to a life of relative normalcy. More athletes today are thinking about it, but no matter how well-prepared the transition, it can still cause hiccups, Hartsock said. After 20 years of playing football, Hartsock said it’s almost like being institutionalized.

“I don’t know what other industry or business has a similar experience,” he said. “The shelf life of an athlete is limited in a way I can’t think any other profession is. Think about going to high school getting great marks, going to college and excelling, and after five or 10 years of being the best surgeon in the world, they take it away from you. That’s hard.”

READ MORE: As Retirement Nears, Yankees Star CC Sabathia Experiments With ESPN Deal

Athlete struggles following their athletic career’s end is not an easy topic to address, said Scott Goldman, the president-elect of the Association of Applied Sport Psychology. Goldman is a sports psychologist who’s worked for 20 years with collegiate and professional athletes.

Much of the conversation in post-career struggles revolve around professionals, but Goldman said it’s also a serious issue among collegiate athletes as well, as 90 percent don’t go professional. While many sports don’t have a clear path to the pros, Goldman said those that do — like basketball and football — can make inflate aspirations.

Goldman said he’s happy that leagues, like the NFL, are working intently to help create programs and guide players through their career and after to help ease the pain.

When Goldman works with an athlete struggling post-career, he said he likes to follow the Kubler-Ross Stages of Grief. Leaving an all-or-nothing career, like professional athletics, can leave athletes in a similar depression as losing a loved one.

“For some of them, it’s as much a shift in identity as dealing with a tragic loss,” Goldman said. “Most of these athletes get up at 6 a.m. and their day is largely accounted for and scheduled. It can be really intense when they leave.”

Goldman said he believes more potential employers are realizing that while athletes mostly don’t have lengthy business resumes, the commitment and dedication to their careers and being successful can often easily translate to the business world.

Often times, careers ended because of injuries are worse because they’re sudden. For careers like Dwyane Wade and Dirk Nowitzki, players get a goodbye tour and can ease into their retirement through a grief-like path.

Beyond the personal-identity struggle, Goldman said athletes also often struggle with their financials following retirement. The general public has a perception of multimillionaire contracts, and while some athletes are set for life, those contracts are in reality few and far between. More common are the sub-million dollar contracts with athletes averaging less than three years as a professional athlete. Add on trying to ensure that money and whatever post-retirement career the athlete ends up pursuing to obligations, and the stress can be high.

READ MORE: Missy Franklin Opens Up About Retirement and Life After Swimming

“It’s amazing the demand of the million dollar athlete,” Goldman said.

Former athletes balancing a dwindling bank account with their lack of direction can experience a perfect storm for emotional troubles. That’s where people like Goldman and companies like Priority Sports, Hartsock’s former agency, and its Preparing for Life After the NFL, or P.L.A.N., come in. 

Leaving a professional sports career often doesn’t have a ceremonial ending like other transitions in high school to college; college to the working world; or even a long TV series finale. Goldman said he doesn’t often like to use cliches, but can’t avoid one in this situation.

“It’s more of a transition than a severance,” Goldman said. “When you exit one room, you enter another space. Sometimes we focus on what we’re leaving and other times, it’s what we’re entering.

“It’s important to accept what we leave, and see what’s coming next and find meaning.”

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