The 3,000 Mile Dream

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How one student chased his dream from Chino Hills to Charlotte.

September 3rd at Darlington’s Bojangles Southern 500 (Image via Twitter)

Many people in this world have a dream but do not know exactly how to articulate that dream into reality. In sports, seemingly more than in any field, dream jobs and satisfying careers are becoming harder to come by with increasing demand.

For UNC Charlotte undergrad Christian Espinoza, his entire college experience has been about cultivating those dreams into an attainable reality. Espinoza, 20, made the trip from Chino Hills, California in 2015 to North Carolina to pursue his NASCAR dream in media.

“Find what you love and pursue it relentlessly;” said Espinoza, “No one is going to get anywhere in this world without hard work and dedication.”

It all seems too true, especially when today’s employers want to see multiple internships and a broad understanding of the field before graduating college.

“Getting in is the hard part, but finding connections, once in, is a little easier.”

With many open doors in college, he claims there is no time to sit back. Involvement in any campus outlet is how one ought to begin their journey. Whether it’s pursuing media, business, or engineering, the key to success is getting your feet into the water.

Espinoza says being in Charlotte alone has provided many more opportunities.

“Growing up in Southern California hindered my efforts to get to multiple races in a season, so when I came out here to Charlotte, I knew I was going to have to take advantage of all the close racetracks.”

Charlotte also serves as the NASCAR headquarters.

Last year’s Fall Charlotte Playoff Xfinity race (Image via Twitter)

In 2016, Espinoza attended 23 of the 36 races as media for UNC Charlotte’s student media organization — all while remaining a full-time student balancing grades and a job. “Traveling to all these races has been a dream come true.”

One thing he harps on is not having to do everything in the industry on his own. Espinoza says he was blown away by the hospitality of other students, school and the positive reception from NASCAR’s professionals. Without the help of journalists Jim Utter and Chris Knight, Espinoza would not be NASCAR’s first ever full-time college media Hard Card holder. “They have [Jim Utter, Chris Knight] assisted me and offered countless advice throughout race weekends on what to do and what not to do. I’ve learned a lot from both of them and I’m very appreciative for all the friendships I’ve made,” he adds. “I’d be lying if I said this [obtaining a Hard Card] was a goal I had in mind for my college years.”

But in today’s climate, versatility is key — something Espinoza brings to the table.

As a longtime writer, he is now slowly branching out to different avenues in the sport — namely in public relations work with K&N Series driver Will Rodgers. Rodgers, another one of Espinoza’s newly acquired friends was in need of a representative, and he was the right choice. Most recently, Espinoza hit the track at Watkins Glen in July to handle sponsor representatives, social media and Rodgers’ publicity.

As a junior in PR classes, he believes it is a more sustainable career.

“Public relations stands out a little more to me in my potential future career choices, it’s been fun. I think by branching myself out into more than one spectrum, hopefully future employers will see more potential in me.”

Interning is also a great step to accustom yourself for real experience. Although Espinoza travels parts of the NASCAR circuit, that does not mean he engaged only in writing or PR. He was the fall 2016 social media intern at the iconic Charlotte Motor Speedway — just minutes from campus.

“I learned a lot about the other end of the media spectrum. Everything from Twitter to Instagram and fan engagement was involved.”

As with most sports today, but especially NASCAR, social media is a strong suit to engage the young audience — something NASCAR has made ground on.

None of the success in NASCAR, or any other career field can be done without motivation, however, if you ask Espinoza what the biggest motivating factor is, he will say the ones who doubt.

“Don’t listen to the naysayers. If you want something, it’s up to you to go get it. You’ve only got one shot on this Earth, make it worthwhile.”

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