Update: On March 25, 2017, Jusan Hamilton '13 became the first African-American race director for a NASCAR national series event. Read more. In July 2016, he was promoted to manager of racing operations and event management at NASCAR.
The first vehicle that Jusan Hamilton ever drove was a tractor, meandering around in his backyard in Ithaca. He was three years old.
Now, less than six months after graduating from Ithaca College with dual degrees in integrated marketing communications and sociology, Hamilton spends his days rubbing shoulders with the likes of Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jimmie Johnson, and Matt Kenseth.
Hamilton has had a passion for cars for as long as he can remember. His grandfather was constantly tinkering with his vehicles, and during those times he taught his grandson the inner workings of cars and farm equipment.
“I remember watching him and helping him work on different projects,” Hamilton says. “He helped me develop my passion for driving and racing, and allowed me to have that connection with motorsports.”
In middle school Hamilton began competing in local races. His first event was at the Starlite Speedway in Trumansburg, New York, where he drove a go-kart around a dirt track.
From there his natural ability helped him move up in the sport’s rankings, and, at his peak, Hamilton was traveling up and down the East Coast competing in multiple leagues and events in both go-karts and stock cars.
Hamilton’s family, including his grandfather, came to most of the races, and it was this support that made the competitions special for Hamilton. “The race would be a family event,” he says. “That’s part of what I loved about it.”
After high school, Hamilton chose to go to college instead of pursuing an expensive and unpredictable career in professional racing.
“After I realized I wouldn’t be able to race in the top series in NASCAR, I decided that I wanted to work on the business side of the sport,” Hamilton says. “Obviously marketing and advertising are a big part of what makes the sport go round, so that’s what led me to major in integrated marketing communications.”
Once in school, Hamilton’s goal was to get an internship in the industry. He ended up landing three. After graduating in the spring of 2013, Hamilton was offered a job working for NASCAR’s integrated marketing communications department.
During the racing season, which includes 36 separate events and runs from January to November, Hamilton manages the organization’s media website, records press conferences, oversees special media events, and creates news releases.
Nearly half of his time on the job, however, is spent traveling to different racetracks around the country. While at the events, Hamilton oversees the media center where press conferences are held—preparing the media, organizing credentialed press members, and recording audio—in addition to managing NASCAR’s official Twitter account.
While seemingly unrelated fields, sociology and integrated marketing communications are the perfect combination, according to Hamilton.
“Having that sociology background [has given me] an open mind and helped me understand different aspects of society,” Hamilton says. “It allows you to better interpret what you’re putting out there, how it’s going to affect different groups of people, and how they’re going to see it. From a public relations standpoint, sociology is really useful.”
Although the workload is hefty—often adding up to 15-hour days—Hamilton said he wouldn’t trade his job for anything.
"I enjoy everything about my job. I enjoy the travel, the people I work with are great, and the people in the industry are great,” Hamilton says. “Because so many people in the industry travel so much, it’s like a big community. It’s a very positive atmosphere to be around, and I can’t imagine working for a different company.”
Although he has come a long way from riding tractors, Hamilton doesn’t forget the man who first inspired him.
“Everything I learned from my grandfather motivated me to go forward with everything I did,” says Hamilton. “What I learned from him led me to where I am now.”
After the most recent Daytona 500 in February 2014, Hamilton continued to feel enthusiasm for his work. "Every time I travel to a NASCAR event the experience has been unique and exciting both as a professional and someone who has been a fan of the sport for many years," he says. "This year's Daytona 500 was the 15th time I have watched the Great American race from start to finish, and the first time I attended the race in person. In my personal opinion [this race] was the most exciting Daytona 500 I've ever watched. I am very proud to have been a part of the event and I am as excited as ever to move forward with my career at NASCAR."
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