Emmanuel McDaniel
Earns Job with NASCAR
by Eric Gilmore

Emmanuel McDaniel now wears a different helmet. And no, he’s hasn’t signed with his sixth NFL team. Instead, McDaniel now dons a helmet required of pit crew members in the NASCAR Busch Series.

E-Mac as he was affectionately known during his ECU days, recently joined the No. 49 Advil/Xtreme pit crew as a tire carrier and mechanic. McDaniel sits behind the wall for the Ford Fusion driven in 2006 by Jorge Goeters, Steve Grissom, Shane Hall and Derrike Cope. For a former NFL cornerback, moving into NASCAR was a natural progression.

“I knew I couldn’t play football forever,” said McDaniel, who finished his NFL career with eight interceptions.

McDaniel played for the Carolina Panthers, Indianapolis Colts, Miami Dolphins, N.Y. Giants, and finished two seasons with the Arizona Cardinals. After his retirement in 2004, McDaniel spent two years recovering from the brutal collisions with oncoming wide receivers. But as time progressed, McDaniel’s competitive juices continued to flow. Thus, NASCAR provided the perfect stage.

“I just love to compete,” McDaniel said. “It’s just another opportunity for me to compete. We’re competing with other teams to see who can get in and out of the pits the fastest.”

After making a contact with a former trainer of the Carolina Panthers, McDaniel enrolled in the Drive for Diversity program, a NASCAR initiative. Because NASCAR is making a concerted effort to involve minority races and women in the sport, McDaniel’s $2,300 pit crew school’s tuition was paid in full.

“Success is creating opportunities,” said Bryan Kryder, program director for the Drive for Diversity program. “A lot of the teams now are looking for strong, athletic and agile types. We bring them in and do the specific training.”

From there, the former 4th-round NFL selection used his athletic background to parlay his current job with Jay Robinson Racing. McDaniel’s combination of speed and strength is a natural fit for being a tire carrier.

“It’s more technique than strength,” McDaniel said. “You have to have a lot of technique playing football and in [NASCAR]. “In NASCAR, if you don’t have any technique, then just strength is not going to allow you to put a tire on. It’s all about angles and flexibility.”

As he experienced both as an ECU freshman and NFL rookie, McDaniel fully expects to have to pay his dues. McDaniel recently spent some time practicing with Kevin LePage’s Nextel Cup team and has aspirations of latching on with a Nextel Cup team.

But for now, he remains loyal to the struggling No. 49 team. JRR has missed five of the 12 Busch Series races in 2006. Jorge Goeters has qualified for three races with a season-best finish of 14th in the Telcel-Motorola 200 presented by Banamex in Mexico City, Mexico. However, the other three drivers failed to post a top-40 finish.

“We’re haven’t been qualifying, but I’m can only control what I can control and that’s putting the tire on,” McDaniel said.

The 33 year-old used to have little respect for NASCAR as a sport. But the travel, mechanics and the chance to ride in a car during the Richard Petty Driving Experience changed his mind.

“It’s a lot different than I thought it was,” McDaniel said. “I always thought they got in to the car and drove 500 miles with leisure. But after sitting in the car with [the driver] and watching him fight the car all the way around the track, these drivers are definitely athletes.”

McDaniel lettered at ECU from 1992-1995 where he led the Pirates in interceptions for three years. He amassed 112 total tackles and earned First-Team All-South Independent honors in 1995.

“I’ve been involved in team sports my all my life so [joining a race team] was another opportunity to be part of a team,” McDaniel said. “Instead of jumping in front of a 350-pound lineman, you’re jumping in front of a 3,500-pound car.”

Eric Gilmore