This past week MTS had the opportunity to interview Nascar Pit Crew Member Dion “Rocko” Williams. Dion is currently the front-tire carrier for star Nascar driver Jeff Gordon. Prior to Nascar Dion had a long history in football, being a star linebacker at Wake Forest, and a short stint playing pro with the Minnesota Vikings. Unfortunately his football career was cut short due to a series of head concussions.
After being recommended to try out a career in Nascar by his agent, Dion gave it a shot, and found a strong love for the sport. Currently in his 9th year as an pit crew member, Dion has been fortunate enough to work with some of the most prolific drivers in the game, he calls Nascar “America’s best kept secret”. Check out our interview below, as we talked about Nascar, life as a pit crew member, and of course fashion (Dion is a big sneakerhead).
MTS: For those who don’t know, can you explain your position as a pit crew member?
DW: Pit stops are the easiest way for racers to gain position on the track. Eventually your tires wear out during a race, that’s when all the cars get the opportunity to come down to pit road and change their tires at the same time. And that’s where the pit crews come into play. The challenge of the pit crew is to change the cars four tires faster than any other crew in the race. Being the front tire carrier, my job is to put the two tires on the front of the car. We also have a rear tire carrier, jackman, and two tire changers. Typically on a good stop, a team of our caliber can change four tires in under 12 seconds. The ultimate goal is to beat everyone else out so we can help our driver gain positions that he couldn’t gain on the track.
MTS: What would you say is the most difficult task of your profession?
DW: The most difficult task in my experience is blocking out that pressure of performing on the level you know you’re capable of when it counts the most. No mistakes! that one mistake you make can cost you and your team thousands of dollars, and the race.
MTS: That’s a lot of pressure isn’t it?
DW: Yes, I have the gray hairs to prove it in my nine years (laughs).
MTS: Do you feel your football background gives you an advantage for this position?
DW: Definitely, being that I’ve played on big stages before, and I can relate to situations in Nascar with football when you need to make a play or touchdown, it all correlates with racing. That’s been an advantage for me to even last this long, not to mention my physical size, strength, and training, which comes natural for me because that’s all I’ve done for years. That’s given me an upper-hand over other guys who’ve never played football or professional sports. It used to be unique, but not so much now since all the teams are recruiting more athletes as pit crew members. It’s pretty cool to see more guys like me in this profession, and also to know I was the first. I’m also one of the first African-americans to ever wear a Jeff Gordon uniform, and win a sprint-cup series race. Little personal accolades like that keep me motivated.
MTS: What are some of your hobbies off the racetrack?
RW: Well I am a big sneakerhead who likes to shop! I love shoes and clothes. When we travel to different cities, the first thing I do is find exclusive places that have shoes and clothes that I would want.
MTS: What sneakers are you really into at the moment?
DW: I’m really into the Jeremy Scott Adidas, I love looking for those. Adidas are my #1 right now, with their designs and creativity. I’m not too fond of Jordans or Nike they just seem so bland. (while I was chatting with Dion he was on his way to get the A.S.A.P Rocky x Adidas sneakers.)
MTS: When it comes to clothing, what are some of your favorite brands?
DW: I love Y-3, and True Religion, I really don’t like dressing like anyone else. I wear a lot of loud colors and creative stuff. My go-to attire is an exclusive pair of sneakers, quality denims, and a solid t-shirt. I love all the big designer clothing, but at 6″1, 250lbs I can rarely find my sizes.
MTS: For guys looking to get into your profession, what are some tips you might have for them?
RW: For guys who are ex-athletes the doors are pretty much open, they just have to find a race team, and tell them you want a try out, and they’ll test your abilities.