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Campus Life

On the Rhodes Again

Harrison Rhodes is a business major at NC State, so he’s learning the art of making a deal.

The junior from High Point is a fulltime student during the week, but for the next nine months he’ll also spend every weekend as a fulltime driver on the Xfinity Series, one of NASCAR’s top three professional circuits.

He headed to Daytona, Florida, Monday afternoon to get ready for racing’s biggest weekend, when 20 million eyes turn toward the Sunshine State with speed on their minds.

Rhodes saw limited action the last two years as a part-time driver on what used to be called the Nationwide circuit, making 13 total starts. Last July, he filled in during the 300 at the Chicagoland Speedway for injured Jeffrey Earnhardt, grandson of racing legend Dale Earnhardt. Driving Earnhardt’s car, owned by JD Motorsports of Gaffney, S.C., Rhodes finished 24th in the race.

“It was the best equipment I’ve ever driven,” Rhodes says.

A fulltime ride

Harrison Rhodes will compete in the No. 0 car for JD Motorsports.
Harrison Rhodes will compete in the No. 0 car for JD Motorsports.

When JD Motorsports decided to add a third driver to its team during the offseason, it called on Rhodes, who impressed owner Johnny Davis during his brief time in Earnhardt’s seat. He’ll drive the No. 0 car this weekend in the Alert Today Florida 300 on Saturday in the Xfinity’s season-opening race.

It’s his second time racing in Daytona. Last year, Rhodes qualified 15th for the 300-mile race, but his engine blew early in the race and he did not finish.

Rhodes is a rarity in NASCAR circles. Only a few drivers, including Purdue-graduate and 17-time Sprint Cup Series winner Ryan Newman, have earned college degrees. Few fulltime college students have been able to race and study at the same time.

“My professors have been willing to work with me to adjust my schedule,” Rhodes says. “I know I’m going to miss some days. For the most part, they have been very accommodating.”

This is a rendering of the suit Rhodes will wear at most of his races this season.
This is a rendering of the suit Rhodes will wear at most of his races this season.

Selling the brand

As he prepares for a full season of racing, Harrison is getting an idea of just how important his business degree will be as he pursues his lifelong dream to be a Sprint Cup driver. He’s spent the last several months negotiating deals, attending meetings, working the phones and pounding the pavement looking for sponsors for his car.

“It’s a big business, and sometimes I get to drive,” Rhodes says.

He’s quite proud of one new sponsor he reeled in for the season–his alma mater. Rhodes will wear a well-branded NC State racing suit with the school’s logo on the back, chest, sleeves and legs.


So, while NC State has been heavily involved in racing for years—with announcers, engineers, pit-crew chiefs and other affiliated roles—this season it will be actually on the track, too.

That will put NC State, the largest school in the UNC system, in front of one of the state’s biggest industries on a weekly basis. Ninety percent of all NASCAR teams are located in North Carolina and more than 25,000 people work in motorsports or related businesses. Many of them are NC State-educated engineers. The overall economic impact, according to the North Carolina motorsports association, is in excess of $6 billion.

“I’m looking forward to putting the Pack on the track,” Rhodes says.

Hmmmm. Sounds like a good hashtag.