Clemson Graduate, Ashley McCluney Is Living The Dream Working At Richard Childress Racingby Hunter Thomas August 27, 2019 0 comments
DARLINGTON, S.C. – Ashley McCluney grew up watching dirt racing at Cherokee Speedway in Gaffney, South Carolina, and now the Clemson University graduate is living the dream while spearheading the scheme designs for a variety of Richard Childress Racing’s race cars.
On Saturdays growing up in South Carolina’s Upstate, McCluney would do pageants with her mother in the morning and then in the evening, she and her friends would sit on the back her father’s truck at Cherokee Speedway and watch the local weekend warriors compete. Her father worked the back gate, so she’d attended every race that she could.
“I grew up going to Cherokee Speedway, which is a local dirt track in Gaffney with my dad, so he worked there pretty much all of my life,” McCluney said. “When I was younger, I would be in pageants with my mom on Saturday morning and go to the dirt track with my dad on Saturday night.”
Since she was six-years-old, McCluney always knew that she wanted to work in NASCAR, but she had to figure out what path she wanted to embark on.
“There was never a question in my mind about what I wanted to do,” McCluney said. “I just didn’t really know what that looked like, so I started as I was at Clemson trying to figure out different opportunities that I could come across that would help me get into the NASCAR community.”
While at Clemson University, McCluney got her first taste of NASCAR marketing during her junior year. A class project required her to approach fans during race week at Darlington and have them complete a survey.
“While I was there, I completed one of my projects with Darlington in conjunction with one of my Sport Management classes,” McCluney said. “We were asked to survey fans entering the racetrack on multiple topics and report and make recommendations to NASCAR and Darlington Raceway on our findings.”
McCluney graduated from Clemson in 2005 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Parks, Recreation and Tourism Management with an emphasis in Sport Management.
Prior to graduation, she obtained an internship with a sports marketing company in Gaffney and was later hired full-time after graduation. She then worked with GMR Marketing in Charlotte, focusing primarily on the Gillette Young Guns campaign that featured NASCAR drivers.
While at GMR Marketing, McCluney made her first contact with Richard Childress Racing, and in 2012 when the team revitalized its NASCAR Xfinity Series program, she was asked to join the efforts. Now, McCluney serves at the organization’s Sr. Manager for Partnership Marketing. She works with Richard Childress’ largest partners including Caterpillar, American Ethanol, Bass Pro Shops and Cessna just to name a few.
“I can 100% say that I am living my dream right now,” McCluney said. “And getting to celebrate with Richard and his family pretty much everywhere we go, because there is some type of significance at each one of these racetracks.”
When it comes time to create a throwback scheme for the Bojangles’ Southern 500 weekend at Darlington Raceway, she sits down with Austin Dillon and they decide which scheme that they’d like for the team to run. McCluney then approaches the graphics department, and they make the design become a reality. In fact, the Darlington throwback weekend is so popular that the team’s partners request that their brands be featured on the race cars.
“I’ve been very fortunate,” McCluney said. “In these last kind of five years that we’ve done these throwback schemes, our partners have played such a large role in accepting this marketing initiative. Without their support, we couldn’t do any of this, and this program couldn’t be as strong as it is.”
Last year, Austin Dillon ran a throwback to Dale Earnhardt Sr.’s 1995 All-Star scheme at Darlington Raceway. Childress told McCluney and Dillon to keep the scheme a complete secret, so the car was wrapped the night before it got loaded, and a select group of people pushed the race car into the hauler. Not even all of the team members knew what the scheme was going to be until it was unveiled inside of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series garage at Darlington Raceway in front of past crew members and the media.
“The whole thing just gave me goosebumps, and to be able to, you know, do something that I think was pretty impactful,” McCluney said. “We worked really hard and kept it a secret. We kept it a secret from the team. They got their shirts when they got to the racetrack that day. They didn’t know what was going on. I think some of them kind of guessed it, because there were a lot of guys on that team who were NASCAR fans.”
Richard Childress Racing is celebrating 50 years this season.
This year at Darlington Raceway, Austin Dillon is running a black and gold throwback to Richard Childress’ scheme that he competed with in the late 1970s. Daniel Hemric will be competing with a gray and red scheme that is a throwback to the first Caterpillar tractor from back in the 1920s.
McCluney travels about 25 weekends out of the year, but when she’s not at the racetrack, you can find the Clemson Tigers season ticket holder at the three-time national championship team’s football games.
Photo Credit: Richard Childress Racing