TALLADEGA, Ala. – Joe Graf Jr. will have the unique opportunity to mix his education with his driving career later this year, as he joins Richard Childress Racing for both an internship and select races.
Graf, a 20-year-old freshman at New York University, will compete in at least five events in the No. 21 Chevrolet Camaro, starting June 8 with the LTi Printing 250 at Michigan Int’l Speedway.
He will also serve as a marketing and communications intern for the organization.
As he races for RCR, Graf will have the chance to learn the science of racing by spending behind-the-scenes time with Childress’ competition and engineering teams.
Graf will attend competition meetings and debriefs, get simulator time, and assist with pit stop practice.
“We’re happy to have Joe joining us in such a unique developmental role as a driver and intern,” said RCR president Torrey Galida. “It’s not often that drivers get the opportunity to learn both in and out of the race car, and we hope that’s what Joe is able to do with his dual role here.
“It’s very helpful for drivers to understand the technical and business side of the sport, and Joe gets that,” Galida continued. “We’re confident he’s going to be successful both on and off the track for RCR.”
Speaking to SPEED SPORT following the conclusion of ARCA Menards Series practice on Friday morning at Talladega Superspeedway, Graf wore a huge smile in talking about his two worlds coming together.
“I’m just really happy that I get to learn both sides of the business,” said Graf. “It’s a very unique opportunity and I’m very thankful that RCR and NYU came together to make it possible for me to both do my internship and race in tandem with that. I’m really grateful and look to make the most of it.”
Graf, who is majoring in business media and sports management at NYU, has been with the Childress team for about two months and has spent a lot of time trying to soak in as much as he can before he steps into the driver’s seat of an Xfinity Series car for the first time.
“We announced the racing deal this weekend, but I’ve actually been an intern at RCR since the beginning of March,” Graf noted. “I’ve been there a good bit, I love everybody there and I’m learning a ton. It’s just really interesting to be able to apply what I’m learning in the classroom to the racing industry on this kind of a scale.
“It’s really helped me, both in the car and out of the car, to understand the business a lot more.”
Though there’s a substantial difference between the ARCA Menards Series cars he’s been used to and the Xfinity Series cars he’ll be trying to figure out this summer, Graf knows he has the people around him to make the transition up the ladder as smooth as possible.
“There will definitely be a learning curve, but RCR is top-notch. I’ve been learning so much as it is, that I feel it won’t be as difficult as some might think,” Graf said. “Even in ARCA, I feel like I learned how to race those cars pretty quickly, so I’m looking forward to going over to the Xfinity side, learning some more and hopefully getting some good runs.”
Graf has one ARCA victory, which came at Michigan’s Berlin Raceway last August, and sits fourth in that series’ point standings after the first three races of the season.
As he continues both his racing and schooling, Graf was quick to point out that the two roads are basically one and the same now in his new situation.
“All of my classes really correlate well to the sport’s industry, so racing is almost a part of my schooling now,” he joked. “It’s definitely interesting and I’m enjoying it.”