From football fields to pit road: Jaquan Bailey on new spot in NASCAR

After a career as a football player at Iowa State turned into USFL and NFL stops, Jaquan Bailey has found a home. He’s on a NASCAR pit crew.

This might come as a shock, especially to those that followed Bailey’s football career to being waived in late August by the Philadelphia Eagles.

“When I got cut from Philadelphia, I had been pushing (Rev Racing) off for about a year,” Bailey said. “(I started) in September and it went from there. I signed with Carl Long’s pit crew and I’ve been working with them since.”

NASCAR’s Drive for Diversity & Inclusion program, which partners with Rev Racing, has put 75 members through its pit crew program that can now be seen working in the sport.

Frequently, former college football players are recruited, because of the athleticism needed to be on a NASCAR pit crew.

It’s part of the reason that Phil Horton, the program’s Director for Athletic Performance, had stuck on recruiting Bailey for so long.

Bailey started getting reps in the month of September, and just over a month later, he was on pit road with MBM Motorsports as the front tire carrier for the NASCAR Xfinity Series team.

“I was more anxious than I was nervous,” Bailey said. “It was more of me just trying to hone in at the moment and take advantage of the opportunity.”

Bailey’s coaches told him he was one of the quickest to go from entering the program to pitting a NASCAR stock car.

Despite the differences between the sports, Bailey was able to adjust.

“In football, it’s you versus another man,” Bailey said. “The man could get tired and you could take advantage of it or his technique could be off and you could take advantage of it. Whereas in NASCAR, it’s you vs. you. You already know the technique, but it’s just about how consistent you can be throughout every stop.”

Bailey has drawn on things that he was coached in at Iowa State.

Coach Matt Campbell’s words often come to his mind during training days leading up to big races.

“Even like through some of my days where I don’t necessarily feel like training, I think about what Matt Campbell told us in that it’s easy to go out there and train when you feel good, but who are you when you don’t (feel good),” Bailey said. “Who are you when the storm comes and it’s you against everybody.”

Today, two months after joining the program, Bailey is going over the wall each and every week.

It’s just the latest achievement for the Jacksonville native who played on the most successful Iowa State football team in program history.

“Even with me thinking back to (Iowa State coach) Matt Campbell, he always told me that even past my days at playing ball, you always have to hone in on your fundamentals,” Bailey said. “You have to trust the process and eventually the process is going to love you back.”

Growing up in Florida, Bailey was usually playing football, but he heard about NASCAR.

“My favorite car driver growing up was Jeff Gordon,” Bailey said. “I remember growing up in Jacksonville, and racing was so big. I was just always hearing about Jeff Gordon.”

Bailey hopes to train in the off-season, along with his brother Joshua, who is also in the program. In a few weeks, the pair plan on working with NASCAR’s new, single-lug NextGen tires in preparation for the 2023 racing season.

Bailey will be in action again during this week’s NASCAR Xfinity Series season finale pitting for the MBM Motorsports No. 13 car, driven by Timmy Hill. The race can be seen on USA Network with a 5:00 p.m. CT start time scheduled.

“I don’t think I’ll go back (to football),” Bailey said. “I’ve fell in love with racing too much.”

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